City of Gods
The city of gods.
“Yeah, the radio’s been working recently,” I said, turning the volume up a bit. My little sister, down from Penang for the Bersih event, shifted comfortably in her seat; the alternative would have been yet another joke from me.
We had been driving around Kuala Lumpur. She had come down here with my mother and stepfather. They had gone for the event itself, but had not joined the main rally. There were several different hotspots throughout the city, and after the event, she had decided to spend some extra time in KL.
I picked her up, and she spent some time relating her experiences from the day. At one point, she was communicating with someone else on the phone about an unrelated matter, and it was something that actually brought her to tears. A passing protestor thought that she was crying because of the tear gas, and loudly passed her some salt for her to suck on to counter the effects of the tear gas. I couldn’t stop laughing at that, and a few of the other stories.
After having spent some time eating, recharging our batteries and checking out the news updates online (which angered me no end, but not in the way you might expect. I will certainly write about that in the near future), we decided to drive around KL. I wasn’t sure if the roads are opened again, but it was worth the shot. We had time to kill, and the worst that would happen would be a rejection and a U turn to whence we had come from.
That was when I realised what a beautiful city KL is.
The streets were sparse. A light tinge of what had happened hung in the air, but it was an ethereal record of what had happened earlier. Memories occurred in these spaces, memories of unity, disunity, violence and peace, but ultimately, the sense to walk (or drive) in the footsteps before you fills you with something.
These sensations, however, are nothing without the walls within which they live.
There were hardly any cars about. People walked from one end to the next, but not in any discriminate colour. You’ll hear of reports of tourists being turned off by the events; for my part, I spotted plenty of touristy-looking types walking about with maps in their hands.
In my head, as I drive around the landmarks of my birthplace, I had the rhythm of Iridescent, by Linkin Park, bumping along softly. In part, that was because it was also on the Transformers soundtrack. Funnily enough, though I am also familiar with it via A Thousand Suns, I had not listened to the lyrics properly. I came home, looked for it online, and realize why I had made the subconscious connection: “Remember all the sadness and frustration, and let it go…let it go.”
I drove ever slower, taking in the city, in awe of the place that had seemed so incredibly busy before, but one I have never experienced empty. After the storm, the calm engulfs us with a serenity I have never experienced in KL. “This is amazing,” I repeated, over and over again. My sister nodded. She was somewhat drained by the day and by my jokes, but she could not fail to appreciate the city either. Dataran Merdeka. Bagunan Sultan Abdul Samad. Pudu. We even took in Bukit Nanas, for old times sake (she was formerly a CBNer). I used to send her to school almost everyday for a while. Retracing our steps was a given. In such moments, we reveled in the past, before heading back to the locations where the present hopes to change the future.
Change will come, and it will be positive, sooner or later. It is because of the people we have here, but the people are no good if the city can’t live up to us. Driving around today, I am able to confirm otherwise: it is Malaysia, the country, and Kuala Lumpur, the city…this city of gods that we have to live up to.
It deserves nothing less.