Late August days in Hong Kong, so sticky it feels like the air might congeal before your eyes, like you might get petrified – an eel in jelly.
And we all slither to and fro, between the pungent markets and the austere brand stores doodling our GPS trails guided by the urban compass of want and air-con. Dressed to the nines, the city’s eyes are wet and ready to engage.
We are danced for and become the danced. Everything is a whirl, with us the slo-mo eye of the storm. And when the deal is done, the eye retracts, the heels are clicked together and we are back on the street with the other punters, keeping our secrets to ourselves, none the wiser.
There’s the paradox of proximity, a multitude in a neon matchbox. The street throbs and throngs, a million marching, each an island of invitation, a closed and bolted door, peering through the keyhole with that feeling inside, together alone, alone together.
Wherever we travel, our people travel with us. We often feel this when we travel alone, when the anchor has been raised and the mooring line loosed. We like to think of ourselves as individuals, but identity is social. Part of the way we are unique are the village of others we carry with us. The chains that bind us all, the chains that bind us few.
Morbid little monkeys, do little but sprawl, the tropic heat, the sweat, the floppy hands, the half-arsed stretch, the yawn, showing teeth, meaning nothing. A friend passes, we groan a greeting, Hey! Been trying to meet you…but not that hard. Some things can’t fall apart. But they do, the sea takes them in the night and washes them up on another shore, like a coconut grown into another bowed palm, waiting for a hammock, a hawker and a deal; the stream of mortal ties.
A history of migrations across the ages has made these nations bubble and spit with a deep-rooted diversity, a cradle for mankind that refuses to sleep. It’s not a melting pot, cultures aren’t like butter, they resist the heat, like cuts of meat they sear in the equatorial pan, infusing the other.
And despite the heat there is an endless hustle and bustle, an industrious heart beating a rhythm no-one can keep up with, or quite resist, begetting contrast and anomaly. Under the stormy skies, the street are ablaze with colour. Strip waxed malls and rat-littered markets, pristine mosques and ramshackle, roadside shrines; a candle burns in all.
Stephen, an Indian-Christian taxi driver, bamboozled our 50 minute ride to the airport with his vision of Malaysia, with his pride and love. One of the vignettes that stayed with me was blaming the laziness of the Malays on their coconut diet. But in nature, if the cats get too fat, then so do the rats. Here it seems the cat’s cradle is woven in the fabric of the law, so those without the right God stay lean. It appears Ganesha is needed to even up the obstacles.