Saturday, August 27, 2005


Recently, I made a nostalgic trip back to a place that haunted my dreams for the last 10 years – Belfast, Northern Ireland. I had spent 4 years studying and working there, and the place holds many fond memories. As the years passed, my memories of the place faded and had become romanticized.

I spent two days exploring all the old haunts – the Indian takeaway that I used to frequent, the cafĂ© where I usually had my breakfast, the local newsagent that I used to visit to check whether the latest issue of Empire had arrived. Everything seemed so familiar and yet so remote.

I found out to my horror that they were tearing down the student hall that I stayed in for two years.

And the newsagent was taken over by the bookstore chain Easons. The Indian takeaway, however, had survived the times, as did the video rental shop next to it.

I also went around the university, which remained very much as it was before, except the computer lab was replaced with a five storey building.

As I checked places off my list, I was surprised at how despondent I felt. I then realized why – without the people whom I had spent the good times with, Belfast was just another familiar city. I had fond memories of the place because of the people I had spent time there with, not so much the place itself, although Northern Ireland is still as beautiful as ever (and the weather as dull as ever).

The visit brought some closure to me, helping to put an end to the longing I felt for the place since I got back to Malaysia. Over the years, I plotted ways to go back to UK and live there, but never took the courage to do so.

I realized that the things that I should cherish the most are not physical, but all the people whom I love and care about. As long as these people are near, that’s where I belong, and that’s where I call home.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Faceless People?

The haunting, lilting chorus rose through the hall. I stared at the group in front that was singing acapella, five guys and five ladies.

Concert at KLCC? You wouldn't have guessed - they're Myanmarese who joined my church. As I sat there awestruck, it dawned upon me that these are the same people that I tend to meet daily, in coffee shops, by the construction areas, working and serving us.

We give them so little thought that we probably treated them as faceless robots, not human like us. At that moment as I sat there listening to them singing about their home, their heritage, it dawned on me that the guy who puts kopi 'o' on my table at the SS2 coffeeshop has a family, has feelings, has a heritage that we couldn't even imagine. They are not dumb people, they just have problems with our language.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Public Transport In Klang Valley

Since the abolishment of mini buses in 1998, public transport in Klang Valley basically sucks. Despite the hapless efforts of the late Tan Sri Yahya to make things better through his Intrakota buses, everything went downhill from that point onwards.

Having just got back from London on a job assignment, the contrast could not have been greater. Sure, they get delays galore (no thanks to Al-Qaeda), but basically the system works, i.e. carry a person from any point in London to another point in London. And I do mean any point, if you don’t believe me, try this :

The government has recently completed the Klang Valley Integrated Public Transport Plan, but its implementation seems to be years away. Meanwhile, as I write this (1st August 2005) the good ol’ govt has just increased petrol prices by another 10 sen. Granted, the rich folks in their SUV’s won’t care too much, and neither will the motorcyclists, where a full tank is RM 4. It’s the middle classes whose situation is becoming increasingly untenable.

Here’s some suggestions for the govt to consider:

i. Use the savings from the petrol increase to immediately purchase another 1500 buses. We have a population of around 3 million and we only have about 500 buses, for goodness sake! At peak hour, that’s going to carry about 30,000 people, at most. Last I heard, Rapid KL is being forced to spend their limited funds to repair another 500 buses, an unacceptable state of affairs considering we are paying folks billions to build navy patrol vessels.

ii. Immediately fix more bus lanes so that the buses run smoothly. And get the buses to avoid jammed areas.

iii. Reintroduce mini buses for all the suburbs around KL. Too many aunties driving around in their mpv’s running their errands only makes things worse.

iv. Slap an annual surcharge on all vehicles travelling in the klang valley, and use the funds to subsidize the buses.

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