National laureate A Samad Said believes that Malaysians chose to keep their mouths shut, doing nothing; then ‘don’t blame the government. Blame yourself’.
Walk into the National Museum and head into the “Malaysia Now” Exhibit at Gallery D and you will see him among the nation’s literary greats. National laureate A Samad Said, a dimunitive man with a larger than life persona and much revered by Malaysian.
Conversation with him is a surreal experience, more so when he ordered a hot chocolate with an impish smile, dashing the notion that all serious literary people drink coffee – black.
At 76 years old, Pak Samad has the kind of zen persona that makes even his most vitriolic statements sound like poetry. It does then seem odd that he should co-chair the Bersih coalition.
So how did this quiet, unassuming man get involved in one of the biggest demonstrations the country has seen?
Those who saw the photos or who were at the walk in July 2011 are likely to remember for a long time to come, the sight of him walking barefooted to the palace to deliver a memorandum after having lost his slippers in the foray of the demonstration.
After so many years of quiet, why now at this age, did he decide to lend his voice and be a part of such a rally?
A native of Belimbing Dalam, a villager near Durian Tunggal in Malacca, Pak Samad received his early education during the second World War years at Sekolah Melayu Kota Raja (Kota Raja Malay School) in Singapore.
When the war was over, he continued his education at Singapore’s Victoria School and went on to work as a clerk in a hospital.
Pak Samad confessed that he had always wanted to be a writer. He began an unsuspecting career in 1954 by writing short stories, poems, features, dramas, novels and even diaries.
Later, he would get a job with Utusan Zaman in Singapore and other well-known Malay language magazines like Mastika and Remaja. He added that the reason why he wanted to write to much was so that he could chronicle everything he saw as sincerely as possible as seen through his eyes.