We all first went to Malaysia in 2005. We took a drive from KL to Taiping stopping along the way near a town near Sungai Perak to buy keris. We were excited and nervous to meet her! We had all heard stories about her and wanted to make a good impression. Meeting her was at the top of our list of things to do while in Malaysia. We were all nervous to go into her house and actually meet her and Cikgu Mat, we kind of hung back by the van and finally we went inside.
We were greeted very warmly and immediately felt like we were somewhere where we were accepted and that someone was happy to see us. She and Cikgu Mat welcomed us. Cikgu Jazwan and Kak Nor came with us to Taiping to see her. It made me smile to see her and Kak Nor together, they were good friends and were very happy to see each other again. Since none of us spoke Malay we were mostly kept out of the conversations that happened between Cikgu Kalsom, Cikgu Mat, Cikgu Sam, Jazwan and Kak Nor. We did get to talk with her for a bit when we first arrived but I think even if we spoke Malay, we wouldn't have been invited into the conversation, those conversations weren't for our ears at the time, and that was fine.
She wasn't in the best of health when we were there, but to see her move when she played a little Gayong with Cikgu Sam and Joel you'd never know the woman had any ache at all in her! Her movements were clean, quick and precise. She could see how Cikgu Sam moved when they played Keris, she could tell what needed to be tweaked with a Kayu technique of mine, and Joel had finger marks on his arm for days from where she demonstrated a technique on him. She was Gayong!
When I think of her it makes me smile. I don't think it's ever easy to be in a leadership role. There are very many things that happen that the rest of us never see. Decisions have to be made and people's lives are effected by those decisions. Some people disagree and that is all part of leading an organization. She allowed me to conduct an interview with her over mail that was published in Seni Beladiri Magazine in 2006. I read her words all the time and is makes me smile. Her words still lead, and I look to them when I have decisions that need to be made in terms of our United States Gayong Federation Organization. Those of us in leadership roles in our organization face some of the same issues that exist in Malaysia. Having a strong female role model to look up to, even though she isn't physically with us anymore, is what helps to keep my personal focus on what is best for Gayong and for our organization.
Cikgu Siti Kalsom is truly missed by many people. She touched many lives and continues to be a leadership inspiration for many people in an around Gayong. I am a better person for having met her.