We share the same culture!

By: Aznan Mat Piah

We cannot run away from the fact that Malaysia and Indonesia do share the same culture since time immemorial.

I for one started to appreciate Indonesian literature as our very own during school days in the 70s when a number of Indonesian novels became essential reading in Form Six. Reading the article by Johan Jaaffar (NST, 4 September) triggers memory of how I began to view with great interest the Indonesian literature, films and songs at a young age.

No doubt novelists like Merari Seregar, Marah Rusli, Abdul Muis, Sultan Takdir Alishahbana, Hamka, and Pramoedya Anantatoer were really big names then. I still remember enjoying reading “Siti Norbaya”, a love story written by novelist Abdul Muis, and another one, “Atheis”, by novelist Achiat Miharja, detailing some of the great philosophies of life. The legendary Hamka’s “Di Bawah Lindungan Kaaba” and “Tenggelamnya Kapal Van der Wiijck” made interesting reading and I was fascinated by both the background of the author and his writing.

Some of the words and phrases written in “Tenggelamnya Kapal Van der Wijck” as expressed by the protagonists Zainuddin and Hayati in their love letters and exchanges were beautifully written and I still admired them until today. Then there is this novel “Keluarga Gerilya” by Pramoedya Anantatoer which vividly described the poverty situation and social problems during and after the great wars. I also remember the poet Chairil Anwar whose Angkatan 45 had inspired novelists like Usman Awang, A. Samad Ismail and Masuri S.N to form Angkatan Sasterawan 50 or ASAS 50.

The works of these literary figures were critically examined in our Malay Literature class then, and that’s how I began to have an appreciation for literature writing, and more importantly for me,  the exposure to the great minds of the Indonesian literary figures on the meanings and philosophies of life.

I also grew up with popular Indonesian songs and music. Beng Selamat and Ernie Johan were real big names as we could hear their songs prominently aired on Radio Malaya and Radio Malaysia then. As far as I can remember, Ernie Johan was popular with her song Teluk Bayur. Others were Broery Mirantika, Lilis Suryani and Bob Tutopoli whose popular oldie, sentimental song “Semalam di Malaya” is still my favourite.

Among the popular actors and actresses were Dicky Zulkarnain, Sukarno M. Noor, Rahmat Kartolo, Sopan Sofian, Widhiyawatie, Marlinie, and certainly Christine Hakim. I still keep a photograph I took with Christine during the Asian Film Festival in Tokyo in the eighties.

Of course currently we all know popular artistes Kris Diyanti and  Rossa. The latest movies like “Si Pitung”, “Perkahwinan Remaja”, “Ada Apa Dengan Cinta” dan “Ayat-Ayat Cinta” are just fantastic in terms of both the stories and production. They have affected and moved us.  Watching “Ayat-Ayat Cinta”  recently has moved me by the beauty of its acting, and especially the story based on students’ life and what love means.

Teaching at IIUM currently has given me the opportunity to get to know the Indonesian students closer. Many of my Indonesian students were known to me personally and most have been motivated to continue further studies in Malaysia after getting their first degree. I have great appreciation and admiration for the interest shown in their studies as well as their respect for me and the institution. Two of them deserved special mentioning: Zakirah Azman (who hailed from Acheh) currently pursuing her masters degree in IIUM and Rinelda Revisionary who just graduated, and currently employed by the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta.

Because of the “serumpun” nature of our relationship both historically and socially we cannot afford not to have a liking for each other!! One wonders why the BENDERA group is making so much of a fuss about the recent incidents (which have been resolved) that would not contribute towards a healthy relationship between our two countries.

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