Saturday, November 23, 2013

Five Things to do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I have always had an inherent fascination towards multitudes of cultures residing in a single place. For the same reason, Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital of Malaysia, stands at the top, with its head held high, in the list of my recommended holiday destinations.

It is home to several religions and races where Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups live together in harmony. This unity in diversity leads to a city bustling with colorful festivals and cuisines to gorge on.

Kuala Lumpur has several destinations with delectable food, beautiful temples, unbelievable shopping, relaxing spas and much more making it the sixth most visited city in the world. It has an old world charm that gracefully sits with vibrant night life. (Read: The Thrill at Genting HIghlands, Malaysia)

Following are the top five things to do in Kuala Lumpur.

1) Witness the Architectural Wonder: Petronas Twin Towers

Being an architecture enthusiast, my first destination had to be Petronas Twin Towers.
Standing at 452 m tall, the Petronas Twin Towers are among the tallest buildings in the world. The twin towers can be seen from almost anywhere in the city and one can expect a jaw-dropping view of the city standing over the bridge which doesn't connect the towers but hangs between them. 

One has to queue up early in the morning as the visit to the bridge, on 41st and 42nd storeys, is on the first come first serve basis and limited number of passes are allocated per day.

The most prestigious shopping centre in the country, Suria KLCC, is located at the foot of the towers. 

The building is based on the five pillars of the Islam, which can be seen in the round shapes of the towers.

Petronas Twin Towers

2) Visit The King's Abode: The King's Palace

My love for history took me to The King´s Palace, Istana Negara. It is the official residence of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, a Malay title usually translated as "Supreme Head”. The palace can be gawked at from the main gate where the Royal Guards, dressed in white Malay as well as red British inspired uniforms, are guarding the main gate on horse and on foot. It is surrounded by lush green lawns and ponds.

The King's Palace

3) Experience Spirituality: Thean Thou Temple

My reason for visiting the temples has always been my curiosity to explore various beliefs. Thean Hou Temple is a perfect place to relax and watch the majestic Kuala Lumpur skyline.

The entrance of the temple premises welcomes you with the fountain of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and statues of gods and lions. 

The Goddess of Mercy

The main shrine with Thean Hou Goddess, the Goddess of the Sea/Ocean, is located on the third floor of this temple spread over four levels.  

Thean Hou Goddess
It hosts more than 100 cultural activities annually with the Chinese New Year celebration, when the temple is decorated with thousands of red lanterns, as the main event. 

4) Shopping and Indulgence: Berjaya Times Square

Shopping in Kuala Lumpur is an experience in itself. Berjaya Times Square is the one-stop venue for great shopping, dining and entertainment experience. It is one of the largest shopping malls in the  and holds over 1000 shops. From the local brands to the international names, one can find it all.

Berjaya Times Square

Berjaya Times Square

5) Local Food: Petaling Street

If you master the art of haggling, this street is for you. Apart from the road side shopping, 
the area has dozens of bistros and food stalls, serving local favourites such as Hokkien mee, 
ikan bakar (barbecued fish), asam laksa and curry noodles. 
Along with the Chinese traders, Indian, Malay, and Bangladeshi traders can be seen as well.

Petaling Street 

Shopping at Petalig Street

Diverse Cultures, soothing spirituality, architectural marvels, shopping, delicious food: All packed in the city of Kuala Lumpur. What else one needs! 

If my posts fascinate you, please join me on my journey through my Facebook page or connect with me through Google Friends Connect. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When meditation doesn't work

When Mediation Doesn't Work, Practise Art

Love over Books

The sun seemed to have emerged two shades brighter than usual, the breeze felt like silk running down my skin and the green that usually went unnoticed imparted peace. That day has been eternally inscribed in the book of life since then. For others, it might have been a signature Sunday, a day to relax and gather courage for the coming week. But, for me, it was a defining day of my life.

“Are you going on a date?” Mom inquired in a teasing tone.

For someone who doesn't take more than a minute to get ready, who keeps her hair relatively short in order to escape the tiring process of combing hair and who frowns upon the mere mention of the word makeup, staying in her room for more than half an hour would definitely make it crystal clear. However, even if the time spent by me in dressing up had matched other girls, she would have known. In all these years, the one thing that I have come to learn is, moms are gifted with massive amount of sixth sense. They effortlessly read your mind.

“He is just a friend.” I sheepishly replied in an attempt to avoid the gaze. I knew she knew but I couldn't bring myself to confess. I was plain embarrassed. Why wouldn't I be? It was my first date after all.

I had been introduced to him a few months back by a friend and we had built an instant rapport owing to our similar interests: books, movies, music and the most vital of all, our idea of LIFE. It appeared to be the perfect match. But it was too soon to form a strong opinion, especially when it came to the matter of the heart. Life is much more than interests and ideas. Love at first sight had never appealed to me. In fact, it went against my logic. Hence, although the prospect of going on a date excited me, I had decided to go with the least expectations.

I was 23 but a just born in the land where cupid is the torchbearer. Despite my desperate attempts to brush the nervousness off, it over powered the excitement. Butterflies were having the times of their lives with my stomach as their playground. In the auto rickshaw, on the way to the pre-decided venue, my throat ridiculously demanded for saliva and the mouth uncontrollably stretched wide open every ten seconds, the identical reactions to stress before an exam. It seemed that the notorious clock was playing a prank on me. It had virtually stopped. Ten minutes appeared to be no less than an hour.

