THE pasar malam culture is so unique to Malaysia and it always feels like an excursion when you walk through the narrow paths lined with stalls on either side with nothing escaping your desire and passion for variety. Wading through the neatly lined stalls can sometimes be a matter of experience and skill and for the uninitiated, the maze can be pretty chilling.
I am compulsive about pasar malam, unapologetically so and have always found the wet-marketing much more fulfilling than doing the same in the regular grocers. We get fresher produce and they carry with them the distinct personal attention the salespersons have to offer, not going to be for too long, though.
There are the usual arguments from people who ram you with their opinions on whether the wet produce is ethically grown or otherwise, among others. Probably a valid concern and that is why it would be wise to get to know the regular traders at the pasar malam to have an inkling of where their goods come from.
In the last decade the pasar malam scene has changed. Gone are the days when you were able to chat with traders; these days the night markets are run by foreign workers and you can’t venture beyond negotiating the price because of their limited language capabilities.
The foreign help are amazing. The alacrity with which the traders cook up their sales pitch can be dizzying sometimes. The screams can pierce through your heart and leave a gaping hole of resistance. The louder they are the farther it drives the customers, the alchemy which is not comprehended by the pseudo-salespersons. They are doing a good job but where are the local hands?
The other thing that attracts me to the night markets in Malaysia is the way it is clear of any racial over or undertones. There are boundaries which are subtly present and unobtrusively displayed. One does not encroach into the other’s space.
Then we also have the hoaxers who somehow are able to find their clientele from the heaven on earth promises they offer and they come with full-fledged product trials which sometimes sound like plain gibberish which instantly turns on your caution antennae.
Occasionally you also find the oafish shoppers who engage in needless haggling which does not lead to anything but coarseness.
Among these, over the months there seems to be an increase in vagabonds and beggars in the night markets. The modus operandi is for women to be accompanied by children who look drugged and they are definitely not locals.
With various ongoing initiatives by the government, Klang Valley used to be relatively free from such intrusions but not any more. Are they refugees or illegal immigrants ? They become the albatross to the country and its people and our reputation is definitely at stake as a country seeking to embrace the fully developed status soon.
There are more questions than answers to this issue and at local scenes you will see foreigners having a field day earning their keep on the streets.
Malaysia is a compact nation with one civil servant for every 19.37 people, according to statistics released in 2017. I find it difficult to justify and reason why our country’s immigration laws are so easily broken and where are the enforcement officers?
Incidentally, researchers have found that tight visa controls encourage illegal immigration by way of new and innovative ways of breaking the law. This means we need to keep updated on security issues.
The idiocy is not in the system or the law but the complacency we have grown accustomed to and illegal immigration is indeed a dicey issue with even First World countries turning to logical action-based solutions.