Friday, July 20, 2007
Malaysia tour diary - I
I had the good fortune to be in Malaysia for a week from June 10 to 17. I took down plenty of notes and just clicked away. I shall put up here a series of diary jottings. So keep coming back. If you want to read them all together, click on the label "Malaysia". Here is the first part:
No litter, no horn
There is a strange calmness to the bustle of Malaysia’s cities and towns. Kuala Lumpur is crowded with high-rises, flyovers, people and vehicles. Even in that crowd cars move at 50 to 60 kmph. One reason for the jam-free movement seems to be good roads that are silken smooth with well-demarcated lanes. No garbage or litter on the streets. On public vehicles there is a message: “Please do not litter outside this vehicle.”
Drivers are patient. No one is in a hurry to break through the traffic. Never can one hear a honk. If at all a driver does, it is a sign of rebuke. This quietness, it is said, has come about in the last 10 to 15 years after some sustained campaign.
One incident tells it all. A person just after alighting from his car was talking to a friend without realizing that he was blocking the path for an oncoming car. The driver, instead of honking, waited for the man to finish the conversation. Meanwhile, the ‘offender’ noticed the waiting car. Realizing he was blocking the way, he sheepishly moved away apologising to the driver!
The photos on the top and below are of downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Romanisation of script
Imagine, being able to read Malaysia’s official language before having spent even a few minutes there! It is as easy as English, because the scripts are the same. The official language is Bahasa Malaysia, written in the Roman (Latin) script, called Rumi. The old Arabic script Jawi has been pushed into extinction. Malaysia being a multicultural society, the Latinised script is playing a unifying role. Besides, for the local people, learning English is so much easier since the script is the same. There are plenty of borrowed words: buku, dunia, guru, jawab, roti…
“O, you are from the land of Bollywood! How is Abhishek and Aishwarya!” The exclamation from a Chinese restaurant owner in Kuala Lumpur was a surprise. Soon, one got to know that it’s hard to find anyone in Malaysia who doesn’t know something about our movie stars. And it looked as if the entire nation was following that celebrity wedding to the minute detail. There seemed to be a good following for Shah Rukh Khan songs. “I have been trying to learn the words of some of them,” said my tour guide.
(To be continued)