Go on, judge this book by its cover. It is bright and cheery on the outside, thanks to its yellow cover. But really, it is the stories and photographs inside that will warm your heart.
It is not exactly something you have never seen before. But in Cerita2 Chinchin, the stories and people are real, and their smiles genuine.
This is a collection of anecdotes about the people of Kampung Chinchin, a village in Jasin, Melaka. It is the first book published by independent publishing house Tokobuku Zaulin, which was founded in 2016. The book is written by founder Zaulin Kartini, 50, and freelance photographer Faidz Zainal, 40, who is the man behind all the photos. (Main image above is an aerial view of Kampung Chinchin taken by Faidz.)
“The village is not unlike many others in Malaysia, but to us, it is the people that make a difference. Kampung Chinchin is special because of them,” says Faidz.
His wife, Zulaiha Ismawati Bakhtiar, is from this village and Zaulin is her sister – so there’s the family connection. The family house there has been home to four generations.
But the story of how this book came to be can be traced to a man with one tooth.
Meet Pak Usop, a nonagenarian who is fondly known in the village as Berita CNN because of his chatty nature.
“He is 91 years old, cycles everywhere, and has lost all his teeth except for one. I took some photos of him, we got to talking about his life, and this is how Cerita2 Chinchin began,” says Faidz, who hails from Seremban.
But to go back even further, for quite a while, Faidz has been sharing his photographs online at lifephotographie.wordpress.com, a photography blog that came about after he left his desk job to pursue his passion.
It was the photos that came first, followed by captions that morphed into whole paragraphs, and then entire stories, as time went by.
“Zaulin is a seasoned copywriter, and she gave her input on the writing. We gained followers who requested for more stories. We even discovered a few relatives whom we had lost touch with, because they were reading these stories,” Faidz relates.
He now frequently updates his @lifephotographieofficial account on Instagram.
According to Faidz, going from the blog to a coffee table book was “an organic transition”. They had the stories, they had people who wanted more, they had ardent followers who were asking them to turn it into a book.
At the same time, they realised that there were not many such books in the market.
“Many books were too academic or too esoteric. We wanted to break down that barrier. What we were going for was something more palatable and engaging for the ordinary folk out there,” he says.
So with the story of Pak Usop, followed by numerous tales of other villagers from Kampung Chinchin, the idea of a compilation slowly started to take shape.
“We pursued this project as we saw the importance of documenting this for future generations. There are thousands of untold stories in villages all around Malaysia that have never been shared.
“Family stories are usually passed down verbally, and without proper documentation, they will be lost. The stories of our kampungs and their people will one day just fade away,” he muses.
Tokobuku Zaulin is determined to keep the momentum going.
After Cerita2 Chinchin’s release last year, there are now plans to publish a second book in this series.
“We want to focus more on visual and photojournalistic storytelling because we feel that real pictures and real stories have the potential to make an impact on people’s lives.
“This way, we can learn from each other.
“In a world fraught with challenges, we want to share positive values and convey that people, in essence, are still good,” he concludes.