From left: Ahmad Ali, Anisah, Aeshah and me.
I sighed as I pressed the hot iron over my dress for the second time but the crease marks would not disappear. During other days, I would have ignored them. I had worn clothes in worse shapes (before being called back inside by my mom and be made to change, of course). I may even argue about the ‘wastage of electricity’. But today, I simply sprayed my already damp dress with more water. I was determined to get it straight and besides, it took my mind of the radio show.
I have been invited along with my family to a late night talk show, When the Night Falls (Bila Larut Malam) on eWana.fm for a two hours long interview. And I was terrified. It was only less than a year ago when I finally could talk to people without getting goose bumps and sweaty palms and now I have to talk live in a radio show.
Of course, I often have little interviews in my head where I interviewed myself on- well, whatever idea that I have in my head. Sometimes I did them out of amusement or boredom but I have also noticed that it was a good way to get my raw thoughts into words. But this was no imaginary thing… this was the real deal.
Surprisingly, it took me a while to get nervous about it. Right until the moment when I had to get myself dressed, I felt indifferent and emotionless. Then all of a sudden, my stomach detected a million butterflies settling in.
And that was why I spent half an hour trying to straighten my dress – to distract myself.
We didn’t make any real preparation for the show, except for the singing because my siblings and I were going to sing the song together and we had to make sure we could cooperate harmoniously. We had no idea at all of what questions were going to be asked except that they would probably touch the topic of blogging. After all, Uncle Nizal, the DJ and a good friend of my dad’s, told my father that it would be a very relaxed interview. My mom had told me earlier in the morning (when I was still feeling emotionless) that it was perfectly okay for me to tell Uncle Nizal if I was uncomfortable with certain topics.
“No, I don’t think there’s anything I’d like to stay away from,” I had replied.
“Are you sure? Because he may ask you a question you don’t like and may upset you,” my mom cautioned.
“Well, I don’t know what I am and what I am not comfortable with until I have been questioned,” I said.
“If you say so,” mum said with a shrug.
Now minutes before we leave for the radio station, I felt panic sinking in and kicked myself for not even bothering to practice. Gulping down a mug of coffee, just in case the excitement wasn’t enough to keep me awake until one a.m. (I wasn’t taking any chances), I tried to find ways of how to calm myself down. I could think of only two ways of defeating the panic: one is to follow exactly what it was telling me to do and that was to prepare myself while the other was to switch to play pretend mode.
I didn’t think preparing makes much sense by then so I chose the alternative. To act exactly as how I would have when I was having those little interviews inside my head. I took a deep breath and altered my thoughts. I pulled out every strand of nervousness and fear from myself and became the ‘other me’ which I have often reserved from the outside world. The alter ego that had conducted so many discourse and conversations within the various hidden nooks and cranny of my mind. And surprisingly, I managed to lull the butterflies back to sleep.
The drive to the radio station didn’t take long but it didn’t go too well either. We practiced singing Alhamdulillah by Dawud Wharnsby Ali (a beautiful and insightful song which could give goosebumps even to my usually impassive mother) and Ali suddenly got his tempo all wrong and couldn’t see his fault. I could not believe it – he sang so well just a few hours before when we had our last practice. The butterflies threatened to reclaim my stomach but I wasn’t going to let them win. I clenched my teeth and strained to keep myself back in control. I have gone through this before, I told myself, and I would do it again.
Uncle Nizal greeted us at the door with his fascinatingly large smile (I have always noticed that he has such a large and amusing smile) and I suddenly found myself tongue-tied. I couldn’t say anything but put on a ‘hopefully-not-too-nervous’ grin. Somehow once I stepped into the office and saw the recording studio straight ahead, I could barely manage to hear Uncle Nizal asking us to leave our shoes outside. I guessed it was the anxiety that froze me but I could not detect it to know for sure. My body was more or less calm but my mind was blank.
Uncle Nizal introduced us to the producer who led us into the recording studio to record the song ‘Alhamdulillah’. After the recording, Uncle Nizal asked us about a bit of ourselves and our interests and so on. Somehow during the conversation, my tongue became loose and soon I was talking with ease. Even when the show began, I had felt much less nervous than I had anticipated.
And I have to admit that I actually enjoyed myself. After all, Uncle Nizal’s amiable and lively manners made the whole interview a lot more fun. I did feel the anxiety pushing on me as I glanced at the clock every now and then but I felt immensely gleeful and rather high. As if everything that happened was still a part of my imagination. My mind ran faster than my senses could catch up with. I felt as if I had no time to think before I open my mouth but to simply shoot off my answers straight away.
The next day, my mom, Aeshah and I sat around the dining table, laughing as we remembered what happened the night before.
“Only when we headed for the car, I realised that I had a rather banging headache,” I said. “At first I thought it was just the excitement but then I found out that I was actually very hungry but I was too nervous to notice it. It was probably the coffee effect as well. Wait!” I cried and clapped my hands. “Of course! It was the coffee that made me feel high.”
Aeshah rolled her eyes and laughed, “Oh I knew that. When I saw you drinking coffee yesterday, I was thinking to myself: I wonder what would happen now?” Turning to my bewildered mother, she said, “Whenever kakak drinks coffee when she feels sleepy especially late at night, she would become extremely happy and excited. With the anxiety of being interviewed on radio, I knew that something interesting would happen.”
“Well then,” my mom started with a twinkle in her eye, “Maybe you should drink coffee every time you were about to be interviewed until you get the hang of it.”
I grimaced. “Actually, had I remembered the effect coffee could have on me, I would have definitely left it out.”
Note: A big thank you to Uncle Nizal for inviting us to the show. 😀
From left: Uncle Nizal, Anisah, Aeshah, Ahmad Ali and me.
*Kakak: The Malay word for big sister and it is a nickname Aeshah uses when referring to me.