Itemized Reductions

When is the right time to write about Penang?

After is when.

After the initial fascination that magnifies the slightest of contrasts into exotic singularities has worn off. After overcoming the shock of being surrounded by people speaking my language, of having to watch what I say; of not looking too out of place in a large gathering of people not discussing immigration issues. After the joy of seeing an Indian restaurant at every street corner has been washed away by the watery sambar, after realizing that tea with condensed milk is not such a great idea.

Now is when. But what?

Surely not the architectural dichotomy of George Town, fostered by arcane rent control laws. Through which the massive, utterly characterless Komtar sits right next to the modern Prangin Mall, and seedy, unpainted establishments occupy most of downtown. Nothing we haven’t seen before, right? Even though blind massages aren’t exactly the norm in most places.

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So we are in Penang now, staying at a fancy hotel right on the ocean front. And the wife wants us to go exercise some, what with the fancy hotel advertising that it had a whole recreation park on the premises. A fully equipped gymnasium, and a waterpark. We go there, and are greeted by this:

Any entry and or usage of the recreation park and its facilities is subject to the conditions that the hotel is not responsible or liable for the loss or damage to any property and or personal effects, injuries or deaths whatosever or howsoever suffered from the entry and or usage of the recreation park and its facilities whether in contract, tort, negligence or howsoever.

We ran back to the room.

PS: Later, we braved the disclaimer to go back to the recreation area. Lavanya got on to the treadmill, and pressed several buttons repeatedly in futile attempts to start it. Then I tried some. And then, we called someone for help, and he said “This treadmill only works in manual mode, sir. Auto is broken”

“Manual is fine, how do you start it.”

He gave us a funny look, and said again, “Manual, sir. You get on to the treadmill and push the thing back with your legs.”

This time, we really ran back to the room.

PPS: Penang is a lot of fun. Food is inexpensive, the weather is Florida like, everyone is so friendly. Add to it the pleasure of talking to people in Tamil and having them actually understand it. So very cool. Everyone seems to have a job, and there are no visible signs of poverty anywhere. Perhaps India will look like this a few years from now.