|| Missing Penang ||

I am missing Penang today, which is very odd given the fact that I have spent only a few hours on that isle. So when I shut my eyes to remember the point I want to mention in the document at hand, I see the winding road to the QueensBay mall with the ocean on one side and the skyscrapers on the other. For a moment I see flashes of extremely clean and almost hauntingly empty roads and then the terribly crowded and almost suffocating sight of the Prangin mall blinds me. After almost an hour of thinking about the day that I spent in George Town, I have decided that I will reminisce about it once and for all and then get back to my document.

I step into the huge building my eyes wide and breath held for a moment. No, it is not my first time in a mall, nor is this mall anything out of the ordinary; it is mostly the excitement building up inside me. I run from one showroom to the other looking at every designer item and not noticing much because I want to see it all in the designated one hour. I want to buy something just so I can remember this day – this feeling more than this day, actually.

It is a huge shoe store. I look around and I see so many fancy things that I cannot decide what to pick up. I look at the shiny golden belle shoes for a few moments and then look away to search for something less jazzy. I look at one pair after the other, discarding everything because I am impatient: too red, too flat, to high, to broad. Ultimately, I am pointed out a pair of black open-toe sandals that zip up at the ankle. “Gorgeous, but too expensive,” I say. “I will buy them for you,” he says and I thank him with joy, forgetting that as of last week our finances have merged and his buying is not very different from me swiping my own plastic.

It is post lunch time and I am browsing those endless shelves labeled ‘Fiction’ in Borders. I turn around to face the graphic novels section and marvel at those ultimate editions, neatly wrapped in sheets of cellophane paper to prevent us from finishing the book in the bookstore. A boy of around ten, his shirt un-tucked and his uniform shorts a little dirty, is going through the latest comics with great earnestness. I close the book in my hand and observe him. This is serious business for him; unconcerned with his surroundings he looks for the right issue and then moves to graphic novels to lust for those expensive items that his pocket money would probably not buy. I watch him pay at the cash counter and then walk out of the store looking content with his purchase.

I look out of the window of my luxury bus. Most buildings are old and remind me of the British era, except the temples. There are a lot of those, one after every ten buildings. This view undergoes a quick transformation as the bus turns from the crossroads. Now, I see huge skyscrapers and wide clean roads. This mix is what makes this town so different from the rest of the cities I visited in the last few days. When I get down from the bus in front of another huge mall, I find myself in a completely different part of the town. Here people ride on trishaws (also called bugbug) and the emptiness that I had been seeing since morning is replaced with huge crowds of locals rushing about.

At twilight, I stand in the queue to get back onto the ship. As I approach the port’s exit I turn around for one last glimpse of the beautiful George Town. I see an ancient white and red building; a building so very British. The green creepers making their way to the second floor add to its character. Just behind this building, I see the tall clock tower – white and blue, and ticking. I close my eyes to capture this picture and today, that is the exact picture that flashes in front of my eyes when you say the word – Penang.

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