I had been itching to write this.
In early 2001, I was despatched to head the Design department of an American company in Shenzhen, China. So overnight, burnishing my proficiency in Chinese became mandatory.
In the first week, I bought a copy of the local newspaper to read and study. Gosh, I discovered that the simplified script was often radically different from the complex script that I learned in my primary school, and the PRC literary sophistication was so much higher.
I had to consult a dictionary (a daunting challenge in itself) for almost every other character, and worse, the explanations in the dictionary also required the use of a dictionary. Undeterred, I plodded on painstakingly.
Guess what? By the end of 2007 when my China assignment ended, I still had not finished reading that copy of the newspaper!
Haha, it is not a typo on my part, but a recollection of that memorable cartoon character which appeared decades ago in the Asia Magazine. Oh by the way, the latter came as a free supplement with the Sunday Times (or was it only once a fortnight?).
Sun Tan was almost always found resting under a coconut palm, concocting his favourite cynical ideas and satirical comments about things around him, and in some instances about himself. A sort of “ownself talk ownself answer” situation, with a fair dose of dry humour thrown in.
Am not sure about his nationality – I thought his headgear looked Burmese. But that is a trivial secondary. What I miss is Sun Tan’s notions as he rubbed it in on the twists and turns of life, while he “lepak” under his favourite shade.
*lepak = Malay term for “loitering” or lazing around
That was the excitement back in 1971, when the nation’s first tabloid, The Star, was released into circulation in Penang.
It delivered a much-needed refreshing break from the stoic, stolid, beat-around-the-bush reporting style that was built into the DNA of the two established publications, viz.,The Straits Times and The Straits Echo.
Reading was crisp and delightful. Perhaps The Star people were early recognizers of the ADHD* phenomenon. And the tabloid size was more humanly-sized as compared to the older fit-for-gorilla broadsheet format.
Oh, I need to mention that in the early days, there were also a lot of wild, racy photos of pretty women in all kinds of seductive dressing. Over the years, however, the new kid on the block has mellowed a lot and has evolved into a more sombre and serious news medium
*note : ADHD refers to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder