A morning wet market in Kuala Kedah
I had made a significant change in my relation to the place: before, it had been mine by coincidence or accident; now it was mine by choice. My return, which at first had been hesitant and tentative, grew wholehearted and sure. I had come back to stay.
It’s the start of school holidays in Malaysia today. I live in a small town of a fishing port near the mouth of Kedah River, and often the way I could tell it’s the school holidays or any long public holidays is by the way out-of-state cars would drive within the stretch of the road leading to and from the jetty. The road is populated by villages and residential areas on each sides, and because it is a small town, life tends to lean more on a slower, chillier side here. There’s a lot of jaywalking, random children playing by the roadside, some unspoken rules of road-hogging by motorcycles on the left side of the road (we drive on the left side of the road here, one of the still many ways we experience colonial hangover probably) and rempits — a phenomenon that has stemmed out of socioeconomic inequalities more so than ‘public disturbance’ as stated in the link — so locals would know to drive within a safe, acceptable speed limit.
A car with an out-of-state plate number was tailgating me as I was driving home today. As I swerved to the left lane to give him way and watched him sped onward, I found myself saying, “You are in my town. I don’t appreciate the way you impose your urgency on us.” My town. It surprised myself even saying that, and to be honest I wasn’t even saying it out loud, and said to no one in particular, as I was driving alone — and probably for that reason it makes it even more personal. A few months ago I still had difficulties accepting that I might be a resident of this town forever, and to be honest I might still have. But the slow easing of accepting this small town as my town, and to jump to defense every time people make uninformed comments about how backwards we are here as I launch yet into a tirade of criticism of unequal resource and wealth distribution that’s happened in this country and state that has made us appear backwards, I can safely say that, maybe I had come back to stay. Wholehearted and sure.