A long long time
go in the 1960s and in a country far far away the Conservative party under
Harold Macmillan was the government of the day in the United Kingdom. The
Secretary of State for War was John Profumo and he was married to an actress by
the name of Valerie Hobson. The Soviet Naval Attaché was Yevgeny ‘Eugene”
Ivanov and living in London at the same time as these two was a girl called
had a relationship with Profumo and Ivanov. This was the era of the Cold War
and the potential ramification in terms of national security finally led to the
resignation of Profumo on June 5 1963 and the resignation of Prime Minister
Harold Macmillan in October of the same year.
But those were
the days when Politicians were expected to do the right thing and they did!
Here in Malaysia I was surprised to learn recently that our Tunku had a Chinese
wife we did not even know about….well at least I did not know about it until
recently. But then Tunku was a bon vivant “a person devoted to refined sensuous
enjoyment (especially good food and drink)” and by now this was just one more
story that made him a lovable rouge in a time when life was to be enjoyed.
remembered a time when I did not enjoy life in Malaysia. As we say one of
life’s finest pleasure is food and this we have plenty of at prices too
ridiculous to contemplate now that I am in Adelaide! In KL the Nasi Dagang in
Kampong Baru, the Curry Puff at See Kee in Jalan Jati in Imbi and the
gastronomic spread of food available in Bangsar are wonderful memories that
will never leave me. And it is just not the eating of these foods that I enjoy…
it is the whole experience of arriving at the destination, the getting of these
wonderful delicacies and the actual consumption of them that blows my mind
every time it happens.
And then there
were the friends and acquaintances I had. The See Kee curry puff vendor always
had a word he wanted to have with me. Not to discuss MCA’s latest folly but
just a “Lu punya bini mana?” or “Saya punya anak sudak balek” …telling me that
his son was back from his studies in overseas.
The mamak at
Mahbub in Lucky Gardens, Bangsar was an import from either India or Bangla…I am not too sure
which because his Malay was getting better by the day. He knows what I want
when I go to the Briayani section but he still asks if I want the legs or the
breast – and I always tell him the same thing…”kaki” and remind him that I
wanted extra pappodam……and despite being a regular he will still charge me the
extra 50 cents for the pappodam! But I am getting carried away with my memories
…back to life in KL.
As I have said,
most of the time I spent in KL was good until the last time I went back to KL
to visit and stayed for many years until 2007. I sense a change amongst the
Malays. What was once keen competition for business amongst the Malays now was
a do or die struggle to survive. You need big money to live comfortably in KL.
Big money can only be got with big projects. And the business was no longer
falling into our Bumiputra laps…we had to go and get it from other Bumiputras.
Keenness became a ‘take no prisoners’ mentality. You use whatever advantage you
have to secure business. Contacts, politics, school mates….and most of all
money was used in abundance to secure projects. Now I knew what the Chinese had
to face when doing business and their plight must have been more desperate then
me – a privileged Malay.
And yet I saw
that Naza motors in Bangsar was selling top of the range Mercedes. And it seems
that they were doing well. The cars lining up outside BSC up on the hill were
the cream of the luxury cars – top of the range with drivers and servants
galore helping their masters and mistresses into their waiting chariot. Life
must be good for them. But that was BSC before ...not what it is now!
But whenever I
went to immigration at Damansara to get an extension for my family’s stay in
Malaysia I came face to face with the ugly Malaysians. The immigration officers
who became our nightmare from hell. We are faced with a minimum wait of at
least three to four hours or more every time we went there. And these civil
servants were unable to understand that we, the public, were their reason for
being there. But they tried to be polite. They tried to be courteous and there
was a semblance of a system of a first come first serve basis but the heart of
those working there was simply not in what they were doing. The Malays treated
the Malays okay but the other races were being made to understand that they
should just be grateful that they were being served. Every time we go through
the whole process I silently told myself “not again…..never again” and always
we still had to front up at immigration every three months to get that
extension…and my wife first came to Malaysia in 1973!
I know that for
myself when I finally left KL in 2007 to return to Adelaide I was so grateful
to have the plane leave KLIA that I let out a sigh of relief! I remember the
feeling well because for the first time I felt that I would not want to return
to KL…because I know that those carefree days will never return. Not with the
way things are in KL now!