Sunday, May 30, 2010


I had barely settled in my new house in Miri when, one day sipping a cup of hot coffee in the balcony changed my perception of life. I observed groups of old Chinese men and women enthusiastically playing golf for hours. They played daily come rain or sunshine. I had barely let my guilt settle down when another incident left a deep impact. I observed an old man who appeared to be in his sixties jogging daily. I was all in awe for him when I saw an old expat cycling regularly. He carried his bike up all the four floors and brought it down every time he cycled. Later on I came across many such inspiring people in Miri.
All these events pricked my consciousness and I was determined to pull on my trainers and start moving. Thrilled to have so many varieties of physical activities to choose from in the neighbourhood, I decided to make the best use of it. The only physical activity I had ever done was sporadic walking and yoga.
So I joined for aqua aerobics class near my house. But since I only knew basics of swimming, I enrolled for evening swimming classes at another club. Any form of temptation is difficult to resist. Watching people of all ages enjoying their biking, I bought a bicycle and started cycling.
Unexpectedly an old right knee injury surfaced. But it did not undermine my new found enthusiasm. So I carried on ignoring the first warnings. The pain worsened and I had no choice left. The orthopedic after an MRI diagnosed a broken ligament and put me onto physiotherapy sessions. The sessions provided me immense relief but I was asked to refrain from any form of strenuous activity. I was given a knee cap to wear on a daily basis.
I continued my evening swimming, joined yoga for a change and put a stop to my aqua-aerobics and cycling. I presumed change of physical activity would help eliminate the pain. The doctor advised that any activity could be done as long as there was no pain. But after few days even swimming was causing swelling in the knee. I went back for more physio therapy sessions and was advised few months complete rest. But my body was itching to do something after a month’s rest. So I decided to start back with a light jog. I wore my knee cap regularly during all my jogs and even hired a trainer. But I could not even sustain for a fortnight and I had to give up.
I was feeling so frustrated at the end of all these but was resolute not to give up. The doctor by then confirmed that the only physical activity permissible was long walks provided I wear a knee cap. Resigning myself to fate, I started my evening walks. Starting with a 2 km walk initially I progressed to walking 5 kms. I walk all five days of the week now and these walks give me immense satisfaction. Neither the scorching heat nor outpours stop me from my walks. Now I share similar passions with my motivators.
It’s been more than two months now and I have not given up a single day of my walking. I do feel good for having tried every possible activity available and consistently sticking to my walking.

I have matured a lot in these two years of journeying with my knee, credit to that one cup of steaming hot coffee.


I had been raised from childhood in a house where the doors of the house only close at night when all members go to sleep. After my marriage, when I moved in with my in-laws, the same practice was followed. This is a general practice in India. Hence everyone who passes by the house greets you; else the doorbell keeps you occupied.
The newspaper boy or the milkman is the first person who wakes us up ringing the door bell and greets every Indian household in the morning. They are the substitute alarm clocks in many households. He is followed by the maid who generally comes twice every day and the washerwoman who comes to collect clothes. Next visitor is the auto guy who picks up school kids and drops them back in the afternoon safely.

Around midday, the second stream of visitors starts visiting every house. They generally are the vegetable seller, the fruit seller not necessarily in that order. Varieties of salesmen, the donation guys, knife-sharpeners, etc fill up the entire day. Few minutes of chatting with each of the above also gives us all information of the town and any exciting events happening in the neighbourhood and a peep into their lives. This excludes all our friends, local relatives, neighbours who also drop by usually without appointment and are welcomed heartily to even join the family meals.

