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vendredi 18 mars 2016


I have been a frequent visitor to Malacca, the historic town in the peninsular Malaysia which has a parallel history to Fort Cochin in Kerala. It was from Fort Cochin that Albuquerque left with his fleet to conquer Malacca which became a Portuguese territory in 1511, subsequently colonized by the Dutch and the British.
This similarity in history was the reason for the attraction to Malacca and my visits could be divided into two distinct period. The former lasted from 2004-2008 and the latter 2008-20012.
During the first period, I was a novice traveler, much more like a tourist, lacking the understanding of the complexity of Malaysia. During the second period, I met a lot of very impressive Malaysians, including the gentle Malaysian ambassador to Cuba, Mr. Jojie Samuel and made a lifelong friend, MCY
During the earlier period I came up from Singapore, stayed at the Hotel Equatorial and ate the Nyonya cuisine of Chef Bong. During the latter period I came down from KL, stayed at Hotel Puri, ate around the Jonker street, visited the Cheng Ho museum, almost always with MCY and friends new and old, Including Dr. T of Singapore and A and I of Malacca.
This time, I came down to Malacca for just one day. I didn’t know what to expect, a premonition swayed me to book Hotel Equatorial. The trip from Kl was rapid and comfortable. The KKKL express depositing us at Central bus station in two hours. I presented myself at the reception at the Hotel Equatorial, recognizing no faces and expecting no favours. The young girl who checked me in was efficient but not friendly (Ms. VP), I accepted that treatment with grace.
I fondly thought of two people whom I had not seen since 2008 (eight years): Miss Le Yin and Mr. Amin, who was the concierge at that time. When I mentioned Cuba, Mr. Amin personally took me upstairs to the Club Lounge to show a photograph of Raul Castro being received at the hotel in 2004!
I felt like revisiting that photograph. I asked the adolescent faced receptionist, male, about the gallery of distinguished visitors, he completely denied its existence despite my insisting that I had personally seen it ten years ago. But he was courteous enough to direct me to the Executive Lounge.
I got off at the appointed floor and turned into an empty room organized as an escape from the noise downstairs. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the gentleman sitting at the entrance desk, it was none other than Mr. Amin!

 It was one of those rare moments in your life, joyous and euphoric, an event so unexpected. We greeted each other, the warmth was reciprocated. It was only natural that I enquire about Miss Le Yin. He grinned and much to my joy said she was the Front Desk Manager and that she would be on duty the next day.

He then escorted me to the Club, invited me in. I sat in a corner enjoying the vista from this high floor of the populated Malacca skyline and the distant sea which seemed like a memory, whereas ten years ago one could have a grand vista of the sea, the Strait of Malacca, from this vantage point.
A young man comes over, pours me glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, and we engage in a conversation. He is known as Tan, from a small town in Kelantan in the east coast of Malaysia. We have a nice conversation about Life, Happiness and Career, while I nibbled on Lamb Kofta and chicken satay.

Soon, Mr. Amin reappears, inviting me to stay at the Lounge and enjoy the solitude. He said MS Le Yin would be at her desk after about 10 am the next morning.
Meanwhile in the lounge, I was engrossed in the book by Philip Roth called Shop Talk, his recollections of literary friends and interviews, the first two chapters were on Primo Levi (Italian, Jewish) and Aharon Applefeld (Israeli). I was enthralled by the depth of their conversation and baring of their inner selves, that I felt proud and happy to be a Jew.
Tan brings a young man over, introduces him to me, Ady is his name and from Bali. He has a Hindu look to his face and he is new to this career, just two months into. He was very enthusiastic and eager to serve.

I received a call around 10 am from MS Le Yin and I packed my shoulder bag and went up to the lounge. MS Le Yin was there, in the company of Mr. Amin. It was an exuberant occasion, a happy reunion, I felt innocent and euphoric, at this small piece of one’s life history, so unplanned and genuine. Minutes flew by as we chatted and caught upon all the news of the many years.

Chef Bong was no longer at the Seri Nyonya restaurant which was a disappointing news but MS Le Yin was in touch with her. Thus I was able to speak to Chef Bong. I had already my dates in May, as I was planning to bring two Omaha Indians to visit KL and Malacca while introducing them to the best model of Peer to Peer Health Care in Cambodia. We will go Chef Bong’s house and she would delight us with Nyonya cuisine for which she is famous. Ms. Le Yin promised to take a day off to be with me and the Omaha Indian friends. It all felt so good! 
The lunch hour had passed and none of us were hungry and it was time for me to take a taxi to the Central Bus station in Malacca to get back to KL. They both walked me to the waiting taxi.

It was a delicious sort of a day, adding a story to the story of life, a nice well lived day. Thank you Mr. Amin and Ms. Le Yin