Lost in Shah Alam

Posted by Lakshmi

Do you know what happens when you're given the runaround for the 3rd time - you rant and rave and let off steam in the most expressive way you can . I'm doing it right here and now and there's no stopping me...

I received an sms and attended an impromptu hurried meeting last Friday afternoon to make arrangements for setting upa craft centre of sorts. It was to exclusively cater for a large group of Singaporean tourists who would be arriving on Monday. We were told to particularly showcase Shah Alam as the City of Orchids and thus to create suitably designed crafts.The booth was to be ready by 10am. I had only 2 days to accomplish this and that included the day of Sabbath,Sunday, which was strictly family day for me. Alarm bells should have rung by now in my head, what with the two previous similar incidences, but perhaps I deliberately chose to ignore it, hoping that I would be 3rd time lucky in Kampung Shah Alam. ( read previous articles)Oh God, how did I ever get entangled in this mess again with my eyes, ears and mouth all wide open? Fool..fool...fool...Am I getting Alzheimers or senile.......I digress but back to the story...

I spent the weekend looking for beautiful orchids to paint. I traversed the internet and library but found nothing suitable for painting. Let me tell you now, even if you are a die hard orchid lover, that orchids are meant to be admired in their natural form, fresh and beguiling with their intricate colours and shapes. They can be photographed but are not, I mean NOT meant to be painted- they look stupid and silly. I tried and you wouldn't want to repeat my mistake. Thus my weekend was spent..... sigh... waste of time if I had but known what was in store..

First, I didn't know the venue had been changed. I received an unclear message from the organiser at a quarter to midnight on Sunday to go to Mawadah kiosk at 10.00am.
For the world of me, I sure didnt't know what the heck that was or where it was or what it meant.There were no directions .

I left home at 6.30am on Monday morning with my son to PJ and rushed back by 9.30am, thinking I would be late. Quickly did the cooking for my kids and rushed back to Antan whatisname restaurant,the venue, lugging all my painted works with my daughter in tow . Found no one there, rang the organiser and she tells me that its at Galeri Shah Alam. Lugged back and drove to Galeri Shah Alam. Oh God, it was a lack lustre building with a dinghy entrance and an air of mustiness prevailed everywhere. Frankly, no one was in sight. Seeing no booth or whatsoever, I dumped my bags and paintings at a corner and rushed back home to attend to my contractor, then rushed again to the Gallery, this time waiting for the organiser to set up the booth. It was 11am . The organiser set up 2 booths but there were 3 of us! After a frantic call, 3 booths were put up at the corridor. There were no one about and the whole time I was there it was like a deserted place. It took me 20 minutes to display my artwork ( I had good experience by now ) and there was nothing much to do after that but wait for the busloads of tourists with anticipation. There was only Sheeda with a few trays of costume jewellery on my right and Aisyah with even less, to my left. I was in the centre. We were a pathetic looking bunch, sitting there in the heat with no one about, waiting for the 'tourists'....We were told that they would arrive by noon and after a prepared lunch, would have ample time to browse and buy at our booths. We could pack off by 3pm.

They arrived at almost 3pm, not your usual tourists with wallets filled with money to spend but a bunch of rag tag old religious group who I think were all retired and had nothing bettter to do but jump on a bus for a free ride to Shah Alam.

We were instructed to go and greet them at the car park under the sweltering heat and I felt so conspicuous because they were all of a religious denomination,well covered from head to toe in dark colours and I was the only odd one out, in a pair of white slacks and sunflower yellow t-shirt! I think the tourists thought so too by the surprised look on their faces. I found out too late that they were not your regular tourists but a prearranged religious group who had been invited by the local authority as part of their tour in Malaysia. It also dawned on me too late in the day why the organiser put up only 2 booths. Heck, why didn't they tell me so?,why make me go through all the trouble if I was not meant to be there? Or was I only an afterthought to fill in the space because the others conveniently backed off at the last minute?

It was almost 4pm when they came to our booth. They bought a few of the $5 - $10 beadings from Sheeda and Aisyah and that was it. They walked pass my booth without even a cursory glance. Was I invisible or was it because I was not of their race and faith?. How could a large group of people ignore a person just like that? They had to pass my booth to reach Sheeda's and not one of them even bothered a 'hi'. Their nochalant attitude dented my confidence to the core and hit me cold. It was all over in a few seconds. How long had I taken the effort to prepare for this gig and waited for them in the blistering heat with no fan?

I didn't even want to think. My legs trembled and I felt a hot flush in my face. I sat there like an idiot and put on a brave smile. Even the driver threw a sympathetic glance at me and shook his head. Waves of anger and a feeling of dejection and hopelessness washed over me. I was just too overcome with emotion and disillusionment. I lowered my head and busied myself under the table. I could feel warm tears clouding my eyes and I felt like crying.

I had spent a whole day in the hot weather, been given the runaround by the authorities , set up booth to help promote Shah Alam as a craft centre and then completey ignored by the targetted group. The organisers had disappeared and I was left alone without even a word of thanks for all the effort put in. I could have used that 8 precious hours in the comfort of my home with my children and done something useful instead of being made use of on the pretext of promoting Shah Alam as a centre of craft Ha! that's a laugh, isn't it?! What started of as a promising journey turned into a wretched and heart-breaking experience for me.

Weariness has set in and personally, the rainbow has all but disappeared from my horizon in Shah Alam . I've become extremely disillusioned with what's been happening at all these bazaars and booths and I'm pretty sure I won't fall prey to another wild goose chase anymore. I don't know whether it's the town, or its peoples' mindset or faith. Or, it could be like what my well connected friend said ' it's not what you know Lakshmi, but whom you know in Shah Alam ". Maybe I'm in the wrong place .... well, it has certainly proved difficult to make a living from painting in Shah Alam. This is the last of my foray into taking booths to sell my beautifully decorated art pieces. I would rather keep them in my house and admire them or give them away as gifts to my cherished friends. My love for painting and teaching is undiminished as ever and I do so hope I will get other opportunities to teach and paint elsewhere... I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hope you will do the same for me.. Let me know please for I could sure use some encouragement and a whiff of optimisim.

I've got a load off my chest and feel much better now...


PS : I mean no offence to anyone of any faith mentioned or otherwise and if anyone does, my sincere apologies to him/her.

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