The Globe Trotter’s Diary: Malaysia
It was night; my daughter took me out on the balcony of her apartment. ‘See, Mom!’ I looked up and saw the magnificent Twin-Towers shining against the black backdrop of the night sky. I held my breath, it was fabulous. The KLCC Suria or the Patronas Tower as it is called is truly a wonder of Asia. Imposing and superb it is truly a jewel in KL’s crown. ‘O Lord!’ I uttered a silent prayer, ‘keep this monument of Muslim greatness safe from the enemies of Islam.’
There are innumerable reasons for loving Malaysia; its un-announced rains with thunder and lightning, drizzles playing hide and seek with the sunshine, its greenery, flowers and fruits, lush Tea-gardens, butterfly and honey bee gardens, the bird-park, theme parks and what not. Why I love Malaysia, I do not know but every time I leave Malaysia, I have an indescribable feeling that I am leaving a part of me behind. Malaysia is undoubtedly heaven on earth. One can watch the nature’s gift pruned and trimmed by the magical human hands for hours without getting tired. Feeling romance in the air it is an ideal place for honey-mooners and holiday-makers.
It is said, ‘English, whatever its merits as a language, is a bitch to spell.’ The Malaysians have made life easier for themselves by spelling English words phonetically. An amusing incident took place when my daughter received a letter from the Income Tax Department. The letter was in Malay however, one word was clearly written in Subject ‘Fail’. She anxiously googled for translation and laughed out loud. It meant ‘File’ in Malay. Some other words that one sees commonly are: Teksi for taxi, Skool for school, Sikal for cycle, Farmasi for pharmacy, Kolage for college, Biskit for biscuit, Kake for cake, Sains for science. While coming across these words one thinks for a moment to make out what these are and then smiles Oh! So that’s what it is!
The Pakistani community in Malaysia is quite active. Dinners, lunches, tea-parties and day-outs on beaches or other recreational places is a very common feature and takes place regularly. If nothing, meeting for a cup of tea or some gossip over a cup of coffee at tea/coffee houses is very much in. I have a great time whenever I visit my daughter. All her friends dutifully invite me over. I love being with them. My son-in-law has a very interesting habit. Whenever he is tired and wants to relax he goes into the kitchen and cooks something. He has earned a reputation for making excellent biryani and qorma.
Malaysian women are very hard working whereas men are lazy. It is said that the world’s largest number of female drivers are in Malaysia. The women are seen working in offices, at the airports, at train stations, in hotels, at the toll plazas and as sales-women. They even drive motorbikes. All wearing their traditional Malay dress comprising a long shirt, a sarong and head-scarf or hijab. Young Malay girls may wear jeans but the hijab is still an important part of their dress code. During the month of Ramazan, religious activity is similar to Pakistan. It will be interesting to know that during Ramazan, khateebs and qaris are invited from Pakistan because the pronunciation and qirat of Pakistani khateebs and qaris is better and our maulanas lead their taraweeh prayers.
I am generally not a fruit lover, especially not a person to try anything new. But living for longer periods in Malaysia I had to experience some new types and then there was no looking back. This amazing country would be so rich in producing exotic and mouth-watering fruits. The ‘mangosteen’ with its juicy, succulent, white cloves arranged symmetrically in a dark purple hard covering is simply out of the world. So is the Apple-guava a cross between the apple and guava, the Avocado, Coconut and the Jack fruit. The Durian, famous for its terrible smell is also widely planted. Its smell is so bad that it is forbidden to eat it in a train or bus. The Malaysians and Chinese are seen eating it on roadside fruit stalls. What is so good about this fruit is hard to say.
Malaysia, a land comprising more than 850 large and small islands, mountain ranges, caves, forests, coastal lines and highlands is a hot spot for tourists. Lying near the equator, it has a hot and humid climate the year round. Rainfall is plenty and so is the sunshine. I visited Cameron Highland, one of the most beautiful and largest tourist spot in Malaysia. It is said that Cameron Highland has retained some of the English garden touch. It is absolutely beautiful. Flowers that one may not have seen anywhere in the world grow abundantly here, fruit gardens, rose bushes, and tea gardens have a balming effect on the eyes of onlookers. I never knew that strawberries are planted in pots. I had a great time picking ripe strawberries. And later made jam which was overcooked but delicious nonetheless. We even stayed in a resort named after this fruit “The Strawberry Resort.’
There are certain traits of Malaysia which I did not find in any other country. Like during Ramazan eateries remain open but a Malay muslim cannot dare to eat in public, same is the case with pubs and bars. Malaysian Chinese and Hindus are exempted. Islam is the state religion but Christians, Buddhists and Hindus enjoy freedom of their religion. Tolerance towards each other’s beliefs is a hall mark of all Muslim countries except Pakistan. The government follows the Shariah laws and any teaching that deviates from the official code is illegal and punishable. Similarly, it is illegal to convert a muslim to some other faith but if a non-muslim converts to Islam he/she is given full protection, facilities of accommodation, citizenship, education etc. Malaysian government does not encourage citizen-ship nor gives Malaysian passport to people of other nationalities. However, one can buy and own property there. Despite all this strictness the Government sometimes, may acknowledge the services of someone and award him the rank of ‘Datu’ along with Malaysian citizen-ship — a rarity but not impossible.
One particular place to visit is the sky bridge. The link between the twin towers. One has to wait for at least two to three hours in a queue to get the ticket, people start queuing as early as 6 am. It is once-in-a-life time experience. The sky bridge is double decked. Visitors are allowed only on the first deck. The first deck is on the 41st floor. The view from the sky bridge is panoramic. In the middle of the bridge the metal arch legs are attached to a box girder. The floor of the box is made of glass and OMG stepping on it was literally a hair-raising experience for me. I felt my heart beating in my throat. My son-in-law asked me if I wanted to go higher up and see the observation deck on the 86th floor, the view from the box girder was stunning enough and I felt my heart was dearer, so I just nodded my head in negative.