17 February 2013

Fixing what's broken

The motorbike as a metaphor for life in Malaysia: things, as they do, worked out.

After a day of plotting my return to the motorbike garage, I rode into town, the bike coughing and banging the 15 kilometers back to Kajang. I worried the whole time that it would not make it, but it did, persistent and courageous. I planned to go to the Indian repair place again, but by some miracle, the Chinese shop was open again on Friday. I rode up into the garage and they were immediately at work on it which wrenches and screwdrives; the old man who sold me the bike and his daughter in the Billabong t-shirt, welcomed me into the show room and gave me left over oranges for the Chinese New Year celebration.

I quickly felt at ease, thinking that at least I had some leverage with the bike, and imagined offering to give the bike back for something bigger, better, and newer. I looked at bikes for a couple of minutes before sitting and cracking open my Malay in Ten Weeks book that a friend had given me as a joke. Published in the fifties, all the conversations are quaintly racist and sexist, reminding me of a time closer to the actual, rather than metaphorical, fat white man imperialism. I was working through the numbers when a man who was at the desk, waiting for owner to do his road tax, came up and sat down next to me. We started chatting: he was a policeman and working in Kajang. We talked about guns and motorbikes, about how safe Kajang was and raising children in Malaysia. I gave him my card, joking that if I ever got in trouble, I was counting on him. The shop owner came up again, trying to give the policeman some oranges, which he rejected and I gladly took.

The policeman left and I waited, listening to the sounds of my bike being worked on outside. The afternoon here, around 4:30 is right when the heat begins to fade. There is a prayer around this time too, I think; depending on where you are, you can hear the call from the mosques. Finally, after almost two hours, the woman in the Billabong shirt returned, gave me the paperwork that I was waiting for (insurance and title to the bike) and led me outside. The mechanic told me that they had changed three or four things and then apologised, handing me my keys. I thanked him and rode off: apparently there had been a kind of warranty on the bike and I kicked myself for giving the Indian mechanic RM55 a mere 20 hours ago. 

I rode off and the bike was confident in the way that it had been when I first got it. Not banging or clanking. I rode home to find that our boxes from England had arrived and, despite my fears that they would be damp, broken into, and destroyed: they were not. Everything was there, my guitar in perfect condition. I opened boxes all night surprised by my own possessions. I did bring that book and more clothes: Everything was there. 

If everything in Malaysia is breaking, it is also simultaneously being fixed.