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vendredi 15 mai 2009

Magical Days in Malaysia.. becoming my third Home

Meeting with Remarkable People

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Yangon/Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma

This was a short visit: A Friendship visit, with the possibility of meeting up with a professor of Diabetes in Yangon (which by the way did not happen)... so a strictly cultural/anthropological/emotional tour of my favourite parts of Asia...

Mun Ching Yong, a true humanitarian in an accountant’s work clothes. Generous to a fault, my stay in Malaysia wouldn’t be the same without her help, her organization and her choices of restaurants, and skillful management of time to meet so many people, all of them demanded your intellectual and emotional attention.

Then there is sweet Man Lee, who is emerging from the cocoon blossoming into a flower. So sweet that I have decided to adopt her as my sister in law, a special bond indeed! As she said goodbye to me, she held back her choking and said... will truly miss you, lah!

Abid is energetic, artistic, in charge of Promotions at Astro. Worldly (his brother is with the World Bank at DC) (educated in Australia as well as India), erudite and open hearted. Heir to the Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow, he treated on two occasions to some of the best “north Indian” meals that I have ever tasted in my life. He does not come alone... he has a very charming wife, a Bengali to the core, true to the tradition of Binkim Chandra Chatterjee and Satyajit Ray, this effusive Bengali is a pleasure to  spend time with. Elaborately read and with wide interests, I look forward to welcome her and her husband to Cuba next year.

Brijesh, in charge of production at Astro of Dramas, is a thinking machine, whose quiet exterior is calm and at times deceiving. A self described half Gujerati Buddhist; an evening spent with him is effervescent and rejuvenating. Felt much closer to him after this second encounter with him.

Ho at 24 had become the President of Malaysian Mahler Society and was instrumental in organizing a festival of Mahler’s music. He is so complimented by his unassuming but incisive wife Kit; these two are true Malaysian Gems. He has a list of 100 of his favourite movies, and I dare you, to find anyone the length and breadth of Malaysia with such profound knowledge of movies as Ho and Kit. A champion Go player, a classical music aficionado and a gentleman to boot, I consider both Ho and Kit to be close friends.

Malaysia as a country has gotten very bad press, mainly because of its exploitation of land, corruption, lack of sensibility to other minority religions and peoples and association with Moslem terrorist groups. Anyone who has visited Malaysia for more than five minutes would realize that the Malaysia portrayed in the western press is nowhere near the truth. I had the pleasure of meeting a Diplomat from Malaysian Services, of whom I have written in another blog: The Humble Man from Pahang. I appreciate his openness and understanding of Cuba which he has visited twice and his explanations of the intricacies of the politico social systems of Malaysia for which I was grateful. It was MunChing who set me straight; she was the first Malaysian to explain, to this outsider who loves Malaysia, the intricacies of the system and the “Malaysian model” with its share of erratic and eccentric people. I owe to her, my respect for all the Malaysians and the system which is slowly changing to fit in with the progressive world.

If I were to see Alvin, an advocate and his lawyer wife Tanya and their three beautiful girls (the sheer beauty of a garden of butterflies in their eyes) in Europe, I would never think that they are Malaysians or even less that they are of Malayalee origin. (You can be Keralite easily but not a Malayalee that easily, someone had reminded me in Cochin once). Portuguese, Dutch blood in her veins, Alvin certainly has some admixture (he reminded me so much of some of my friends from Trinidad), but they are Truly Malaysian, truly Asian… educated, read and socially participatory, their house reflecting their aesthetic capacities... for me an evening spent with them at their house, with a nouvelle malasienne cuisine indienne.. Mild tasting curries with multiple flavours... a sheer delight indeed.  It would be my pleasure to play host to them and the three butterflies of theirs in Paris, sometime in the future…

All these multiple encounters had happened in just five days, in between lunches and dinners with friends and social companions. Worth mentioning is Balfour Ross and his wife of 43 years (who is a Thursday Island Malay), I had visited them twice in TI, while I was a junior doctor in Australia... somehow or other over the long absence our memories were kept fresh and now they live in Kuala Trengannu and I have the pleasure of their company twice in a year now.. And during my next visit to Malaysia, I certainly would visit them in KT. A perfectly charming couple, mild mannered, kind and understanding. The epithet Beautiful people should be applied to a couple like BJ and June, not to the shallow, long legged beauties and their metro sexual compatriots.

I am a great fan of Roti Canai and Teh Tahrek... perhaps it is the common genetic origin these foods and I share... and in Seri Kembangan, I found the right place with the right touch… Maulana Plaza  ... and add to this delightful and extremely inexpensive food… multiple indo Malaysian dishes…the greater pleasure is to meet the manager, Mr Soleiman, a native of Tanjore in South India, Tamoul speaking and Malay  proficient.. And truly friendly. We somehow manage to communicate and his smile and his welcome is something I look forward to, during my stays in KL...

On the day of my departure to Paris from KL, something close to my heart, reminding me the greatest emotions of my adopted country, Cuba…I spent two hours chatting with Ms O, Consular Officer and later with HE Mr. A, the ambassador from the Republic of Cuba to Malaysia. Paying a visit to the Embassy people in different parts of the world (I visit only Cuban embassies!)... is my way of saying thanks to that wonderfully HUMAN country and for the mountains of affections bestowed upon me and cleaning of any selfish dirt painted on my heart during the years of stay in the United States or England... the moveable feast that is Cuba… I was so happy to hear that Cuba, mi isla Rica, is educating the first group of Malaysian Medical Students who are adjusting well and in their words, are speaking excellent Spanish after their year of immersion in Spanish.  I look forward to meet these Malaysian students in Cuba... it would be a double pleasure…

Dear Friends, whoever reads this blog, which ever part of the world you live in, this is what happened to me in just five days in KL... capital of that shine, roses that are fragrant, human beings with a heart that is cavernous and accommodating… Like the American Indians have taught me, during moments like these, I thank the Spirits, for bringing all these people on to my path...

The food is excellent, in addition to the above...

Will write about the three days spent in Yangon, an emotional journey of extreme heights... in another blog