an unlikely find on a "heritage walk"

First and foremost, it wasn’t exactly a heritage walk to begin with, hence heritage in ” “
However, the fact that it was along a back lane that was an off road of Jalan Kasipillay, off Jalan Ipoh, it is indeed as heritage as it can be by my standards … so much for being born and bred in the Klang Valley.
As is always the case – and unclear to me – all “exploration” that extends beyond the family comfort zone is always done with either the Perodua or the Proton. Somehow only canvas bags were allowed and we always brought a water bottle with us … almost as if there was a high probability of us being  stranded with no amenities!
Thank God by now both my sister and I are way too old to be reminded that we have to ease ourselves before the ‘journey’ to the unknown. And yes, we no longer get reminded about the importance of rationing the water in the water bottle as well.
In any case it was a “heritage walk”, visiting 3 artisan shops: a book binder, a paper artist and a baker.
It was organised by the baker.
Mom, who’s an avid sourdough follower and baker herself had read about Tommy le Baker some months back; first a verbal translation of a chinese newspaper article, and then later in The Star, I think.
If mom is the Queen, she would bestow all bakers with the QBE.
So naturally, this Tommy bloke’s credentials and ingenuity was something I had quite gotten used to by now and knew that at some point a trip to his bakery must be organised.
{also worth noting that his feature article in The Star newspaper seems to have excited mom more than my own countless, yes COUNTLESS features in The Star newspaper over the years … not to mention radio and TV interviews! Bah … but never mind that … I too may have more qualifications and awards but none involved flour and water. So you see, I am not worthy a QBE.}
Thus, with the invitation for a Heritage Walk out, there was no chance of me backing out even with a migraine. Interestingly though, yoga took a backseat that faithful Saturday and lunch was served at 11:00 am to ensure that we girls were all bundled out of the door by 12:00 noon. 
Grouchy as I always am on the weekends at the prospect of my shattered dreams of a leisurely weekend which in my mind translates to me kicking back in my equivalent of a “man cave”, a big bar of creamy chocolate in hand and the nearest homo sapien being at a safe distance of 50 meters radius to ensure that my stare into nothingness is not disrupted … didn’t I say it was a dream? … I was perplexed at the need for 2 hours to get to the city.
But nonetheless, it was a good thing her persistence and our unexplainable fear of mom got my sister and I going without much fuss. We naturally got lost and when the car travels at its best at 60 kilometres an hour, there is really the need for the 2 hours travel time.
And when we did finally pull in to the back lane that ‘houses’ some 10-odd shops, a third being Indian restaurants, and another third being Indian provisions stores for pooja, textile and food … we had to refrain ourselves from entering the paper craft studio and the bakery that was easily spotted and visible for the parking spot. I mean, what else are we going to do if we visited both of them before the designated Heritage Walk start time? 
So with 10 minutes to kill, we bought a latte and the house cake – La Joconde – which was heavenly and sinfully fattening! The walk itself was no more than 200 steps.
The artisans themselves were … let’s just say, I can bind a book. I can make paper from pulp. I can bake breads and patisserie … including sourdough and artisan bread. Hence, the walk did not grab me, nor did the items that were produced and sold. 

Being the OCD I am and the self critic, I studied the produce closely and though I won’t share the exact comments here, let’s just say we, Malaysians need to travel and explore the world more to truly understand what it means to produce things of quality.
But what really made my day was discovering a photography-computer center on the second floor of one of the shop lots that provides courses in both areas. Upon speaking to one of the staff member who was obviously diligently looking at the CCTV recordings rather than playing solitaire to know that I had picked up a brochure on the ground floor, it appears that I am able to change and customise the web programming course to suit my need!
whoopie 
Though this is a far shot at me being Magento* expert to work on my new web-base venture {having failed to attract and secure a right programmer for nearly a year now} …
… this may just be the beginning of a solution to my long drawn suffering of outsourcing website maintenance.
… this may just put an end to my need of looking for a geeky and highly intelligent programmer who would say “i do” so that I’ll have more control over my outsourcing computer programming needs!
* if by any fluke you are a Magento expert please contact me!!!
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THAIPUSAM: 98.5% Indians 1% Law Enforcers 0.5% Photographers

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gaahhhhHHHHH

FACT ONE

Shooting events and festivals can be a pain.

FACT TWO
You’ve no idea what’s going to happen and what to expect.

FACT THREE
I  am a sucker for pain.

So, this year I decided to take a trip to Batu Caves for Thaipusam.
and why not? 

Especially when I’m known to take connecting flights, followed by overnight train rides and hours of rickety bus rides down and up winding lanes tempting fate at the same time just to shoot a festival which I pray to god the internet information on its precise location and date is accurate {which of course is as good as buying a used car in terms of reliability and truth}.

Oh ok. Might as well come straight with you.

