Still Crazy After All These Years
May 29, 2015

The human mind is funny. It can retain your most distant memories, and it can block out life-and-death information (such as your wedding anniversary). I'd like to believe that things which stick with you forever are there for a reason and someday, you would discover why. For me, that day was yesterday.

One of my earliest memories in life is the hours I used to spend reading Gila-Gila at my grandparents' place. It was the late 80s and on working days, my parents would drop me off there before going to work. My uncle used to have piles of Gila-Gila in his room and whenever I’m not out and about, I’d be going through his collection all day long.

The funny thing is that as a 5-year-old, I barely understood the jokes. I was captivated by the drawings, but I don’t think I captured any more than 15% of what they were trying to say. Still, every time I finish the collection, I would re-read the back issues again -- I couldn’t get enough of it.

As I grew older, I began to understand the context or brand of humor that these guys were trying to convey. They weren’t necessarily complex, and I don’t think they were intended to be so. 'Social commentary' is how people tend to intellectualize humor magazines, but the bigger intent remains noble and simple: to make people laugh.

My appreciation of Gila-Gila as a social piece was gradual and I think that was by design. I continued to take the jokes at face value within my capacity as an adolescent. And I was fortunate that my father not only allowed the magazine in our household, he funded the bi-monthly purchase for me and my brother. “As long as they're reading something,” I guess.

Our Gila-Gila and later on Ujang collection piled into a behemoth of humor literature that began to eat up space in the book rack. I was obsessed, to say the least. Every inch of my textbooks and exercise books were filled with doodles of Din Beramboi, Abe, and Usop Sontorian, among others. I listed “cartoonist” as an ambition in my report card and even called the Ujang office once to ask how can I submit my piece. I can’t recall what it was about, but maybe that's why it wasn't published.

I was elated to receive an e-mail the other day about the launch of the Lagi-Lagi Gila-Gila exhibition at Galeri PETRONAS. Dato' Lat was the guest of honor and Ujang was among the cartoonists expected to be there. I answered yes immediately to the e-mail, and arrived early on the day of the event.

I took some time observing from a distance. Ujang and Gayour aside, the rest of them were not immediately identifiable. Knowing these guys, however, maybe they prefer it that way -- under the radar and away from the limelight. It was humbling to see them bowing down as they shook the hands of their own mentors in the crowd; Jaafar Taib and Zainal Buang Hussein, among others.

As expected, I fumbled and got my words mixed up as approached them. I could only repeat the same thing, "Thank you, sir. Thank you very much." And to Dato' Lat, all I could utter was, "Thank you, Dato'. Your daughter was at my wedding."

It was such a great feeling to be able to thank them individually. And I don't think I'm the only one who owes them the gratitude. They have played a huge role in shaping the way we view the world and it's hard to argue against the need for sense of humor in coping with life. 

It might have been just another day with the fans for them yesterday. But for the humor enthusiast in me, it was the day I met my unforgettable heroes.

Note: The #lagilagigilagila exhibition is on at Galeri PETRONAS until mid-July.


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Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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