Thursday, July 31, 2008

Malaysian foibles

TFTC Tales from the Court and other stories by Matthew Thomas -- Silverfish Books, Price RM30.00.

Rukumani Devi, the court interpreter cum court clerk, cum file caller, cum amicus curiae of the court, cum confidant of the magistrate, cum Amway agent rose, a tinge of white ash smeared on her forehead and in a crisp yellow sari, looking important. She reeled out the civil and criminal action numbers with accompanying names of legal firms so fast that I missed mine.

She then called a second time around, this time angrily, "How many times must call-lah?"

Rukumani Devi conducted herself as would a maestro conducting an orchestra. Everything was at her fingertips, an upturned palm if she wanted counsel to stand and a down-turned palm for counsel to sit. The Magistrate, the lawyers and litigants paid her great heed.

As Mohamed M Keshavjee writes in his afterword: In this compendium of short stories, the author, who is a keen student of human foibles, gives us a series of vignettes from the Kuala Lumpur of the 1950s. His characters come vividly to life: from Eddodes, the creative and legendary builder of castles in the air and Boniface 'Birdie Boy' Ratnayake, the aspirant judge, to Musso the exorcist, and Mike Kumar, the confidence trickster. In this book, all these characters talk to us. The author captures the very essence of their being and their cultures as they play their little games in life, made up of illusions, craftiness, ego, hope and aspirations.