Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kuala Lumpur's TIME-SPACE

by Lim Kok Yoong aka. Wing

Kuala Lumpur, is coordinated at 3°8’00’’N, 101 °42’00’’E and is set at Universal Time (UTC) UTC+06:46:48. This hectic city is commonly known as ‘KL’, with the federal state’s motto “Maju dan Makmur (progress & proper)” and its cosmopolitan air project an unrestrained spirit of progress and symbolizes Malaysia’s unhesitating leap into the future.

The heart of KL is around Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), dominated by Sultan Abdul Samad Building with it central tower holding a clock that restlessly reporting time, ever since the struck of midnight when Malaysia (then Malaya) gained Independence. The towering flagpole right opposite, commemorates the country’s independence from Britain on 31st August 1957 – the day when our ‘Jalur Gemilang’ replaced the Union Jack. Since then, the ‘heart’ is beating faster and faster, adopting the accelerando tempo. In many ways, KL marks the continuation rather than the loss of its rich past; the past is everywhere meeting with its persevering reminders of KL’s future: Wawasan 2020. It is indeed a city of delightful contrast – a combination of modern cosmopolitan, sophistication and lingering old world charm.

There is an indivisibility between the social time and activities in KL, it happened when it happens: the doing of thing and its time have become so habitual and to a certain extend, it becomes ‘natural’ and they are inseparable - the hour becomes the action & the action becomes the hour. Just as you will definitely see hawkers start pushing their mobile hawker stall to their designated spot along Petaling Street at 4:00p.m., and these activities mark the beginning of the night market. Major exits in KL start to get congested when the hour hand is approaching 5. As the hour is approaching 7, the whole city is being lit up by the urban neon and fluorescent lights. The colour of the city is the very conceptual source of KL time itself. The physical environment of KL, the place, plays a crucial role in building and supporting the image of time of every citizen. Even though, the image of time is desired to be in tune with our own biological nature, but it does not apply to the activities at the back lanes of Chow Kit street.

And, quite to the contrary, we have also lost some of the obstinate markers of time. Now there are no such thing as seasonal produce in KL. There are no more ‘Durian’ months as the fruit can be bought at Tesco supermarket all year round, so happen to mooncake, longan etc. Living in a synthetic extend-present present, are we living in the fullness or the emptiness of time? With homogenization as a key phenomenon of place today, we are also losing our place-distinctiveness and in result we get indistinct suburban same-time. Like wise, Bangsar is densed with people during happy hour and stay open later into the night in similar to the hour at London’s SOHO. Executives walking out from the Twin Towers are performing the universal gesture – stretching out the wrist and looking at the watch.

Accuracy and precision are how KL dwellers see time in modernity. Because time measurement is pre-occupying our so-called modern life, we are inevitably being timed in every inches of land in KL: Clocks on corporate buildings & hotels are blinking the date & time, CCTV times your progress along the happening Bintang Walk, Traffic lights at the Golden Triangle runs on timed schedules, the timetable at the bus stops in front of Pudu Raya tells you what time the next RapidKL shuttle will pick you up and drop you off at Sungei Wang, your flight ticket is dated and tell you what time you flight will depart from KLIA and by boarding KLIA Express from KL Central you are expected to reach KLIA in 36 minutes!

Yet, KL citizens still think that TIME is not enough and we are trying every possible way to buy more time. “Touch and go”, “Drive-through” are just some samples of ‘sped-up’ words. We have not mentioned the Marie France Bodyline giant billboards around KL which constantly reminding you that 4.5 inches can be reduced from your waist in just 4 weeks time only! You can more or less predict your future in KL even before reaching it as the digital signboard along Sungai Besi highway will alert you the bumper-to-bumper traffic condition a few miles ahead even before you have reached the doorstep of KL!

No comments: