Cause For Celebration – By K. Rextin
So here we are, with another cause for celebration. A Blissfully ignorant nations 60 years of miraculous existence. Another day, another year of extravaganza for our rulers and those who can afford. The symbols of our nation; the green and white flag, our founding fathers and our military would be gloated in every street and corner. Fireworks would light up the night sky. Firecrackers break the midnight silence. Boys like me take to the roads in anything with wheels and chant slogans and sing songs perform road stunts, try impressing the girls and running some poor kid over in the process. Our television screens full of shades of green, broadcasting patriotic songs about martyrdom, glory and honor, showing young ‘fauji jawaans’ bravely facing the ‘dushmaan mulks’ army over the borders and dying for ‘king’ and country.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Malaysia this summer. It’s a not so small Islamic country in the vast ocean. Islamic because the majority populous is Muslim. Unlike our precious homeland, its not a forefront for the ‘war on terror’, its not the battleground of the mullahs against the rest. Its not over run by ‘fascist islamists’ who blow their heads off for the sake of God. No its nothing like that. It’s a country with vast open roads, such roads that we call it the motorway here. It’s a booming economy owing to the oil reserves and palm oil exports. And the infrastructure they developed for tourism is staggering.
Putrajaya, the state capital is the home to the government machinery. Impressive architecture with a distinctive Islamic facade meets the eye. A short visit to a mosque by the ‘city square’ left me amazed. The main prayer hall had stained glass windows, normally associated with Churches. No doubt in Pakistan it would have been deemed as unlslamic and riots would have destroyed the building. I was also a little surprised to find women and girls, some on college/school tours, others praying in the mosque. I am too used to our concept of the mosque being an entirely male dominion.
Taking the stairs down to the lower level, it had a breathtaking view of the lake, on whose banks the mosque sits contently, a walk down the lobby, one comes to fast food joints a coffee shop and a small bookstore for tourists. Something we should consider for our houses of worship maybe?
By the mosque is the P.M house. Again a distinctly Islamic facade, a very imposing but beautiful building. To my amazement I could not see any heavy security around the building. No army bunkers or roadblocks of any sort. Inquiring from my uncle, I was told that on Sundays when the offices are closed one can go up to the gate with no hassle, or working days, one may also go Inside the building and take the stairs up to the rooftop since the view from there is beautiful. I was dumbfounded. I exclaimed, ‘But what about security’. ‘They don’t need it’.
A wide open road (yes here we are deprived of wide open roads, all we have is dark narrows alleys) took us from Putrajaya to Kuala Lumpur. It was a long scenic ride, and it wasn’t until we had reached the middle of the city, and I spotted the high rise buildings that I realized we were in a city. The roadside was green with natural trees and bushes. Not deliberately sculptured plants and landscapes in a frail attempt to keep in city green like in Islamabad. The traffic flow was very smooth for such a busy city, and there were no roadblock. Even in places where new bridges and overpasses were being constructed there was no hassle of traffic. I was told they ship prefabricated blocks on site and assemble it to avoid any inconvenience. How one wishes the CDA could have done something similar or at least been considerate enough to think of such things while uprooting blue area and half of Islamabad. K.L is also home to the twin towers, among the world’s highest buildings, the city has very impressive architecture but it doesn’t hurt the eye. They are quite a site. K.L is also home to various private businesses such as Exxon and Mobil, who invest in the growing oil market of Malaysia.
Along the way I noticed a number of Buddhist and Hindu temples with a large congregation performing their rites and prayers. At Genting, a hill station there is a pagoda and a large statue of Buddha that looks over K.L from the mountains. Here it would be the target for our cultural and religious watchdogs and wouldn’t have lasted the first few years after the partition. One hopes that the Hindu temple at Saidpur is preserved along with other cultural heritages as a CDA project to transform Saidpur into a modern ‘tourist village’, whatever that is supposed to mean, is underway as we speak. As a first step they have erected wooden/plastic sign boards and plastering the houses to give them an authentic village look.
Malaysia is also a former British colony. It’s still developing but it’s taken the first step towards that goal, and its well on its way. We on the other hand are still chasing our tail, running in circle waiting for divine interventions maybe. But even the mullah’s can’t evoke the hand of God. One of these days we’ll have to wake up from our lovely dream and get dirty.
If it wasn’t for the green added to the TV channels logo’s in the top corners of the screen, I would have been blissfully ignorant of the up coming cause for ‘celebration’. But what are we celebrating? As a friend put it very aptly, ‘The miraculous birth of this country? Or the even more miraculous 60 year lifetime’.