When Dato’ SHANmughalingam’s book, ‘Marriage & Mutton Curry' was launched in Kuala Lumpur last October, HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah –who also penned the book’s forward— touched on what made this anthology of short stories so special for Malaysian readers today.
If history is written by the winners, he said, then historical fiction like this gives us a valuable glimpse into the lives and stories of the vast majority of people in the camp of the ‘non-winners’.
“Historical fiction fills an important gap by giving us the stories of people who fought much smaller battles, whether domestically or professionally, and who sometimes lost them," to put it in Sultan Nazrin Shah's words.
Hearing such praise for the value of literature and fiction from such a highly respected and highly educated individual as him is refreshing for anyone who’s grown up hearing that a career in ‘the arts’ is second in importance to a career in the sciences, engineering, economics or law.
DUTY OVER AMBITION
As a young man, Dato’ Shan’s own passion for literature and writing in university was promptly dismissed by his seniors and met with a stern recommendation to study Economics instead. Though it was a difficult time, Dato’ Shan retells the events of those days in his signature humour and wit.
“When I used to attend my Economics classes, I’d see my friends going to their Literature classes and I'd be so envious!” he laughs.
Growing up in the shadow of a strict, no-nonsense father figure, Dato’ Shan inherited his father’s workhorse ethic and his mother’s mischievous sense of humour. As a result, the observant yet bemused stance he developed served him well during his time at the Malaysian Ministry of Finance.