Monday, 4 August 2014

Message of peace

NO WONDER that I had missed out on this coffee shop when I drove past it late Saturday afternoon. The shop's name had been covered up.

I had been told that there would be a series of mini-concerts on the island, held in various cafés and coffee shops in the heritage quarter of George Town, during what is now famously known as the annual George Town Festival.

This year's Festival during the whole month of August is jam-packed with all sorts of artsy-fartsy activities - too many for me to fathom - and most of them are free. The Konsert Kopitiam, for example, is one of the free shows around the city. There are five mini-concerts in all, and the first one on the second of August, the one that I was trying to find, was being held at the Asia Café.

I was told about this first mini-concert two days earlier when I bumped into Cecil Rajendra, a long-time Penang-based poet, at another function and he invited me to come attend the Asia Cafe do where both he and Anwar Fazal would also be reading some poetry. Well, I had told myself that I just might drop by, seeing that I had a Member's Night dinner to attend later on at The Old Frees' Association.

But the problem on Saturday was, although I knew that the Asia Café was located somewhere along Pitt Street, I couldn't place it exactly. And I had even driven past the coffee shop without realising it. Heck, I could have just stopped my car a distance away and walked.

Eventually though after some further driving around, I did notice a good crowd milling around outside a coffee shop and I took a chance to park the car and go find out for myself.

I wasn't wrong. I noticed Anwar seated there while Rajendra was walking around all over the place and kind of setting up his court there. Outside, the new Gerakbudaya bookstore had set up a temporary booth to promote some local books. Gareth Richards, you don't have to express mock horror that I haven't visited your bookstore yet. I will, some day soon, promise!

This then was the Asia Café and the people were eating food from the hawkers outside the place, drinking kopi-o or some other concoction and generally, having a whaling good time listening to the band playing.

My believe is that it is a spiffing good idea to involve the small businesses in the city in this once-a-year cultural activity. Got to make them feel that they belong to the George Town heritage celebrations and what better way than to provide them with some opportunities to earn money from patrons that had come to attend the functions?

The Asia Café is just one of the coffee shops and cafés that will be the venue for the Konsert Kopitiam mini-concerts.

I'm told that the others are the Hock Leong Yen (Sun Kee) coffeeshop at the junction of King Street and China Street on 8 Aug, the Hock Poh Lye at the junction of China Street and Penang Street on 15 Aug, the Eng Loh Café at the junction of Penang Street and Church Street on 22 Aug and the Hwa Pin in Church Street (in front of The Phoenix Press) on 29 Aug. Performances start from six o'clock.

But it was too bad that I couldn't hang around the Asia Café until the session ended at eight o'clock. I really had to make my way to my own dinner function.

Unfortunately, I never got around to hear Rajendra deliver his poetry but at least, I did get him to autograph his book on Rose Chan called No Bed of Roses. And I did get to listen to Anwar recite his poem, Remember, We Are One.

He's immensely proud of this poem which he wrote more than 10 years ago. I had included an abridged version of it when I was editing the FIDELIS coffee table book two years ago. But here is the poem in full:

We all drink from one water 
We all breathe from one air 
We rise from one ocean, and we live under one sky. 

Remember, we are one. 

The new born baby cries the same 
The laughter of children is universal 
Everyone's blood is red, and our hearts beat the same song. 

Remember, we are one. 

We are all brothers and sisters 
Only one family, only one earth 
Together we live, and together we die. 

Remember, we are one 
Remember, we are one 
Peace be on you, brothers and sisters 
Peace be on you.

Now, why can't we deliver this appeal for peace and togetherness to the areas of conflicts in this world? The people of Gaza and Israel need peace like never before; the people of Iraq need peace, the people of Afghanistan need peace, the people of Syria need peace, the people of Ukraine need peace. Need I say more?

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