An Electric Reception
The museum was filled with art of the Islamic variety. Smooth metals, beautiful black and white shapes, pristine armouries and classic architecture filled the halls. Soft utterings of Arabic, Mandarin and Malay echoed through the main room. Every now and then one could faintly detect a British twang, Australian slang or an enthusiastic American accent.
‘Anyone up for a bite?’ I asked, leaning in towards the member of our party of which a successful reaction was almost guaranteed.
‘Again!?’ Charles burst out. ‘Yeah, I could eat.’
‘So coconut or ice-cream or both?’
‘Such men,’ Vicky said to Tessa. ‘This is every time we go out.’ Tessa laughed, yet her eyes were still enrapt in a Mandala.
‘Ok, see you at home Tess,’ I said. She smiled and waved, then her eyes widened a little.
‘Can you pick up a replacement sim card on your way back?’
‘Sure, sure,’ I said.
It didn’t take us long at all to find street food on the corner.
‘Might get a Roti Chenai actually,’ I said, after eyeing the appetising menu.
‘Ok, ok.’ ‘One Roti Canai and two Bakuteh please.’ The waiter smiled and nodded. I handed him twenty Ringgit.
‘So, has Marty been keeping you busy?’ Charles laughed a little.
‘Not really. He’s requested a few songs though, so I’ve been practising a lot.’
‘Oh great! Your classic slow jams?’
‘Nice! He hasn’t requested any of mine yet.’ I laughed, fully aware of the aesthetic that Marty would want for his wedding.
‘He’ll request you for sure at the after party,’ Charles said.
‘Ok, I’ll be ready,’ I chuckled. Improvisational, celebratory guitar rhythms and jovial lyrics wouldn’t take too much preparation and everyone would be in a dancing mood at that hour. I knew that aside from buying presents, there would still be plenty of time to explore Kuala Lumpur in the next few days.
The afternoon was pleasantly spent strolling the humid streets and malls near Kuala Lumpur City Centre. It was monsoon season, so we had to occasionally sprint from shop to shop. Charles and I shared the cost of some fine, traditional Malay and Chinese garments for Marty. After picking up the sim card for Tessa I received a text message that read ‘Everyone is at Petaling.’
We boarded a Grab, amusedly listened to the pop radio, we couldn’t help but engage in some quick parodies of the upbeat pop singers. I quickly swapped my shirt and applied deodorant in the Grab before entering Charles and Vicky’s place so that Charles could also change for the dinner. The temperature barely dipped as dusk fell. Recitation of the Qur’an echoed through the streets as we approached the Dim Sum place.
Dozens of familiar faces lit up as we entered the restaurant. I waved towards the banquet table and made my way over to Tessa to give her the sim card. Charles went and sat among the huddle congratulating his brother.
‘Marty, Marty, Marty! Never thought I would see the day! Congrats man,’ came the loud voice of Vicky’s brother Jeremy who had also just arrived.
It really was a surprise to see Marty. I hadn’t seen him since we were all just schoolboys. He was roughly the same height, yet definitely broader than he was in his lanky adolescent years. He had cleaned up as well. I found it comical that a shave and haircut had transformed the wry, dark bohemian into a sharp, Ivy-league type.
‘The man’s lost his edge!’ Jeremy was still busy roasting a half amused, half distracted Marty for the enjoyment of the boys’ reunion.
Dina, whilst busy chatting to Tessa and Vicky, still visibly looked proud as she heard the boys’ comments on the new Marty. An ambitious professional through and through, everyone no doubt attributed his new look and successful business career to their relationship.
After seemingly endless rounds of delicacies and deserts some calls came from the lads of ‘waterfall,’ a favourite place frequented during our grad trip.
‘It’s their first night guys!’ Vicky, the voice of reason, chimed in. ‘Tomorrow morning!’ Tessa whispered to me she was sleepy and I joined in the party attempting to quell the lads’ endless energy for just one night.
Tessa and I carpooled a few of the others foreign guests back to their Air BnBs in our rented car. Suzy, an eccentric singer-songwriter of mild fame, Aaron, Marty’s best man and an Australian warehouse manager and Ella, class clown turned aspiring factory tycoon. I took a glance in the mirror and suppressed a smile. Suzy was singing to herself, Aaron tapping away at Candy Crush and Ella fast asleep and snoring loudly. It was as if the decade had not even passed.
In about six different cars we drove out of the city on the highway, reaching winding roads that were immersed in thick, lush Malaysian jungle. It did not take us too long to reach the wedding destination, a beautiful rustic mansion north of Kuala Lumpur. On arrival Marty gave us a tour of the lounge area, kitchen, billiards and table tennis areas and showed everyone to their rooms.
