17. Petronas Twins Alive

@Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory, Malaysia.

I was in a train. It was a chair car and it was a good wagon. We were travelling from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in that train in a journey which lasted about six and half hours. It was quite a good journey as we could see some rural areas, that of Malaysia. It was not anything which we didn’t see in India, but we had to see them all; most of the different sides of these lands. The railway station of Kuala Lumpur was quite stylish and someone was standing and waiting for us with a board on which our name was written. We stayed at the Grand Continental Hotel there and this name came to my mind later during my stay at another hotel in Sri Lanka with a similar name. This was a big hotel and we were glad to get a room at one of the top floors. It was a wonderful view from there and other big buildings could be seen; even the Petronas Twin Towers. Most of the buildings did look too small in comparison to where we were staying though. It was nice to keep looking out through that window when sitting idle in that hotel room. It was another world, not Singapore and not India; something mixed and this mixture became more clear as we travelled through the capital city.

Being at Kuala Lumpur was somewhat like being in Singapore, but with less cleanliness and more mosques, some big ones around. The transportation was also a little problem compared to the neighbouring city-state. But it was more like India out there, with a significant presence of Tamil speakers; there were places where we could make people understand by speaking Malayalam for which they replied in Tamil, rather than using English both ways. This was just one of those occasions when the similarity between Malayalam and Tamil helped me. Being at the most populous city in Malaysia, there was the crowd and also being the capital city, there was the business all around. Due to presence of Indian population, there was lots of Indian food available and having Ghee Roast and Masala Dosa was never easier and it was less costly too, compared to Singapore. It was of almost the same price as in Kerala and even tea had the Indian flavour. I also had my interest in Milk shakes there and they were quite good and similar to what I had back home. My experience with Malaysian food was limited to those morning buffets in the hotel, as I stayed away from eating something strange for me and getting sick at the wrong time. Being sick away from home is always bad, especially when on a conducted tour abroad.

The biggest attraction of Kuala Lumpur and may be the whole nation could be the Petronas Twin Towers. They were the tallest buildings in the world for sometime until surpassed by Taipei 101, and they are still the tallest twin buildings of the world. With the Kuala Lumpur communication Tower, it dominates the skyline of the city and is the most important landmark; these towers were first noticed by me in the Sean Connery & Catherine Zeta Jones movie ‘Entrapment’ and from that moment I hoped this would one day come in front of my eyes and there they were, ready to be in my camera. But considering the standard of my camera at that time, it was difficult to get the best shot of it and I could only get an ineresting shot from some long distance away as it failed to fit into the old Kodak thing of the time. If I had my Sony camera at that time, that would have been helpful, but what is done is done and that time was not that of digital cameras, to be clear. The best of the Petronas Towers was not to be near a good shot of it with the currently available digital cameras or even the mid-range mobile cameras. But it was the beginning of ‘this camera is not enough’ theory and it eventually lead to the replacement of that miserable thing with something better.

The visit to Kuala Lumpur was just after watching the Tamil movie ‘Anniyan’ and I was surprised to see the posters of the movie in Malaysia too. The locations of the movie also came to my eyes with the twin towers themselves as well as the Kuala Lumpur International Airport which looked better in that movie, but is still not an inferior structure in any way. It was different, unlike any airport I had seen before that and it was special. I do wonder why they chose an airport for shooting; especially a busy one like this, as it could have caused a lot of difficulty for both sides. The National Museum of Malaysia gives us an overview of Malaysian history, culture and lifestyle. It was the first thing in their conducted tour list. There is also the palace and the official residence of the Malaysian King, the Istana Negara, where we take photos from the outside. The National Monument of Malaysia also called Tugu Negara, a sculpture commemorating those who died in Malaysia’s freedom struggle is also situated at the same city. These along with a random chocolate factory seemed to be the major destinations for the tour programs of Kuala Lumpur and some shopping and wandering around the city was added to it by us later.

This host to the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One World Championship doesn’t really need a certificate from me to prove it’s ability. This is clearly one of the most preferred destinations of tourists from India and is sometimes combined with Singapore or Thailand to form an effective tour package. Kuala Lumpur, as the city that it is, dominates the area. It is the city which we have seen in too many movies and this place became kind of a big favourite for Malayalam movie industry as I have been reminded of this place for so many times through these movies. Petronas Towers has to be the most seen skyscrapers of the world through Malayalam and Hindi movies. There was no Indian among us in that bus we travelled; it had Bangladeshis and Pakistanis; that was kind of strange for me, but that didn’t change a thing. Everyone looked the same and it was just like any other journey; everyone took snaps and looked around like the tourists that we all were. It was about a few people in a bus and their common destination.

For me, Malaysia was what came with that journey to Singapore which was the direct result of the rejection of the visiting visa to United States. None of these were planned and they all came in a hurry. There was no special plans for any of these and therefore following the fixed program was the major aim. There was not much of a secondary objective other than what came to us in the form of the need for an extra bag to carry what we bought and the need for food. Just like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur was also a beginning; it taught lessons which might have been lost at that time, but would later come back to me with full power. It was kind of a prequel to my future journeys; it was what came as a preparation for mind; it let me know what to expect and a few years later, when another big trip came, I was better prepared and now with all of those done and over, I am ready for more. I saw this city and I captured in my camera most of it. The next time, if there is any, I will not just go there, I will feel it; I will know what the place is about and sense whatever is going on; this is the change which has come upon me; this is what the separation from materialism can bring to you; this will be how I will face the next challenge abroad.

Diving out —>