Sunday, 2 February 2014

Feeling Frightened In My Homeland

     I remember being afraid in Malaysia, my homeland, tanah tumpah darahku. I had just returned from a two-week holiday in Ireland last June. Getting back behind the wheel on Malaysian roads was a rude culture shock, and a rather scary experience too. After being accustomed to such courteous road users in the Emerald Isle, I, a driver with 20 years of driving experience, was suddenly petrified when a car tailgated me with only a hair's breadth to spare, a motorist jumped out from a side junction causing me to slam the brakes, a 4WD overtook me and almost instantaneously swerved into my path and when a motorcyclist zoomed past me to continue zig-zagging between cars.
     I was seeing us Malaysians (Malaysian road users, to be exact) with new eyes. What an ugly lot we are! 
     In many aspects, Malaysians have been brought up to be gentle, well-mannered and respectful of others. But all these morals seem to magically disappear once we get behind or atop the wheel. They appear to be replaced by egoism, kiasuness, instinctive desire to rush, an euphoria after we successfully brandish motoring or motorcycling stunts and the misconception that just because we have paid our road tax, the road belongs to us!!!
     I remember being afraid again in Malaysia, my homeland, tanah tumpah darahku. Just days after a motorcyclist ran the red light at the Sunway Tambun intersection and subsequently lost his life, I saw yet another motorcyclist blatantly ignoring the red light at the same junction and revving on. And when the light turned green for me, I was scared to move. This was an intersection that I cannot avoid en route home, and now being more alert on the road, I have seen similar incidents at the same spot. It is as if the traffic lights are non-existent! The motorcyclists go and do as they please. After all, they are the Kings of the road.
     How significant is being 5 minutes early? You probably get to park at the next best spot at the office car park or possibly end up being stalled at another traffic lights intersection. Is it worth stepping on the accelerator as the lights turn amber?
     How important is being 2 minutes early? You might get the adrenaline rush that you have triumphed over the motorist behind or may be vexed to see your path being blocked by a slow vehicle. Is it worth rushing out of a side junction despite another car approaching at a minimal distance?
     How crucial is being a few seconds early? You could earn a clap on your back from your pillion rider or you might have seen your last lights. Is it worth violating the red light?
     I remember being afraid yet again in Malaysia, my homeland, tanah tumpah darahku. Travelling back to Ipoh yesterday after celebrating Chinese New Year in Sitiawan, I was once again subjected to more ugly Malaysians (Malaysian road users, to be exact). Hubby was driving on the left lane of the highway. Traffic was heavy but moving smoothly. Suddenly, a car with a Penang licence plate sped past us on the emergency lane, swerved in after a few cars and went on to speed ahead on the right lane. Minutes later, another car, this time with a Johor licence plate, ventured to do the same. It was followed quite closely by yet another motorist, from Wilayah Persekutuan. Out of these 3 cars, 2 were flashy big cars. Ugly driving sure does transcend the states of Malaysia as well as the income bracket! That was not the end to yesterday's episode of despicable Malaysians. We were almost reaching home and were at the Sunway Tambun traffic lights intersection. And what greeted us? A group of about 20 Mat Rempits roared on in spite of the red light!
     And that is precisely why I feel frightened in my homeland.