Tuesday, March 11, 2008

To Malaysia and Back..

Just got back from a quick visit to Malaysia. Didn't get to see much, in fact didn't get to see anything at all. Apart from that really enjoyed the trip and all the insights it gave me into Malaysia and who she really is. Getting to know a country is like getting to know a person. Many shades, Many hues and then the core.. You don't always have to go around seeing places. You could also get to know her by just staying there, talking to her people...

First Spoiler - 500 odd passengers , seated strapped to their seats. The plane makes its way to the run way and then a 15 min stop followed by an announcement. Apparently since the effort to move to the new Bangalore airport is under way, it had somehow (i cant see how) led to a shortage of trained personnel for moving baggage, and so the Plane made its way back , engines were turned off and the luggage was loaded.... Finally after a two hour delay , the plane took off.

Bangalore really needs to do something to alleviate the airport situation. Had to run to get my connecting flight before the gates closed in Singapore.

Second Spoiler - Land in Malaysia. Get a cab to the hotel. Hungry , Tired , Irritated, A nice hot shower, that's what I need I mentally decide ... And the receptionist smiles sweetly at me and says .." It will take another hour for us to get your room ready mam. You could have a complimentary drink at our coffee shop "..So I sit in the lounge, and wait and wait and wait.. One hour seems like ten when you are tired ..

Finally my bags were taken up and I was there. Of course they didn't let me have a sea side room . But this one was nice. First thing I did, Pulled aside the drapes ; loved the view...

Third Spoiler - Run to my bag . Want a picture of the view. Get my camera out. Turn it on and click.. Nothing!.. My camera stopped working .........:(:(:(:(:(

Good I got all the bad stuff out of the way..

Slow internet connection meant that I had the perfect excuse to not work once i get back everyday.

Some things about Penang..

Penang comes from the word 'Pinang' meaning 'beetle nut'.. wonderfully clean. Great Roads. Multi Racial - Malays , Chinese, Indians. Extremely friendly people - Loud and Loquacious.

My Hotel was right by the sea and I did manage to sneak a few beach side walks. The beach in Penang reminds me of the beach in Pondicherry. A fortification prevents you from going to the shore line and you can walk along the foot path built for pedestrians.

Every morning I need to get to Kulim. So my colleague and I take a cab to work. The Sun is a late riser in Penang and she sleeps late too.. We are out by 6:45 and we sneak past the sleeping sun. Our ride takes us through the beautiful 13 Km Penang Bridge. I am told that when the traffic gets too much Cars are ferried across. Those 30-40 mins are filled with conversation spanning over a wide variety of subjects These conversations were an eye opener in some ways. I learnt that there are some things which are far better in India than any where else in the world. I learnt that in the US if you need to get to the doctor you can't without medical insurance. When i asked.." What if you tell the doctor that i don't have insurance but I'll pay my bill".. I was shocked to hear that a simple visit could make you a 1000$ poorer in terms of paying just the consultation fee. Was even more shocked to hear that a family of 4 could very easily pay about 500$ a month as insurance and finally "What would you do if you were poor and you fell sick".. Bottom line - " If you don't have med insurance you dare not fall sick" .. !!

How many times have I paid paltry amounts like 50 rupees (approx 1 dollar) as consultation fees.Sometimes we don't seem to know what we have..


On one more ride was told about the ethnic conflict in Malaysia by the cab driver. He scared me a little by yelling at the top of his voice and condemning all those responsible for suppressing the rights of Immigrant Indians. I was aware of the ethnic conflict in Malaysia being a regular with the morning CNN IBN news. But news in a strange way can be misleading. Sometimes the Perspective it offers is too narrow. Sometimes it makes ordinary men and women seem like monsters. In order to really understand something you need to be at the place of the action, you need to hear the story on both sides of the dispute. On the outside I didn't really see any obvious signs of discontent. The friendly vibe between most people seemed to belie the simmering discontent and distrust underneath. Most Indian immigrants are Tamil, Their fore fathers had been brought there as labourers when Pre independent Malaysia was still a British Colony. Most of them are cab drivers, and they claim that several of the fundamental rights (like education) which should be theirs being Malay born had been denied to them.
Elections were round the corner and It was interesting to see the election scene in another country. There were no where close to being as noisy as ours. But the banners were out and I was told that the opposition party this year was in it's strongest position in fifty years.

There were some other interesting dynamics I observed among the cab drivers. The Chinese and Indians had formed two distinct groups. Business from corporates hinged on whom the receptionist chose to call. Like China the English here is extremely hard to understand. So some of these cab drivers have made a determined effort to improve spoken English skills. Here the Indians score over the Chinese.

Some quick shopping on Friday and Saturday it was time to leave. I had an eight hour transit at Singapore. Lunch first at Cauvery followed by Shopping. I love the Singapore airport. What struck me this time is How much attention to detail had been given to even the minutest of things . For instance Safety aspects were top class. The airport abounds in high tech gadgets and needless to say there are loads of kids running around. But all these equipment have been placed in such a way that there could be no obvious damage done to them and nobody would get hurt trying.

Finally we were on board the flight back to Bangalore and as luck would have it we were asked to get off as there was some technical snag in the flight that could not be rectified. Another two hour wait and finally I was back home. Cleared immigration quickly , but the worst was yet to come. Waiting for the bags was a nightmare. There would have easily been around 500 people on board my flight. The Thai airways flight had landed at the same time and what followed was utter chaos. The trolleys were in bad shape. They wouldn't move. And it was like being in a bad game of Bumper cars. Someone hit my leg atleast twice and I had a bad feeling that there would be a stampede. Somehow the bags arrived and then I had to figure out how to get out.

..Out of the airport and back homeeeeeeeeeee :):)..Back to my nest!! No place better in the world!

-Meena

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful blog you got in there Meena.. Casual but interesting writing style. luvv it..
    add a photo or two to the malaysian trip..
    -kalps

    ReplyDelete

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