When I told people I was going to do a news story about prostitution, the overarching sentiment was “Are you looking to get hurt?”
So when I headed down there yesterday, I should have been armed with pepper spray or accepted Daryl’s offer to give me his penknife. But what Sharon and I saw that day was nothing short of a pleasant surprise. My KL in experiences past has been one of fear and a general discomfort with the traffic, congestion, and sleazy men on trains. However, Sharon and I had a surprisingly pleasant Sunday and our KL didn’t look as seedy and insidious as I was mentally prepared for. Of course there still are the perverts who stare and would roll down their car windows to go “Why Hello there darling…”, and there’s a lot we can say about being careful about the present dangers all around, but it wasn’t as threatening when armed with a sound mind.
Maybe the key tip for survival I would give is to “not be a victim”. Be strong, be courageous, be smart.
So, with that in mind, we started our quest by heading down to Maharajalela from Bukit Bintang (monorail), to the police station where we needed interviews.
With all the bad rep our authorities often get, like them being the leading cause of traffic congestion and accepting bribes as a culture, you would expect to hate police officers too. But somehow, I really liked the policemen we talked to. They were moral, kind, and helpful, like the portrayal of them in primary school textbooks, and paragraphed lines we had to fill in about them. You also got the sense that they were really there to serve and protect, instead of bully and bribe. They were also real, without pretenses and armed with with a sense of humility to them that I really liked.
(There were also handsome ones with great bone structure, but it could be the uniforms that played optical illusions, also this is besides the point.)
Imagine that. Good police officers. A swell time in the city. People that were open to talk about prostitution and didn’t shy away from these “controversial topics” that you’re so used to hearing Malaysians being shy about.
Was my Malaysia changing? Or am I misguided?
Could it be that we were beginning to be more open and ‘One Malaysia’ personified? In a single day I had Malays, Chinese and Indians speaking and listening to me with respect and kindness. Or were my experiences discounted just because it was just one good afternoon out of the many possible bad ones?
Or was I just simply- lucky, to be able to speak to the ones that were personable and spoke well? Or was it even because we were girls, and seemed “in need of help”?
I honestly don’t know, but I know I liked what I saw that day, as simplistic as it was. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time speaking to jaded people that tell me Malaysia has no hope, or the woes and disenchantment of the online public, and all these “problems” of the middle-class that drives me insane. It was a nice change to speak to people that aren’t from a middle-class, who truly “work and toil on the earth” so to speak.
Also, a last point for thought: We’re so often used to other people telling us what we are, or everything we Malaysians are not. We are rude, have dirty streets, have crime at every corner, and unhelpful, uncivilized members of society etc. Of course I understand the truths in every criticism, but I think we’re too boxed in by what we have let politicians, the media, or society have said, and we have started to believe that about ourselves. Malaysians could do with a little more confidence, sometimes confidence feeds actual better behavior more than better behavior breeding confidence.
Maybe we were reaching out that day, and people responded, but they could have very easilly rejected lending a helping hand, but they didn’t.
So here’s me hoping that what I saw that day was real, and not an illusion because I wanted to see one.
I still believe.