COMMENT | Salleh Ben Joned – my iconoclastic friend

Thor Kah Hoong

Modified 30 Oct 2020, 2:34 am

COMMENT | One late Saturday night, in my first year as a tutor and Masters candidate in the University of Malaya (UM) circa 1973/74, I was returning from a celebratory meal with students after completing the production of a play.

I had Salleh Ben Joned literally staggering into my life on his first day on campus – he was walking in the middle of a dark road at the university apartments outside campus with Willie Willetts, the curator of the Asian Arts Museum in UM.

Fourteen adrenalin-fuelled hours later, along the way losing some party-animals and picking up new ones, we took leave of each other outside the Majestic Hotel.

After decades of serving Colonel Blimps and haughty hoity-toity locals, the service staff at the Majestic had perfected, up till that day, an air of restrained obsequiousness and bland placidity. By the time Salleh was done with them that Sunday afternoon, they were flustered, ruffled, and reduced to blustery incoherence.

What an introduction to my friend. There is a wealth of memories, the many party-times are personal and unprintable, but even in those long nights of sensory-scorching merriment, Salleh’s mind was always at play, always sharp, an exciting intellectual foil...

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