Headline: Journey Of A Lifetime
By Bissme S
TRAVELLING can be a wonderful balm for a wounded heart. M. Hany Hisham captures this situation perfectly in his debut novel Antara Langit, Bumi Dan Dua Hati.
His story centres on a Malaysian woman named Illyani Izhar who embarks on a journey across Europe. Some of the countries she visits include Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
However, Illyani is no mere adventurer. All of this is just a screen for the turmoil in her life. As a teenager, Illyana lost her mother to cancer, and since then, her relationship with her father has deteriorated.
She is also sexually harassed at work, and develops a phobia of men. But instead of running from her problems, Illyani began her journey intending to sort out the mess in her life.
During our interview, it became clear that Hany and his heroine share some similarities.
“Most authors draw inspiration from their own lives, and I am no different,” he admits.
Just as Illyani lost her mother to cancer, Hany lost his own father to the disease.
“I was only 14 when my father passed away,” recalls the 38-year-old author, who was born and raised in Kuala Terengganu.
“A young boy needs a father figure in his life. But I [was] lucky [to be] the seventh of nine children, and my older siblings helped me cope with my father’s death.”
Another similarity between Hany and Illyani is that Hany loves travelling, too.
“I [have] wanted to see the world since I was a young boy,” he says.
Sadly, he came from a poor family and did not have the money to travel.
“I used to be jealous of my cousins who could easily visit Kuala Lumpur,” he remembers.
“When one of my older brothers got a job in Kuala Lumpur, I visited him and could stay in his apartment.”
While his brother was busy working, Hany made his own plans to explore the cosmopolitan city by himself.
And when another of his brothers got a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom, Hany kept all the pictures that his brother sent from the country.
“I made a vow to visit the United Kingdom one day,” he says.
Years later, once Hany started a career as an engineer in the oil and gas company, he was finally able to fulfil his longtime dream of travelling.
The first place he visited was Bali, Indonesia. To date, he has visited 25 countries.
“The beauty of the world is difficult to ignore,” he says.
Hany said, however, that travelling is not always pleasant and beautiful. “Sometimes, you feel lonely and vulnerable when you are travelling,” he says.
“You will miss your family and your friends very much. The only person you can depend on is yourself.
“[While travelling], you get the chance to re-examine your relationship with everyone, including God. Sometimes, you will come across some people who will try to cheat you, and that makes you feel intimidated.”
Travelling also turned him into a storyteller. He started a blog to record what he saw while visiting these foreign countries.
“I wanted to capture my emotions in words, and write about the experiences I [could not find] in my own country,” he says.
In 2015, as the oil and gas industry was going through some challenging times, Hany decided to take a chance at becoming a fulltime author.
“I always had an active imagination when I was a kid,” he says.
“I always wanted to tell stories. I have always wanted to be an author.”
Instead of writing a travelogue, Hany decided to blend fact with fiction and hence, Antara Langit, Bumi Dan Dua Hati was born. All the travel ancedotes in the novel were based on his own experiences.
“I want my novel to be inspirational, and spread the message of hope and [promise of] a better tomorrow to the readers,” he says. He is already working on his second novel, and readers can expect travel to be an important elements in his new novel as well.
“You are never the same person after you’ve returned from your trips,” he says.
“Travelling changes your view of the world.”