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The shocking reason behind our ‘syok sendiri’ teens

 | February 14, 2016

A quick glance at the Bahasa Melayu novels gracing the shelves of our bookstores leaves a sick feeling in the pit of Fa Abdul's stomach.

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I accompanied a close friend of mine to a bookstore yesterday in search of suitable reading material in Bahasa Melayu for her teenage daughter. According to my friend, growing up in an English-speaking household and studying in a private school had left her daughter less proficient in the language.

When she first came to me for advice on how to fix the problem, we found ourselves reminiscing on how we were bookworms as teenagers and how reading helped us excel in our SPM Bahasa Melayu papers as well as improve how we spoke the language.

I have pleasant memories of the novels of my most loved authors – Khadijah Hashim, Shahnon Ahmad and A Samad Said. “Badai Semalam”, “Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan”, “Langit Petang” and “Hujan Pagi” were among my personal favourites. These books were brilliant – the language was almost lyrical, the story lines strong yet realistic and the characters powerful and memorable. On the whole, these novels taught us teens, the concept of survival from whatever life dealt us.

Hoping a good teenage novel could help improve my friend’s daughter’s ability to converse in our national language, we headed to a bookstore in Amcorp Mall, PJ. However, we were in for a shock.

These are just some of the titles we came across:

“Saya pujuk awak, okey?”

“Kepala batu. Kepala angin.”

“Pengantinku jatuh dari langit”

“Awak Jealous, Ye?”

“My Sewel Guy”

“Bayar Balik Cintaku”

“Dia Punching Bagku”

“Miss Perfect Kahwin Mr Maid”

To be honest, we fell into a stupefied silence as we forced ourselves to read the synopsis of these novels, one by one. Basically, almost all revolved around the themes of love, romance and jealousy – frankly, they seemed more like fairy tales catered for young adults. Whatever happened to the great classics of our youth? Is this what the literary world had degenerated into?

While the youth of my generation grew up devouring books that showed us how to better appreciate life, be fearless in our struggles, manage conflicts maturely, and endure hardship with our chins up, youth today were fed multiple dosages of ‘syok sendiri-ness’. Why? Is there a dearth of capable authors? Or do our publishers care more about making a quick buck than shaping the minds of our teens?

I have often wondered how it was possible for some teenagers to be lost in a world of their own, mired in their immaturity while others were thinkers, with strong opinions, bold enough to challenge the status quo. Now I know why.

Perhaps while our authorities are busy at work, filtering the content of books and banning all manner of reading material that challenges the mind and changes perceptions, they should link the dots between the many social problems of the country’s youth with these crappy books we call works of ‘creativity’ that are filling their minds with fluff.

Anyway, after having spent a couple of hours at this ‘syok sendiri’ section, my friend and I left empty-handed, deciding instead to buy books with actual literary value from off the Internet.

I guess there are no budding authors at present ready to fill the shoes of literary greats like Khadijah Hashim, Shahnon Ahmad and A Samad Said. God bless them!


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