reprints of articles published in magazines

Sunday, 22 April 2007

The Malaysian Man

Malaysia is a beautiful country. One could write pages and pages about its various places of interest but then, all this can be read up from any encyclopaedia or downloaded from the net. What I’d really like to focus upon, is this man that I met in Kuala Lumpur.

I did not notice him at first. I was busy ogling the street scenes that swept past the bus window and exchanging remarks with my friend. As the bus consumed the miles, I tried to strike up a conversation with my Malay neighbour, “Can you please tell us when we reach Masjid India?” The pretty lady shook her head and said apologetically, “No English, Bahasa only”. Just when I was turning away with disappointment, I caught the eyes of this said man. He was watching us with a smile. Just the looks of him and I knew he was a Tamil. The chocolate complexion, the ‘I-know-your-lingo’ looks, the friendly countenance…Ah! To meet your own kind, especially in a foreign land! Our team of peregrinators gave him a unanimous delighted smile. Luckily for us, he was getting down at Masjid India too. At his signal we merrily hopped out of the bus and followed him like the dutiful mice scampering after the Piper.

He led us deftly through the confusing trail, pointed out at the Parliament, the Indian market, the stadium, etc., stopping only to click snaps at vantage points. He gave us quick descriptions about the various landmarks, shared with us the must-know for tourists, garnished with the right dose of humour and biographical details. Soon we reached Jalan Masjid India. He guided us to the ultimate shopper’s paradise: Hanifa stores. Eager to commence shopping, we turned to thank him for his kindness. We assumed that he would part and proceed with whatever work he had for the day. But he seemed to be in no hurry, “Finish your shopping, I’ll wait”. We were taken aback; God knows how much time we’d take to shop!

We tried to explain and politely persuaded him to get on his way, but he stayed put. Anyway we were too eager to shop and could not spare time to think any further. As we jostled up and down the jam-packed aisles, our T-shirt clad Santa Claus kept sensing our needs and guided us to the right spots. In a way, we were grateful to have this grown up Boy Scout around. He was our Malay spokesperson, our security guard, the authority on what to buy and how much to pay, our carrier of heavy bags….he was so helpful!

But then- didn’t he have other things to do? How could he just let total strangers like us, swallow up his time and energy? Every one of us will surely be courteous and helpful to hapless tourists, but wasn’t this a bit too hyper helpful? We were in a foreign land and trust was a costly commodity that had to be judiciously spent. There were women in our team, we had money on us and expensive items had been purchased. Although we did not voice it, we all kept exchanging paranoid looks. We started looking for signs of deceit. We could not find any, he looked like a perfect gentleman, his demeanour was entirely dignified and his only gratification seemed to be our common language. He was too good to be true.

When hunger won over our acquisitiveness, the feverish shopping spree came to an end and we chemotaxied towards an Indian restaurant. A pseudo-friendly Sardar offered us greasy chappathis and unappetizingly priced sabjis. We sat down to have our Thanks Giving Meal with our friendly neighbourhood Malay man.

Towards the end of the meal, we exchanged addresses with our Mr. KL, hinting subtly at the end of our time together. But the hint went wide off its mark. Sans any postprandial lethargy, he zestfully marched us to yet another shopping complex. This time the shopping was not frantic but the need to get away from this overzealous Good Samaritan was. Sight seeing and shopping were relegated to the end of our list, all we could think of was rest and some limb-stretch. We pleaded tiredness, heaviness of the purchases and even bankruptcy. But our honorary guide would not hear of it. He wheedled us to one spot after the other, “You must see the Chinese area la. The nightlife there is beautiful. In the evenings, the streets are lit up……..”

“Please, we’ll see all that some other time, we’re too tired now. Let’s call it a day”, the least tolerant among us asserted and before he could reply, hurriedly hailed a cab. We hastily piled into the Toyota and turned to thank our Man Friday for his time and help. But much to our chagrin, he also climbed into the cab, “ I’ll get down on the way.”

He did not, he accompanied us all the way back to the hotel, helped us carry our huge cases into our room and enquired about our plans for the next day. We were alarmed. His helpfulness was all fine, but why would someone go out of his way to help a bunch of strangers, what was the motive? While we bartered looks pregnant with sinister meanings, the alpha male of our team, quietly led the man out, ostensibly for a drink. With the subject of our predicate safely out of earshot, we verbalised our doubts freely.

“He does not look like a bad sort, perhaps he is just lonely.”
“Lonely for women’s company?”
“Aw! Come on- he is as cordial to the ladies as he is to the men.”
“May be it is our Tamil.”
“He said he’s travelled all over the world, may be that’s why he understands our plight”
“It must have been his day out and he just joined our fun for the heck of it.”
“May be we remind him of his children.”

While we were still debating, our alpha male returned, without our Malay Man. Before we could ask, he pronounced his verdict, “Seems to be a genuinely nice guy. He was only trying to help us. But he had me worried- I mean how can anybody be so good?!.”

On hearing that, I de javu’ised what my paediatrician friend Preetha had once told me, “It is easy to understand why a person is bad – the reasons are obvious. But it is very difficult to understand why a person is good. There seems to be no reason at all for being good. Good simply is.”

I had not quite understood what she had said then. But now, I think I do.


சாத்தான் said...

Nicely written post. Reminds me of Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy.

geetha said...

Sure, we look for a reason if someone is good beyond limits - spending one full day with total strangers, well that requires some explanaction. But why did you not ask him - he might have provided an answer.

kumar said...

Nice to read this. I thought in the end goes up with some blah blah blah.. (typical tamil movie mentality .. :( ), but somehow he is a good person.

I was worried in the another end because, I do help few people like this. And I worry what do they think? In the end its very easy to say 'Flirt, etc. etc., '

gani said...

Interesting ....
u said like " But it is very difficult to understand why a person is good. There seems to be no reason at all for being good. Good simply is.”...

I personally feel like even good persons will have a reason to be good...!!! fr wt reason a man should help a strangers for the whole day, leaving behind all his personal work... there must be some reason behind it....!!! may be something that u quoted in ur stt....

lookin beyond the article...
y should a man be so good...???
y should a man cum of the box to help strangers to a greater extent that no one hav asked for ... ???
looking bac the history even gandhi had a reason to fight in south africa... he was bitten twice when he went ther... may be that charged him to fight back .... mm... seriously speaking ther must be a strong reasons for the persons to be good in this materialized world....!!!

wats ur take on this.....!!!