In Shenzhen, Rebecca and I spent our days in joyless servitude, under the thumb of 70-some squealing Chinese children. Winter had come (albeit with an average temperature of about 53 degrees farenheit), and fumes from the iPad factory had permanently blotted out the sun. And then suddenly, vacation! We took off to Kuala Lumpur on January 14th 2012, where we saw acres of palm trees under a tropical sky. I broke an involuntary smile because I hadn’t seen white clouds in so long! Rebecca and I met my generous, wonderful friend Jayant Gokhale at the Kuala Lumpur airport, and he escorted us, via a black Mercedes, to his dad’s house. Jay’s dad is India’s ambassador to Malaysia, so his house has a name. India House. Once there, our lives as independent adults were over. Jay and Rebecca, finishing their third pound of breakfast
Jay’s family fed us Indian food three times a day. Every day. I normally have no problem polishing off a plate, but at Jay’s place I found it impossible. Jay and Rebecca and I stuffed ourselves stupid at every meal, so of course we also spent a lot of time napping. But, heroically, we also managed to see some things around the city. Jay took us the Batu Caves, a revered Hindu prayer-site on the outskirts of town. The caves have a few temples, and more monkeys, but mostly they have stairs: Quite a climb, when you’re stuffed stupid.
Murugan and his consort, Bus, guard the stairway
Murugan from behind
Malaysia was to be the first predominantly-Muslim country I have ever seen, so I was excited to see mosques and Arabic and hear the prayers and what-have-you. Kuala Lumpur did not disappoint! The mosque by Jay’s place.
This Mosque stood pretty close to India House, so during Islam’s five prayer times, we could hear a man singing in Arabic over a massive PA system. Very atmospheric and cool –I won’t soon forget sitting on Jay’s lanai and hearing those prayers as the sun went down.
Of course I wanted to get closer to the mosques than that! One day Jay stayed home to help his father receive India’s Defense Minister (!), so Rebecca and I went on a short tour of the city. We went to the National Mosque (different from the one near Jay’s house), where volunteer staff helped us dress in robes. I know they wanted us to appear more modest and reverent. But, em. . . I was worried that, just by looking like this, I had accidentally insulted their mosque.
The Mosque itself was beautiful, though. Sleek and modern, it looked like a science-fiction set-piece, without losing the austerity that a Mosque that demands. So those were the highlights of Malaysia. Special thanks to Jay, Jay’s mom, and Jay’s dad for making us so comfortable.