Welcome to Kuala Lumpur.
The first I ever understood about Hare Krishnas was that you had to run them over in Grand Theft Auto to get points. Beyond that I’m not up to speed. So tugging on the orange ribbon to rock Krishna back and forth on this swan-lake swing in front of a room full of devout Harrys is the surreal highlight of my morning. I feel like Luis Theroux. Ram guides me through it.
“Wash your hands with the teaspoon.”
“Now pick three flowers.” I pick three flowers. “You don’t have to pick three.”
“You said three.”
“It can be as many as you want.”
“So why did you say three?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Is three good?”
“As many as you want.”
“I’ll stick with three.” You never know when you might offend religious folk so, in my mind, it’s better to iron these things out. Collette has not long since committed the faux pas of putting a book on the floor. I don’t want trouble here.
“Now make your offering to Krishna three times.”
“Like this?” I hold the three flowers towards a miniature, golden, statue of a boy that sits on the seat of the duck-on-water themed, Indian-wedding-style swing.
“No. In a circle.” Obvs.
“Like this?” I circle my hand around the shree, playful minikin. Ram looks incredibly pleased and I sense his relief that I’m getting there.
“Good. Now place the flowers at his feet.” I awkwardly toss the three flowers and they roll over and face down. Doh. I’m not sure ff this is some affront to the deity or if I have inadvertently cursed my father’s blood-line with a plague. Ram hardly flinches. Nothing bad happens. Thank fuck. “Now praise Krishna.”
“How do I do that?”
“Pray.” I place my hands together. “No. On the floor.” I kneel and look pray-y. I think I’m bossing this.
We are called to eat some of the monk’s rocket so that we can get a silver bowl put on our head and we dance around the million ringgit altar. We kiss the wall and some people go around the oil painting of the cow and some people divert inside it. Which way am I supposed to go? I’ve no idea. I look stupid.
Outside KK (which is a cheap rip-off 7 Eleven) the day before, we were given a plate of free grub by some Hindus. Lovely folk. They gave us a card and said we should pop in for a chant. Little did they know we’d be here, bright and breezy at 7.30am the next day. Collette has her headscarf on and we are here for a pre-breakfast, religious groove-out. Proper bonkers. But fun. They are lovely people. They are looking after us. It’s a bit school disco that the blokes are on one side and the women are on the other but if me and Col were together I’d make her laugh.
Some dude starts playing an accordion and we have a trance-boogie to the Hare Krishna main theme tune. It builds. Some other fella in an orange dress with a pony-tail starts using some little clasp-y, cymbal things and everyone starts little shuttle-jogs back and forth. It’s quite exciting. I’m trying to clap along but I’m confident that the accordion timing is totally whack. I’m not sure what I should be doing so I just copy the guy in front of me. Ten minutes into twisting my neck, contorting my arms and jumping intermittently, I establish that the guy in front is mentally challenged and I look stupid again.
It’s nuts. Every day there’s a festival for Krishna’s brother. Or a festival for the birth of Krishna. Or the festival of chariots. Or a fast for Diwali. Or a feast for colours. The temple program is packed with reasons to have a dance, or eat food or pull a weird swing with a ribbon. It’s nuts.
Later, in the mall, it’s nuts. People spend silly amounts of money on aviators that are moodily endorsed by a retired footballer who’s married to a Spice Girl. Police joke with Uzi 9mm’s and AK47’s. Grown women, who appear in all other respects intelligent, play Candy Crush in overwhelming hoards. There’s an endless sea of signs plugging over-priced dross. It’s utter barm cake. Nuts.
So I ask, who is more nuts? The guys in dresses who wash their hands with teaspoons and invent silly stories with an out-of-time accordion? Or the dead-head, aviating, Candy Crushing, burger-faces at the mall? It’s up for grabs. And god knows I’m daft.
What did I learn today? We are all nuts. All of us. The birds in the park. Nuts. Collette. Nuts. This Pakistani man, with breath like natural gas, boring me about his life in lamps. Nuts. Sting. Nuts. My mum. Nuts. Your mum. Probably nuts. Woman outside this cave selling nuts. Nuts. Crisps. Nuts.
Thanks for reading.