Writers always include the cities they’ve lived in in their work. I’ve lived in five different cities, for varying periods of time, visited perhaps five more, but the nomad in me refuses to engage with just one of them, to be bowed down in nostalgia.
And I realize with a shock that the city I live in now, Kuala lumpur, is alien to me, because I have walked so few of its streets. I visit people, I meet friends at malls, I drive through streets, I take guests around to see local attractions–the twin towers or the Merdeka Square, but I have no real idea of the smells of this city, its alleys, its by-lanes.
I am a foodie, so yes, the food-stalls, whether Malay, Chinese or Indian, are a familiar haunt. They are my only windows to this city’s reality, the only time I’m out of the air-conditioned depths of my car, various restaurants, or shopping malls.
Worst of all, I do not speak this city’s language, or languages. Neither Malay, nor Mandarin, nor Tamil. I speak English, and though that lets me get by, I lose so many of the city’s nuances. The city remains cloaked in its linguistic veil, and I’m never quite able to take it off. I’ve tried to learn more of its history, but I guess reading it is not the same as absorbing it through your grandma’s stories, and remembered dinner table conversations from your childhood.
What little I’ve come to know of this city, I’ve learned from my Malaysian friends, and for that bit I’m grateful. I regret that I do not work here, work that would involve me going into the city’s roads, nooks, and crannies. I like how London vibrates in Dicken’s works, and I wonder whether there would come a day when the cities I have lived in would themselves come alive in my writing.
Jan 31- 500
Feb 1- 0 (Was out all of yesterday, more about that later)