‘Jam time?’ Marty asked, looking at Charles and I, eyebrows arched.
‘Jam!’ Charles bellowed loudly. ‘Can’t spell Jamie without Jam,’ he said looking at me enthusiastically.
‘OK,’ I said. Though I was planning to pour myself an expresso, instant coffee or anything with caffeine in it as I’d been up the previous night writing and Marty treated every improvisation session as if it were the last and most grandiose performance of his life.
No sooner had we set up the microphones, guitars, amps, plug-ins, effect pedals and hit the power switch than the electricity to the entire building cut out.
‘How does it feel!? Like a rolling stone!’ Marty strummed a few chords on his unplugged electric guitar before starting to giggle.
‘Black out wedding theme then?’ Charles suggested.
‘Was that us?’ I asked. A little in disbelief. We would still have at least a half hour of dim light but it was concerning that the crew had already left the venue. Neither myself, Marty nor Charles were handymen.
‘It’s alright, I’ve got this!’ Came a loud optimistic Australian drawl. Then a few loud clanking sounds of hands on metal. ‘Ok I don’t got this!’ I squinted to see Aaron and a few others around the power box beside the kitchen area.
‘its okay lah. I’ll make a call,’ Jeremy ventured off from the group talking quickly in a mix of Malay and English.
‘As if it’s not bad enough I’m drenched in sweat, covered in mosquito bites, sunburnt and I’ve been stuck with obnoxious pop music the whole way here! Now we’re in the dark with no power. Great.’ Aaron’s earlier self-belief and optimism had evidently waned.
‘Showers are this way. I’ve got creams and an iPod with a Bluetooth speaker. Follow,’ Marty playfully wrestled and scooped his distraught best man.
‘POSSUM!’ A high shrieking cry came from the forest moments later.
‘No, it’s just a mouse don’t hurt it!’ Suzy pleaded. Some scuffle sounds could be heard. ‘Hey that’s mine! Don’t you dare break that!’
‘VERMIN! VERMIN!’ a frantic silhouette resembling Ella could be seen ungraciously stomping through the pool area.
‘Oh my. Is she wielding a guitar? Seriously guys today is about Dina and Marty, can we just get it together. It’s just a bit of power outage, we aren’t even that far off KL,’ Vicky was shaking her head.
‘Charlieee, can you make sure she doesn’t break anything.’
‘On it,’ he ran off to prevent the frenzied Ella from wreaking havoc.
‘So… Waterfall?’ Dina was astoundingly unphased. Vicky, Tessa and myself looked at her in surprise.
‘Well I mean we are only here for a few days, might as well enjoy it!’ She began laughing.
‘Ok, lets go waterfall,’ Tessa said. ‘I’ve got a torch and my phone has an extra power pack.’
‘Girls trip!’ Vicky said, throwing her hands up in the air. ‘Jamie you can gather the people.’
‘Don’t get hurt yeah?’ Tessa said to me.
‘We can still go hiking without the boys if they get into too much trouble,’ Vicky said and the others nodded, making their way to the waterfall.
‘Ok, just make sure your phone isn’t on silent,’ I said. They were already bustling away, chatting, giggling and catching up.
I sat on one of the outdoor dining benches and just took in the surroundings. Despite the commotion, it was still very serene. The heat had died down, stars were becoming visible and all sorts of tropical bird and insect sounds resonated through the jungle.
‘C’mon lah! Four hours? We are thirty minutes from KL only? I’ll give you 200 Ringgit extra lah! Three hours still no good, one hour lah!’ Jeremy seemed to be having little luck.
I went up to my room to look for a torch as my phone torch was eating away battery. I found Aaron collapsed on the bed, sluggishly tapping away at Candy Crush.
‘I’m falling, so I’m taking my time on my ride.’ Twenty-One Pilots played through a Bluetooth speaker placed next to Aaron’s head.
‘That’ll keep him happy,’ Marty said proudly. I suppressed a laugh at the vacant, defeated look on Aaron’s face.
‘Aaron, tell us again how was your last trip to Malaysia?’ Marty teased.
‘Fantastic… 5 star hotels… spent about 15k, tour group,’ Aaron droned slowly and mechanically.
‘Well now you’re getting an authentic experience,’ Marty said.
‘How you doing Marty?’ I asked. He seemed in high spirits considering the circumstances.
‘I’m grand!’ Marty exclaimed. ‘Couldn’t ask for a more hilarious start to the wedding. They boys’ have been saying I’ve gotten soft in London. Time to show them who is a real crocodile hunter!’ Marty looked excited yet also tired. I guessed that he felt responsible for everyone as the host, yet was trying to pull things together in the most affable way possible.
