I know all art is relative, but to my Western-trained eyes, it is a bit garish, no? However, having said that, I found a place that is so over-the-top that it is actually kind of cool. This is deep underground int the Batu caves where Hindu artists have slaved away on these creations. I took a few pictures, and here is the first:
The story of how this got worse starts in a bit.
Here, in the middle of a 16 day outing in Kuala Lumpur, things that once looked crazy to me are starting not to see so crazy, at least until I return to the hotel room and am once again reminded, objectively, of how crazy things are.
I succumbed to a supposedly ancient Chinese therapy known as cupping, when they attach Matrix-like suction devices to your back and then abandon you in a poorly wallpapered room for 10 minutes.
The process supposed to remove the “wind toxins” from my body, which is a good thing since I didn’t realize I had any of those and I certainly appreciated the opportunity to remove them forthwith.
As you can see in the first picture, the red blood welts are not dissimilar in color, swelling, and pain from a serious car accident.
As you can see in the second picture, something went horribly wrong, most notably my lack of understanding Cantonese. I managed to compound my first mistake by at least one order of magnitude. Here is the story:
I went to Malaka to do some exploration and it started to rain, so I dove into a little Chinese massage place to pass the time. It’s hard to pass up a $15 hour-long massage. After my previous experience, I told them I just wanted a massage, and none of the suction cup stuff. The woman nodded absently then sent me upstairs where another Chinese woman was positively aghast at the condition of my back. She said, “NO NO NO – ALL WRONG! ALL WRONG!” I said, “I KNOW I KNOW”. Then she said, “I FIX IT I FIX IT!” Then I said, “NO WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” and she went out of the room and I could hear a bunch of glass clanking violently together.
She said, “THIS THIS??, showing me a big box of glass bulbs about the size of softballs. I said yes, and she indicated for me to lie down. I thought she was simply asking me if that was what they did at the previous place, and it was similar but with plastic cups and suction pumps. I didn’t realize she was about to do something much worse until I heard her light a flaming stick, igniting some kind of gaseous oily substance in the glass bulb then slamming it down on my back, where it stuck like a poison dart. I couldn’t figure out how to say, “Burning Pain combined with suction pain please stop.” in Chinese so, tried to crane my neck around to see what she was doing to me…
Pop pop pop, then three more were on me before I could do anything. The pain and suction was so diffused and all over, I could not even think about telling her what part hurt. I tried to get up, and the glass bulbs clanked all around, like when you try to move a Christmas tree after its already been decorated. As soon as I moved, she screamed, “NO MOVE! DANGER DANGER!”, so then I froze still, while burning in a netherworld of vacuumed pain.
That fun lasted for a good while. After I got done, I gingerly made my way downstairs and the lady at the front counter warned me not to take a shower for a day. I was like, “why?” and she looked at me seriously and whispered, “Danger.”
Ranjit’s dream is that he gets to work in the factory again.
Ranjit is currently sitting in front of an old restaurant on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. He used to work in a nearby factory, making aluminum parts, but he was replaced after his cataracts got too heavy and he began making mistakes. Ranjit does not like being a burden on his son, who doesn’t come to see him much anymore. He says, motioning off into the distance behind me, “The boy is in Putrajaya, living in government house.” He keeps reaching out in that direction, groping around, as if he is trying to find a light swtich in the dark.
Diwali, also called Deepavali is a major Hindu festival. Known as the “Festival of Lights,” it symbolises the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind. The festival of Diwali is about harvesting. Celebrations focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional diyas. (from Wikipedia)
The ones I visited this weekend were at the Batu Caves here in Malaysia. Below, you will see Lord Murugan there in Gold. He s huge, standing as tall as all those steps to the top of the caves.
This is Rikah.
Rikah’s dream is for the light to triumph over the dark.
Rikah is currently celebrating Deepavali at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. She has been coming alone for the past four years ever since her husband died. She did not want to talk about that. I asked if her children ever joined her in celebrating Deepavali, and she shook her head no slowly while watching some small children run past.
This is Lisaka.
Lisaka’s dream is the same as her parents’, that she stays healthy after almost dying last year.
She is currently with her Chinese dad and Indian mom giving thanks at Deepavali. Her dad tells me how he came to the Thaipusam festival and placed hooks and ropes in his back, in a form of self-flagellation prayer that helped secure his daughter’s health for one more year. Now, he says, she is saved. He bends down and fixes her dress.
I took this first picture last night. There are a bunch of fires in Indonesians from clearing the land and all the smoke comes and settles right on Kuala Lumpur. It really sucks and it’s rough on my system. In this shot, you can see all the smoke in the air.
The second one is of a sunset on the coast.
Suma’s dream is to have his children get rich in America.
Suma is currently returning from a day of intense prayer at a Hindu shrine. He asks if I am American with a hopeful gaze. After I tell him yes, he nods appreciatively and looks like he has a thousand questions but is too shy to ask any of them.