Mingalabar in Malaysia
This has been a wonderful day in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur to be specific.
Just another day in Paradise, someone will quip.
After a lazy morning, after the deep sleep of yet another busy day in KL, we made our way to Maulana Food Court, hoping that our good friend Soleiman from Tanjore would be there.
He greets us warmly and says something in Tamoul, which I cannot understand. Boleh Tamil, Boleh Melayu, Boleh Urdu he goes on childishly and soon we are seated at the table with a spread of south Indian food in front of us.
He began talking excitedly, in a mixture of Tamoul and Malay and other indecipherable languages, the gist of which was: please take me with you, I am an Indian Citizen and I am getting tired. I promised him something or other knowing fully well that our conversation would be forgotten the minute I left his place. He makes sure that the Te Tahrik is hot and hovers around in between his social engagements with his various regular customers. As we leave he shouts in Tamoul, what I thought it might be any way, Please come tomorrow, I will be waiting here for you.
With that piece of human interaction, everything from then on until the end of the day was one good human interaction after another. We reached the Guinot Facial/Beauty Salon in time, for the owner to start working on my face. She has been trained by the Guinot facility in Paris and has been a beauty therapist for more than twenty years.
The bottom picture is the one after, and you can notice the relaxed face.
Went over to the Bakin Boys Café next door to Kunikinuya Book store which by the way is the best bookstore in all of Malaysia.
Was writing a few postcards for friends near and far, and soon enough it was time to get MunChing from the Beauty Salon. She comes out chirping with handful of presents. We had to rush over to Bangsar where she had an appointment for hair cut at 5 30 and through the rush hour traffic of KL, we were there just in time.
A Cut Above is a Malaysian concern of attention to Hair, fingers and toes.. with an array of services offered and a plethora of workers busily attending to the middle class yuppie clientele. Another moment in time of KL life captured. GS was the name of the Chinese lady assigned to do my pedicure, as she had done an excellent job on my previous visit. She was all happy and greeted me warmly, not quite understanding how I was back here so quickly. This pedicure outshone the last one and my feet had never felt so good. A tall lithesome recent graduate of Cosmetology school attended to my fingers and within the hour, I came out of there, fresh in my new facial, with feet and arm relaxed to match the face. Truly a sensory load of welcome proportions. The attention given to Pedicure and manicure is much better than some of the above I had received in the USA, especially from the newly mushrooming Vietnamese dominated Nail Salons all across the USA.. These ladies graduates of a local cosmetology school, after a two month course, and with a natural talent to pay attention to the details of the nails and toes, had charms in their hands and fingers as they massaged the our toes and fingers. I was truly truly happy with my pedicure. A slight limitation in communication because of the language, I noticed that English is widely spoken among the educated ones, but the majority of Malaysians do not speak English, as is the case in Singapore as well, beyond basic communication. I am poor by this, since I could have learned so much about their lives talking to them but had to be content with gathering tidbits of information on their lives so far away from my own.
Content with the state of physical affairs, it was time to move on to the next destination, MIZU Japanese restaurant. Like Japanese restaurants in Paris, only the name and the menu are Japanese, all the workers are from somewhere or other with scant knowledge of the Japanese cuisine.
But the ambience was welcome, the change from good to better Chinese food and incredibly tasty Tamoul food, was a questionable challenge. Ah well, one has to live, and to Mizu we would go.
Very attentive staff, the supervisor of the waitresses seemed to be a local Chinese, with no particular distinguishing features. But the waitresses were demure, one could mistake them for Indonesians but there was gentleness in their faces. I was to find out what it was, which made me sad and delighted at the same time.
Food began arriving one by one, in the Japanese sensibility, food presented well and inviting. Looking at the kitchen and the numerous staff there, there was a little concern that none of them were Japanese, but the fear was dispelled by the first bite, which reminded me of japan and its cuisine. What is the chef is from some other country and hopefully he would feel good that he can produce some good Japanese food for the hungry mobs of KL.
I had noticed the very efficient young waitress and began imagining about her life. What if she was an Indonesian? Had she left her husband and young child behind to come over to Malaysia? While I was very happy to be in Malaysia, would they be able to say the same? Did they want to come to Malaysia or are they here because of the economy situation at home.
During the entire dinner, she paid attention to us with the efficiency which was evident in her rapid gait and the pleasant smile which never left her face.
When she brought over the next dish,
I had the courage to ask her, where are you from?
Myanmar. Stunned and pleased, I gave her the immediate reply,
That brought a further lighting up of her smile.
So this young girl, a Bamar by the look of it, has come to KL to work as a waitress. I had no doubt that she had been to one of the many universities in Yangon, if she is from there, as it looked as if she is a city girl. I am glad that her older mother will be happy and be able to gain merit by feeding the monks who come by the house; the school fees she could now pay to educate her younger brother, and perhaps save money for that mingalason ceremony for a wedding in the future. In the meantime, she would be isolated with other Myanmar people, as this place Bangsar seems to be a gathering place for the workers from Myanmar.
I called her over, respectfully handed over my card, in which I had written my Burmese name, U Aung Khant, under my name. She profusely thanked me, Jesu Tin ba de, I told her.
My wandered back to Yangon, not only my Yangon but my father’s Yangon, he who fought till he nearly died for someone else’s country, the teak house where he might have eaten in yangon where I ate a nice lunch with Wut Yee on my last visit. A painful longing, a desire to return to a country which is not my own but which has adopted me. The cruelty of th government and the genetleness of the people. Burma will always be close to my heart.
A tear trickled down my cheeks, yes I told myself, I am Aung Khant and I am Burmese, and this little sweetie is a young relative of mine. All I can give her in her isolation and exile in Malaysia is my best wishes, a genuine basket of good will for her. Just to let her know, that Burma has brought us close together and that we may once again breathe that pure air of Burma, even though we might never meet each other again. A brief cameo of our lives, on this day in Malaysia, where I felt that people around me, has elevated me to a paradise, a sensual pleasure of a day passed in the company of so many good people… this country is inhabited by people who belay all the stereotype hyped up in the International Press which I had believed wholeheartedly until I met MunChing one day in April who explained to me this Malaysian Dilemma..
Apart from my much needed conversations to Paris, which is my lifeline, I was also able to speak to a friend from KT, Ross, who though born and brought up in Colonial Malaya had left Malaysia in the late fifties and now has returned as a foreigner to his land of birth.
All in all a very nice day in Malaysia…
24th December 2008
27th to Madras
6th January 2009 to Paris
9th January 2009 to Miami…. Etc etc and it would be a while before the winds would bring me back to these shores again..