Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A minimum of privacy - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Photo by kindgott (CC)
In the same stretch of road where I enjoyed the accident involving the sack-of-potatoes-kind-of-woman, just a few meters away and at about the same time, I happen to witness a scene that is even more pictoresque, though lacking the same pace of action.
I've almost reached Avenue K, a fancy building that I have to walk across to get to the Petronas Towers underpass. I need to decide whether I'll use the first entrance (pros: 100 meters of additional air-con; cons: the hallway suffers from an aseptic, a bit desolate, vaguely sullen atmosphere) or the next one (pros: superb view of the KL skyline, melting pot social details, amusing little scenes; cons: such a thick sultriness that if you suffer from eye cataracts condensation will form under them). I usually choose the second one, walking slowly in order not to sweat too much, but today I go for the first one as I want to take a look at a shop that...
Who's yelling? I can't see anybody.
"Hey! Hey!"
Ah, there he is, a security guard who popped up from behind a column and is walking with an unusual haste towards a small garden that separates the bulding from the sidewalk. Following his path I set my eyes on a point a few meters ahead and...I spot it! Actually I should say I spot him. A Cro-magnon kind of man, with slightly curly black-gray hair, gathered together in a couple of thick dreadlocks - which probably formed by accident after a life spent bivouacking around since he had his last shampoo - is squatting down over the freshly mowed English turf, near an open tap that is sprinkling water on his feet (which would be great news if the little drops weren't bouncing off a layer of waterproof grease that doesn't let even a particle of purifying liquid get in touch with his skin).
A short hedge is screening him from the eyes of the passers-by but not from the outraged ones of the guard, who decides not to take into account the excellent fertilizing properties of the generous dose of organic matter that the man is unloading on the ground and without hesitations urges him to leave at once. The other guy, who is right in the middle of the bowel evacuation operation, can't be bothered to stand up, perfectly aware of the mess that such an action would cause. He might well be a poor bum but he should still be granted the pleasure of a defecatio without being rushed, no matter what the god in wich his persecutor believes is.
The guard can't take this. He continues to yell while he draws near the site of the outrage, with a threatening air, and he stops in front of a low wall, wary, hesitant, as if he could see in that obstacle the perimeter of a safety circle traced around the source of the stench that he might have started to smell. Even though he has not completed the approaching maneuver he nonetheless manages to hurry the intruder, who swiftly produces a plastic bottle and empties its content on his hand in order to lubricate the rubbing movement with which he's cleaning the area of the body contaminated just now.
Then he stands up and does something that I was not expecting: he doesn't leave, actually he turns around, steps out of the garden and stands there, in neutral territory. Then, swelling his chest, he gives the guard a defiance glance, almost threatening, a reproaching look at he who violated his privacy in such a delicate moment. Maybe he comes here everyday, at the same time, and he can't bring himself to believe in this change of scenario, hence the indignation that he's not able to hold back.
The guard seems to suffer the blow, he is speechless, the vigor instilled in him by his sense of duty fades off, polluted by a dose of doubt, while some kind of fear for this unexpected bout of pride seems to have form an alliance with the stench that is keeping him at bay. But it's a short-lived impasse, as almost immediately he recovers, and after managing to defeat fear and disgust he jumps on top of the wall. The other understands that it's time to get out of there, leaving behind just that stinking present.
He turns around, doesn't run away but starts to walk fast, barefoot, barechested and with a pair of light fabric trousers, actually a vague idea of trousers, as only a hem of cloth flaps over his right leg, covering a section of thigh and calf, leaving his buttock completely exposed. He's carrying two plastic bags, which most likely - together with the shreds of those pants - make up all of his belongings.
A couple of days later, in the early morning, I'll spot him from the road while he stands on the same place, only his trunk sticking out from behind the hedge, while he's filling the same bottle at the tap and then uses it to take a rustic shower, like people in this area of the world used to do until a few decades ago in the rivers and the lakes.
He moves with energy and purpose but without haste, while his accidental dreadlocks sway over his head. There are neither guards nor cops around, someone is looking at him but nobody disturbs him. After all this is still his bathroom, a place that requires a minimum of privacy.

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