Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My uncomfortable experience in Kuala Lumpur

That day in Kuala Lumpur (KL) had started with a quick trip to visit the Murugan temple enshrined in the age-old Batu caves situated on the outskirts of the city. Obviously,  I had applied the kumkum from the temple on my forehead, as most Hindus would naturally do.

The Batu caves trip ended in under 4 hours and we had the entire afternoon to us at our leisure. So,we decided to do what's best to do in KL - shopping! We proceeded to explore the Central Market which is a sort of an air-conditioned heritage arcade with shops selling everything artisanal under the sun. They have different sections where they sell goods from all over the world including from our very own India :)

There was one such open shop  (without any name or board anywhere. It was more of a display of wares rather than a shop) where the wooden handicrafts looked quite familiar and I was unable to place it. The shopkeeper was not around and so we patiently waited for him to be back so as to enquire about the prices. My father had gotten similar furniture from Kashmir years ago and I wanted to know if it indeed was a Kashmiri handicrafts store!

He comes back and I curiously pose my question. He very much looks like a Kashmiri with a fair complexion and a long, aquiline nose. The moment I ask him about his wares; he, with a look of hatred in his eyes and in his voice, says - " It is from Kashmir, PAKISTAN ". His hate and his stress on 'Pakistan' was unmistakable and I was literally taken aback.

Knowing that I am a Hindu, (from the kumkum on my forehead) did he really have to stress on the word 'Pakistan'. As an Indian, I was obviously offended. He might have been from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir  and might have grievances against India, but so do I! I too have grievances about Pakistan abetting terrorism in my country.  In any case, being a vendor, does he have to be so hostile to his customer? Does he have to dig at a problem and create more of it without any provocation?

I wanted to get back at him as I am not the one who would keep quiet and turn away. However, my husband pulled me away saying that it was not wise to pick up a quarrel in a foreign country.

This audacious and biased behaviour has definitely left behind unsavoury memories which marred the otherwise wonderful experience we had in KL! Had I not been sporting kumkum on my forehead that day, then would things have been different? May be yes...but the hate anyways would have still lingered...

Hoping for peace!

Source credit: https://www.hellotravel.com/malaysia/central-market-and-kasturi-walk

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