I finally reached the venue: A bookstore (The crossword) to which a friend had guffawed.

“You will stay single for life.” she had said with a giggle.

“Tum nahi samjhogi (You won't understand).” was my reply mimicking a popular dialogue from her favourite Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan.

I got down from the auto rickshaw and started walking towards the store. The heart was racing as if determined to win a marathon.

“Relax. You are not heading on a space mission.” I tried to console myself.

I saw him stepping out of the store. We had been talking over phone for a few months now, but were actually seeing each other in flesh for the first time.
“Plus one for the guy” I started rating him on a virtual score card. Perhaps, he might have done the same thing. Raised in a family that has always stressed upon punctuality as the most important attribute, it had always topped my list when it came to a date, rather a pre-requisite to take it any further.

Appearance was ruthlessly placed at the last spot on the same list. Hence, I had expected that factor to be neither overwhelming nor disappointing.
We walked towards each other. I saw a neatly ironed shirt tucked in the black jeans and black polished shoes. Heart beats, by now, had dashed to its peak and the steps had come close to crawling. We finally reached at a hand’s distance.

Did we hug? No, we hadn't reached there yet. Hands met followed by our eyes. I believe, eyes reflect the soul. They have the power to reveal the characteristics of a human being that words often fail to. I could clearly see the simplicity, the clarity entwined with the innocence I would seek in a partner. However, I averted my eyes for a fraction of a second in order to not be perceived as a maniac. But somewhere, deep down, the chord had been struck.

It all began with a 'Hi'

After an exchange of the pleasantries, we decided to do what we loved the most, when alone. I was a bit apprehensive about the idea in the beginning but persuaded myself to give it a chance.

“How bad could it get?” I thought. “I might have to stay single for a bit longer. I haven’t been unhappy anyway.”

He opened the door for me. "Plus one for the chivalry." Together, we browsed through the new arrivals on the ground floor reading the synopsis and discussing the authors for a while. The comfort started to crawl up between us and the nervousness found its way out amidst the smiles and blushes. It was a feeling unknown to me. It is amazing how life comes with multitude of emotions: Joy, excitement, fear, stress, and sadness. But, this was new, different and out of this world.

We climbed up to the first floor. I managed to catch a glimpse of him when he was mesmerized by the shelves laden by books. I saw a childlike inquisitiveness in his eyes and my heart skipped a bit. The cupid was hovering around.

We went up to the classics section. We glanced through O Henry’s, Mark Twain’s and Aldous Huxley’s. Our hands reached The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand at the same time. The classic we could eat, drink and sleep with. The heart, once again, skipped a beat and we burst out in laughter. We went on to find a comfortable place to sit, a red coloured sofa for two on the extreme end of the store.

What ensued not only turned into the defining moment of the date but of LIFE as well. He opened the chapter that had dazzled me to the core when I had once read it. He started reading out to me. The curve sitting close to my lips, escaping my attention, stretched a tad more. This time it was accompanied by a glee in the eyes. I tried my best to concentrate.

The moments of bliss

“But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I've chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. “

I had always dreamt of this moment. I didn't realize when a hand's distance between us turned into an inch. Our arms brushed against each other and a shiver ran down my spine. He paused for a fraction of a second. This was it. This feeling, of love, was overwhelming.

“And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”

I was struck by Cupid’s Arrow. Soon the reality surfaced and I realized it could be just me.

“He might be doing it just for the sake of passing time. What if he didn't like the way I look? What if he found me too boring for a date?” The smile that had been accompanying me since the past hour faded away in a jiffy. My heart started pounding unusually with a lump in the throat.

I insisted on leaving. The sudden change in the behavior scared him.
“Is everything alright? Are you OK ” He asked with a wrinkle of worry emerging on his forehead.

“I am alright.” I replied with a slight tone of irritation. These Geminis like me, I tell you, can ruin the most precious moment.

We rushed out of the bookstore. More than alarmed, he looked worried.

“I needed fresh air.” I clarified and smiled.

The wrinkle on his forehead disappeared.

“What a relief. You scared the hell out of me.” He said with a nudge on my cheek. I responded with a guilty smile. The moment had passed.

We entered a restaurant close by. I had promised to bring along the dairy which had  my scribbles written in it. I had once read a poem out to him. That is when he had requested me to get the diary along whenever we meet.
“Time to talk.” I thought.

“What brought you here?” I asked

“This.” He replied pointing at the diary.

Love Struck

couldn't help but blush. We ordered food. I read it aloud, managing to steal a glance at him. I saw it in his eyes too, the love.

That day, we talked about everything under the sun: The things that excited us, scared us, overwhelmed us, disappointed us, motivated us, and taught us. What we intended to do in the future, what we wanted to make of our lives, what could make us or break us and so on. Hours passed. We didn't realize that the sun had bid adieu for the day which meant we had to face the same fate. 

With the promise to meet soon, we parted, this time, with a hug.

“How was it?” Mom asked with her signature tease.

I smiled. She understood.

It has been four and a half years since that day. Together we have crossed numerous high tides. We have survived the frustrations of a long distance relationship and issues way more grave than the usual misunderstandings and possessiveness. Miraculously, we have always been beyond the petty fights and hang ups.

I have heard ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ umpteen numbers of times, directed at me as well as in general. I had chosen to ignore it. All I know is, it has made the relationship stronger and induced a trust that will never dwindle for life.