Monday, February 20, 2006

I like this kampung boy

I have known him since my halcyon schoolgirl days. Not personally, of course, although it would be nice to have an opportunity to shake his hands and say hello. He's one local celebrity I still admire today, years after I first read his funny cartoons. Yes, I'm talking about Lat or Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, his real moniker.

And it is nice to know that he is still popular, not just ala "jaguh kampung" but a real talent recognised internationally by those who appreciate his brand of humour, a very honest depiction of the culture and way of life in days gone by.

Flipping through some of his collection of works, I am at once struck by how much our country and society have changed over a short span of 50 years. Most of the scenes he captured were reminiscent of the vibrant era of the 60s and 70s, those "P.Ramlee" days that the young and old alike can still sample on national TV sometimes.

And what a seemingly tolerant society we had back then, of funfairs, joget girls, BB park, tight kebayas, cheongsams and sexy saris. Lat does not shy away from making fun of the familiar traits typical of the local Malay, Chinese, Indian and Punjabi communities in those days. Even the "orang putih" and other Eastern nationalities like the "orang Jepun" were not spared - they were caricatured the way the local folks generally perceived them to be, rightly or wrongly. And no one seems to take public offence. It was all jolly good fun, even if the truth about us can be somewhat embarrassing.

But the same cannot be said today. We have too many hang-ups. People, not just in Malaysia but all over the world, seem to put a lot of emphasis on political correctness in the things we say or do in public. It is dangerous to try to be funny in these troubling times, post 9-11, as has been demonstrated in the furore caused by one particular caricature, here in Malaysia and elsewhere.

Maybe newspapers should give more attention to cartoonists like Lat - he could show the world a thing or two about racial harmony and tolerance.

And maybe we too need to feature Lat prominently in our mass media again - just to remind us how we can project ourselves as we were in the good ol' days - one happy multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysian family.

We have a Tourism Malaysian envoy, maybe we can also appoint Lat as our National Unity spokesperson. Then perhaps Prof. Emeritus Datuk Khoo Kay Kim will not feel like a "lonely bridge builder".

Sometimes a dose of feel-good factor, some good-natured jabs at each other's neurosis and a gentle reminder not to take ourselves and each other too literally and too seriously can do a world of good to remind us that we are all ultimately brothers and sisters of the human race in these difficult times. Good cartoons like good medicine given in the right dosage can be healthful. Lat has demonstrated that amply by his wide appeal to all his fans regardless of race or religion.



Blogger |dAia| said...

yup,lat is very talented.his drawings are simple but they tell a lot of stories...

21/2/06 18:34  
Blogger Anak Merdeka said...

Hello there D!

Long time never heard from u. I'm always happy to see ur smiling face la. Hope ur studies r going well & smooth. Thks 4 dropping a note here.

Don't we all wish to see a return of LAT on our mainstream papers?

22/2/06 09:48  

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