Only after I moved to Miri, I realized the value of all these people who had filled up my forty year old life. My doorbell never rings and I have to keep my door closed as is the custom here. My mobile is my new alarm clock and also my dear friend as it is my daily reminder to organize my daily chores. I play all roles in one here as I am the vegetable buyer, fruit buyer, and milkman plus newspaper boy. I buy milk, vegetables, fruits, newspaper from the super market when I need it. I am the amah and the washerwoman of the house as I do all my household chores. I am the auto lady here as I drop my husband and my daughter to office and school and pick them back every day. So I am deprived of all latest updates in my neighbourhood.
I participate in fund-raising bazaars to raise donations for various causes as no donation guys ring my bell. I do not have any relatives here and do not know my neighbours well as their doors are always closed. I only get to meet them once a while in the parking lot if coincidentally we are parking cars around the same time. The friends who visit me only drop by appointment.
I remember every friend I made in Miri as I had to join various clubs or activities to make friends here such as the book club, library, cooking club, activities such as aqua –aerobics etc. Everybody commutes by air conditioned cars so there isn’t any passerby whom I can smile at even if I sit in the balcony for hours.
This is my second year in Miri and I am still trying to get adjusted to the new silence in my life. But thanks to Miri, I never knew I could single-handedly manage so many roles in one so confidently. Every minute of my life as I am continuously changing garbs to don one role after another.


I had invited my parents to Miri and they landed here in the second week of December. We picked them from airport and my father was excitedly sharing his vocabulary of two Malay words masuk and keluar which he picked during his transit in Kuala Lumpur. They found a particular experience in the flight quite amusing. The airlines had served rice for breakfast. Both my mum and dad found it so surprising that during all their calls to India from here this was one piece of information they shared with everybody. I was immediately reminded of my first visit to Miri.
I still remember the quizzical look all of us had on our faces when we saw rice being served during our breakfast on our flight to Malaysia. The item served was nasi lemak. We found it very difficult to digest the thought that people were eating rice in the wee hours of the morning. We ate our nasi lemak finding the whole experience amusing. We never know then that we would ourselves be relishing it often later.
Back at my home, rice is only served during lunch and dinner times. In fact, rice is considered a heavy food to be eaten so early and hence is served in the afternoons when our body has already stretched a bit. The next fifteen days we had more surprises in store when we entered the restaurant. During our stay at a hotel we saw nasi lemak and many more varieties of fried rice, rice porridges being served as part of daily breakfast buffet. It took me few months to get adjusted to this fact. I still did not know what other surprises I had in store.
The Grand Palace hotel where we were staying the first fortnight was surrounded by various small eateries. I decided to go around for a walk as I was feeling fresh after my first night's sleep in Miri. It was 7 in the morning. I had barely walked few steps and was amazed to see families sitting in large numbers around round tables, happily chatting and eating early in the morning. I presumed that some sort of private celebration or function was going on as so many families were sitting and eating together. This custom is observed in India during weddings or parties. I had walked back to my hotel room and narrated to my daughter that I couldn’t continue my walk as there was some function going on.

Next day morning I religiously wore my trainers deciding to go for my morning walk. I found the same scene again. I was dumbstruck. How ignorant was I. I never knew this was a very common custom which I would be seeing daily henceforth. Back home in India one would never see people stepping out in such large numbers so early in the morning and that too single women stepping out so early to eat out. Even today it’s not a common practice for a single woman to eat out alone. I observed many single women eating busily. I was still letting this cultural shocks set in when I found another one coming shortly on my way.

We were invited to an office dinner at a big hotel and there was huge spread of lovely food. After the entire dinner was over, we were dismayed to see waiters handing over empty plastic boxes to every guest present. The waitress handed us too and we were standing wondering what to do with empty boxes. Suddenly I saw the entire guest list happily walking towards the remaining food, filling their boxes with it. We were shell shocked, since this would be considered completely outrageous in India. We were feeling too embarrassed to pick up any food and returned back the boxes. People were insisting us to tapao. We did not know then what the term tapao meant. We came back home thinking that maybe it’s an office dinner and people were ensuring that office money does not go wasted. I did not know that this is a very common practice and after that at every gathering we went every meal be followed by tapao time.
The most heartening surprise was restaurants never close during the day here and any food is available throughout the day and dinners are eaten quite early in Malaysia. In Indian restaurants breakfast is served from 7 to 11, lunch from 12 to 3 and dinner from 7 to 10. We were so happy that we could eat as many times we wished and at any time during the day here.
How I wish we in India could imbibe all these Malay customs of tapaoing remaining food, being adaptable to serve food any time of the day and eating rice during any meal of the day. I am enjoying myself thoroughly adapting these new Malysian food habits.