Sitting in the middle of the street isn’t a norm for everyone. It’s more like madness, or in worse case scenario – suicide. Yet, I’ve done that countless of times with a bunch of fun-loving people whom I grew up with.
I can’t do that in the streets of KL, or even in Ipoh – for some reason I’d feel like a fool. But doing so on one particular tiny island, though not known for her hygiene, I’ve never felt more at home.
Penang isn’t entirely about food, as many have claimed her to be. In the heart of the city, every shop house built, each brick laid tells a different story. Want to see Indian kids learning how to make joss sticks? The Chinese taking up the kavadi on Thaipusam? Or Malays balancing towering flag poles on Chingay? Or all three races (and sometimes more) sitting in a kopitiam with one leg on a stool talking about the same thing, drinking the same drink? Or the only street in the world that has 4 different religious places? Come, and I’ll show you.
We don’t need campaigns or names to label such harmony. It’s more than that. It’s a lifestyle we have practiced aeons ago. I say walking a silent, peaceful walk on a pair of flip-flops is better than declaring a journey out loud with flashy costumes and mismatched philosophy that neither has a start nor an ending.
So nice to see old friends again. One of them was performing on stage, two volunteering, while three of us were running around being kaypo’s. We walked the streets, watched performances after performances, and spoke about everything under the sky. We were like the Ah Chong’s, Muthu’s and Ahmad’s in the late Yasmin Ahmad’s advertisements. And after that, all six of us did what we do best. Sit, walked and jumped in the middle of the street, proclaiming it ours (with the occasional “AHHH!! CAARR!!” shouts in-between and scurrying away).
The world is huge, that much I can testify. Because I’ve lived on this island for so long, and there are still things about her that I have yet to know – what more a country, or a continent? Many people wonder why I’m not out there seeing the world, and jumping on buses and trains. I look at my feet on the ground and I say, significance is not measured by size. Because if it is, what is Earth then, in this ginormous universe? In real scale, in a universe that has yet to be entirely discovered – we’re smaller than a spec of dust and yet, here is where life is found.
I believe in time to come I will be travelling and writing stories from different corners of the planet, but right now, there is much to be done on this little island. I can travel to a hundred different places and hit thousands of dead ends. But in Penang, I can never be wrong. Despite the ideals that I have about life, the dreams of living in the middle of New York city, owning a beach house in Sydney, live next door to Bono or to shake hands with Nelson Mandela – I know that I’ll still make my last pit stop on this little island.
Because it’s the hardest place to drive in the country.
Because familiarity sits at every nook.
Because Penang is home.
Because wa si Penang knia.