Jul 30, 2009

First Anniversary Part 2

Moving on to Part 2 of Penang celebrating first anniversary being granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status...

Indian flower vendors just beside Goddess of Mercy temple. According to our guide, out of 6 stalls, 3 are Indian Muslims, the other 3 are Indian Hindus. And they live together in harmony.

Masjid Kapitan Keling has strong Middle Eastern influences as its very founders are Indian Muslim traders.

Speak of Arabic influences.

Cross the street and you'll find yourself in Little India, the rustic, humble and lively early Indian community welcomes you.

You can find anything Indian here, from their fragrant spices to jewellery and even chettiar services - short-term moneylenders - "not like Ah Long har!" My guide emphasized. As it turns out, the chettiar approve loans based on goodwill and compassion, unlike the more profit-oriented Chinese "big brothers". No red paint and threats to kill your whole family if you just so happen to default your instalment.

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple at the heart of Little India.

This temple hosts the God which Penangnites pray during Thaipusum - a celebration even India never heard of.

A traditional bread vendor's tricycle along Queen Street, Little India.

The following day, Chingay players congregated at Esplanade for the revived Chingay All-Star competition.

Chingay is typically Northern Malaysia, a play/sport involving balancing a gigantic flag on several parts of the body - usually the shoulders, forehead, feet etc. Points are awarded based on difficulty of the act and how the team cooperates and complements each other.

It's definitely not everyone's bowl of soup...

But wait till you capture shots like this.

A brief study of Penang history reveals a rich, multi layered origins attributable to Great Britain, India, Southern China and South-East Asia. Over all the years our forefathers have lived on this little island and with it thrived. It's not an easy feat to find a Christian church along the same street as a mosque, but in Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling), we have a church, a Chinese temple, an Indian temple and a mosque. Streets of harmony - the past showed us we have no problems living with people of different color or creed, so why do we yield so easily to political influences of "people up there"? Yasmin Ahmad - sadly - had sent the message across many times, but until her tragic and untimely death our papers are still full of racial issues and inequality. It's time to move on, Malaysians.
On another note, I am very glad the current government of Penang takes initiatives to promote culture and heritage to its people. Penang is an interesting place to live in - the people, the food, the friendly atmosphere. Needless to say it's also a difficult place to take leave. For Penangnites like me, if your visit is less than a day, then you're wasting your time. Penang needs to be savored slowly - like a bowl of assam laksa, it is not in league with Singapore or Kuala Lumpur where you can get a whiff in 3 hours and tell your friends you saw the towers and went to Chinatown. So, stay longer next time!