‘Who do we sort out next, Ella or the ladies?’ Marty said ironically.
‘That’s a little harsh,’ I said.
‘She’s a little harsh!’ Marty seemed to lack sympathy for his former classmate. ‘By the look of things out there she is about to smash a thousand dollar guitar. If she touches mine she’s out of here.’
‘You’d evict her from the wedding?’ I laughed.
‘Yep. Music is to be treasured,’ he said in a noble tone, betrayed by a goofy expression he couldn’t mask.
‘The girls have gone to the waterfall. I think they’ll be ok, they’re pretty grown up. Also Tess has plenty of charge so she’ll let me know if there’s any drama.’
‘Ok lets hunt Ella. That fender better be ok. It’s a beautiful instrument not a mouse crusher for goodness sake! Who could be mad at a mouse anyway? And we are in a jungle!’ Marty seemed a little disappointed.
‘It’ll all be ok man. This is a stellar place. Power outage and all.’
I gave him a half humorous, half earnest embrace and we set off.
‘Where is Charlie boy anyhow?’ Marty asked as we climbed down the wooden staircase. ‘Didn’t even get to hear him unleash his bass yet. We haven’t jammed since Sydney!’
‘Vicky assigned him to protect the fender.’
‘Let’s hope he’s done it!’
After being bitten on our hands and ankles about a dozen times and circling the same outer areas of the mansion a few times, we finally heard Ella’s booming voice.
‘POSSUM! These are the things that wrecked my business last year! Ate all my tomatoes, nearly put me out of business!’
‘Calm down!’ Charles’s voice could be heard pleading. We ran towards the voices. Not one for conflict, Suzy was sitting down with her head in her hands. A small rodent was hiding under a rock behind Charles. Ella stood before him brandishing Suzy’s Fender maniacally.
‘Two man punch?’ Marty said to me, turning his hands to signify our old basketball play from back in the day. I nodded.
‘Hey Ella! Ella, Ella, Ella, Ay Ay Ay!’ Marty ran towards the side of Ella ridiculously, moving his long limbs all around and singing Rihanna at the top of his lungs. As if to dunk a basketball I ran up form the other side, took two power steps and jumped as high as I could form behind Ella, snatching Suzy’s guitar by the neck swiftly.
‘Hey!!’ Ella yelled.
‘Ok. Now you need to relax or you are uninvited,’ Marty said seriously.
‘Ok ok lah,’ Ella said, Greek to her core, in a terrible impression of a Malaysian accent. She stomped off muttering about rodents and her ‘tomatoes.’
Charlie looked visibly stressed. He sat down and wiped the sweat off his brow.
‘Thank you so much guys,’ Suzy jumped up and hugged her guitar.
I got word from Tessa that the power had returned at the decorations near the waterfall. I texted everyone to meet up there. We all gathered in about an hour.
‘Ooh girl. You got that electric feel,’ the MGMT song from our graduation party blasted through a car coming towards the waterfall spot. I spotted Jeremy in the passenger and knew the song choice was foretelling. I breathed a small sigh of relief.
‘We got power baby! And Nasi Lemak for nine!’
‘Nasi Lemak again?’ Charlie said tiredly. ‘I miss bangers and mash.’
‘Only for nine!? I could eat about three portions thank you very much!’ Marty said with renewed cheer.
‘See guys, all it takes is a little faith,’ Vicky said.
‘You were freaking out no?’ Dina laughed and pushed her in the pool.
‘Congratulations to my dear brother and his unshakeable fiancé!’ Charles announced, shaking Dina a little playfully.
‘Congrats!’ We all roared.
‘So, did we ever work out what happened to the power?’ Tessa asked. She looked towards me with genuine curiosity, I started laughing.
‘We played guitar,’ Marty said unabashed.
‘I knew it!’ Dina said with her eyes wide and pointing a finger at him. ‘This is why you need to stick to business now, not music!’ Marty nodded sagely again for a few moments. Then again, he called out to the sky in his best Bob Dylan voice.
‘How does it feel! Like a rolling stone!’
‘Ok ok. Shhh,’ Dina silenced him. ‘Speaker please Aaron.’ Aaron who was half asleep handed the speaker over glumly to the bride to be. It only took a few moments before a Bollywood dance off commenced.
’Balle Balle Je Soniya De Rang Dekhlo
Bina Dor Di Udh Di Patang Dekh Lo
Aj Munde Hue Enhan De Malang Dekh Lo
Bina Dor Di Udh Di Patang Dekh Lo
Ay Kudiyan Kudiyan, Ay Tikhiyan Churiyan
Kudiyan Jawan Hath Na Aawan’
Written by M. Ward
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