Not a duo in life, but rather good friends; the two towering figures without whom my sojourn in KL would have been, without a shred of doubt, entirely something else. How fortunate (for me) that Brian and Soma are currently in work and life-limbo, because I weaved into their lives and they through mine.
They showed me Brickfield’s and the Batu Caves; the malls and the food stalls. They herded me to the offices of Dr. David and Dr. Vats; accompanied me to appointments, joined me for walks; drank and debated for hours over refillable pots in the lakeside teahouse at KLpac – or over pints of beer at the Backyard in Sri Hartamas or Sid’s Pub in Damansara.
There were tours (sometimes by design, often unintended.. we simply got lost) through different parts of this labyrinthine city, Brian’s inner-GPS system navigating us onto roads and through neighborhoods that made no directional sense but got us to where we needed to go just the same. There were history lessons along the way, conversations about culture, immigrants, religion, travel, family, environmental consciousness and geo-politics.
We spoke about the plight of Job, working in Asia and the Middle East, raising children, movies, cockroaches, British humor, medicines, illness and injuries. We covered subjects ranging from football to circumcision, exercise to financial services and investments.
We talked about war and peace, men and women, death and divorce, Shariah courts, Putrajaya, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity. For hours we spoke about spirituality, pendulums, energies and personal belief.
The truth is that, more than anything, Brian and Soma were my guides to – and bomohs (healers) of – all things gastronomic, because they introduced me to the wonderful array of food, of ethnic specialties that are a hallmark of this city. Whether it was Seetha Ram in the heart of Little India or the expansive Gandhi’s nearby, organic Chinese dishes, roti canai, curries served on banana leaf or steamboat menus, an outing for food always meant being introduced to new tastes, a local hangout where I’d never end up if I were on my own.
Food does more than soothe and satiate our stomach; it heals the soul, doesn’t it? Because, if you break bread – or banana leaf – enough times with the same people, you begin to realize that, regardless of one’s nationality, cultural point of reference or personal preferences – whether you are British, Ceylonese/Malay or North American – we are all endowed with the essential ingredients; it’s just our paths towards healing and wholeness that differ.