It’s been just over two weeks since I’ve uprooted myself from KL and relocated the remnants of my life to a place called Umbai (not Mumbai, OK?). A sleepy little fishing village on the coast of Melaka, Umbai is located somewhere between Melaka town and Muar. On weekends, however, this sleepy hollow morphs into a hive of activity as folks from as far as KL and Singapore descend on it to savour its famous ‘ikan bakar’. By the time they leave (usually in wee hours of Monday morning), the local economy is richer by thousands of ringgit.
By my estimates, Umbai has got a total population of maybe 238 at any one time (if you include any transients in the poll). Yes, it’s a low-density, quaint little place. As such, it is naturally very quite; maybe too quiet, even. As I write this, birds are chirping away on the balcony of my kampong house. It is almost bedlam. But that’s OK. In a minute or two, my recently acquired pet cat, Puteh (a white-ish mongrel who came around one day and decided not to leave), will come around chase them all away. Not to worry, though; the birds will be back. And Puteh will chase them away again – and so goes the cycle.
This is about as exciting as it gets in Umbai.
No, sir! I’m not complaining one single bit. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to hear myself think – and I’m blissfully soaking it all up. The only sound of engines I hear now is from the occasional fishing boat as it goes out to sea. And I’ve almost forgotten what its like to be pressured by life until my brains seep out of my ears. It’s like sitting back with a long, tall glass of iced lemon tea, watching life go by in slow motion. The fabric of space-time is made of a different cloth here in Umbai. If I were any happier, they’d probably suspect me of doing drugs and throw me in jail.
Sure, there’s no Borders or Kinokuniya here in Umbai. The broadband connection is intermittent, at best. And the only air conditioning unit that still works is in the mamak barber-shop three kilometers down the road.
But what of it?
This gives me the opportunity to re-read (very carefully, this time) all the books I have acquired over the years. Air-conditioning? Nope! No need for that, either: the sea breeze here is strong enough to uproot the coconut trees! OK, if push comes to shove, I can always ride a bicycle to the mamak barbershop and get a haircut in an air-conditioned room (for a mind-blowing RM4.00!). And if I really need to email or upload something urgently, I’ll just take a leisurely drive to a spot about seven kilometers away where the connection is stonger.
So, do I miss KL? Yes – just about as much as a Roman-day Christian would miss the lions at the coliseum. But life goes on. People and institutions still need to be paid. I don’t think being in Umbai will change my work ethic much. I’ll still do all it takes to secure as many training gigs as I can – and when I do get one, I will go wherever it is I need to be (even KL).
But the only difference is coming home will really be like coming home.