Posts Tagged ‘ water ’

Pandan Indah Without Water

There hadn’t been any water since the night before. My house mate first noticed it while trying to clean his sheet’s after our cat, Kabu, pissed all over his bed. At first we thought our water had been cut but after investigating the stack of bills clamped to a board near the front door with a butterfly clip, that hypothesis didn’t seem to make sense. When we left the house last night to use the internet we watched a women walk past in front of us carrying a pan, some plates, and some cups that looked as if they’d just been washed somewhere else. It seemed that we weren’t the only ones. The whole building had no water.

I leave my house to go to the bank to withdraw money that I’ll use to pay for the ‘service’ that I’m getting for my air conditioner. Kadang-kadang sejuk. Kadang-kadang tak sejuk. Those were the symptoms I described to the servicer of air conditioners. Leaving the house for a little while will also mean not having to answer the aircon servicer’s questions for a while and have some respite from being hyper aware of giving away too much information while answering those questions. Giving away too much information generally means to let it slip that I’m living with a Malay woman that I’m not married to nor related to.

I walk out my door and wait as I watch a young man dressed in jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt, a trucker cap and slippers struggle to carry a bucket full of water with both hands up the stairs as the water splashes around inside the bucket and splashes over the edges. In Malaysia, slippers aren’t the same as what they are in Australia. In Australia, slippers are a type of footwear that is usually soft and woollen worn around the house (and sometimes outside the house) to keep one’s feet warm during winter. I guess, since there’s no winter in Malaysia to validate the existence of such footwear, the word slipper is used to call what we would call thongs in Australia. But a thong in Australia is not what would be called a thong in America. In Australia those are called g-strings. In Australia, just like Malaysia and America, the G-string on a guitar is still always called a G-string even if that string is detuned to a D#.

The stairwell is wet today. A lot of things are wet around here but the stairs here usually aren’t. Lots of puddles of different shapes and sizes mark a trail up and down the stairs. They’re probably the spills from the young guy with the bucket. Or an accumulation of many people struggling with buckets up and down the stairs.

Out on the street I pass women filling up buckets of water from a tap on the footpath. Every ten metres or so along the footpath are sculptures of plastic pipes and water meters that have at least one tap. I’ve never really noticed these taps before but now that they’re the main source of water for all of us in the area, I take note of every one that I pass. At the next set of water meters a women had attached a length of hose to the tap and is hosing the front of her store. Outside a ‘kedai bodoh’ a woman is filling a bucket of water as she yelled out ‘sayang nak mandi’ to a woman at the counter holding onto a small girl of about three or four. At the Malay restaurant that was recently set up in the tiniest of spaces a few doors down, a mak cik sits on a little stool at the water meters sculpture washing the dishes. Though, that’s where she has always done it. The restaurant is too small to wash inside. At a mamak restaurant, there’s a bucket of water with a cup sitting in it, next to the sink where one would usually wash their hands.

Later, on my way home from meeting a friend near Masjid India, I walk down the stairs of Cempaka station and for a moment am distracted by the young policemen in tight-fitting navy blue pants and long sleeve shirts, berets and sunglasses. There’s at least five or six of them and I wonder why they’re here. Maybe they’re preparing for something, but what?

I wonder if a small area like Pandan Indah has ever rioted over having no water. It seems a legitimate enough excuse for a riot. At least, more legitimate than destroying a few Chinese neighbourhoods to pre-empt the possibility of losing an election. As I walk past a guy carrying four empty five litre bottles, I look up at the sky and my thoughts shift from riots to rain. It hadn’t rained since the previous morning when the ten minute brutal downpour just happened to coincide nicely with my ten minute walk from my house to the train station, so it seemed we were due for another rain soon.

I imagined the rain. I imagined people running into the streets with soap and shampoo. Mak ciks, pak ciks, ibu bapa, children, mat rempits, sex workers, imams, the workers from the mamak resturants. Malays, Chinese, Indians, international students from Africa. 1Mandi, 1Malaysia. I heard thunder in the distance. I prepared my hygiene products for the rain and a spontaneous outburst of cleanliness and mutual bathing.

Later, I went out again to use the internet at a nearby mamak restaurant and buy a teh o ais to legitimate my usage of their wifi.

After about two hours I return home. The water is back. No riots. No rain. No massive shower party in the streets. Everything back to normal. Except I can no longer walk down the street oblivious to the existence of the taps on the pavement.