The reason I decided to take Thaipusam – something in my ‘backyard’ so to speak is because my initial plan to head out to Arunanchal Pradesh to take a trip down the historical Ledo Road during an organised cultural festival that fosters better understanding and relations between the Burmese and Indians came to an end when:
  1. Board Meeting dates were revealed for 2011 just before Christmas, 2010,
  2. the cultural festival location {town/province} changed,
  3. Ledo Road can wait given 1.  and 2.
So with that I decided to shoot Thaipusam – a religious event that commemorates the birthday of Lord Murugan (aka Subramaniam), the youngest son of Shiva and Parvati, as well as the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a lance (vel) so he could vanquish the evil demon, Soorapadman.

Having not done this before I called the ex- and made the arrangements.

I as usual needed a chaperon. I’ve never done this alone; Travel –or– Photo shoots.
Naturally I was prepped for the worst … the people, the heat, the noise level, the sights … you name it.
But I was not deterred and adamant to get this done and one that became more resolute as I was unable to find solid facts (i.e. date(s), chariot routes, event itinerary, etc.) on the internet.
On Wednesday, sitting in the infamous Kuala Lumpur traffic, I panicked when the traffic signages read:  
“TRAFIK PERLAHAN . THAIPUSAM . JLN IPOH . BATU CAVES”
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My over-active mind launches into these thoughts:

wait-a-minute!!!
The chariot is only suppose to leave the Jalan Bandar temple tonight and snail its way through Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves … just in time for my shoot on the 20th.
What business does it have leaving early?
Why the heck are we having a public holiday on the wrong day?
OMG! The ex- had deliberately given me wrong info!!!
My fingers started its mind-numbing activity of sms-ing every photographer in town whom I know has some Thaipusam shots on their portfolio and/or website. Naturally no discerning photographer is awake at 7-ish in the morning. They simply don’t have to. They don’t have ‘official working hours’ or ‘company policies’ to abide to.
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As it turns out, missy Perfectionist Penelope who hyper ventilates unnecessarily emitted more carbon than necessary {again}… but nonetheless insisted that we left at the wee hours of dawn on the 20th, which of course the ex- slept through while I waited at the pre-agreed spot for an hour restraining myself from depressing the “redial” button of the phone every 53 seconds.

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The verdict?
Thaipusam: 
98.5% Indians . 1% “Law Enforcers” . 0.5% Photographers
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Definition of photographers?
Any ethnicity, nationality, gender and age, yielding an instrument with optical glasses fitted to a chip capable of storing pixels pointing at anyone with shaved head and/or pierced body parts.
Human density?

Seriously child’s play if you’ve been to any event / festival in motherland India.
But nonetheless, it’s still hopelessly frustrating to have a sea of people around you with varied purposes that involves staring into space and taking up space. Hence, the pain of shooting events and/or festivals.
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How about getting up close and personal? 
errr… someone else is already there!
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 .{and oh boy! no way am I gonna confront mr. grouchy even if its unlikely that he’s about to talk back or talk bad with the skewer pierced through his mouth.}

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So thank goodness for my Mother India training … I did get some decent shots {to be reviewed in Penelope | Photoblog later}. Here’s one of the above shot that avoided the photographers (sort of, since the tourist in the photo below has a camera strap around his neck) … but still has the unavoidable sea of people.
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 © p.{Haque}
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gawd! LOOK at them!!!

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Photo  © p.{Haque} – All Rights Reserved
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Nope.
Not the disinterested and jaded Chinese opera musicians in the foreground.
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Nope.
Not the Chinese opera actress on center stage.
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But… but… yeah, those people at the center – back part of the photo.
Those people with some black box with glass attachment slung over their necks!!!
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OK.
So, what do I have against them? you asked.
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Nothing.
Seriously nothing other than the lack of basic human decency and civic mindedness.
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I mean, seriously … look at them. Hoarding the center stage.

Blocking the view of others – well, noted, the number of audience to any Chinese operatic act today is nothing more than a handful, if lucky, but still?!?

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And trust me. The situation got worse backstage – for those who managed to wrangle their way in. I guess the entire objective for the night was to ensure that no one else got a decent shot, if you yourself weren’t successful at securing one yourself.

And how is this done? you asked.
Well, either stick your entire unappealing body, or any body part, or even your camera, lens, mono-pod, tripod, whatever!!! into every other photographer’s frame.

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How?

Simple. Just stand near every opera actor/actress backstage. It ain’t matter if you are done shooting him/her, babe. The idea is to stay put. Stand there. Deprive another person from taking it. Simple as that.

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See, as most of you know, I generally am rather empathetic to those with a camera slung over their neck. I usually put up with the unfounded competitiveness and assertiveness, occasional lies they tell to get the subject to participate, to gain access, etc … I tell myself:
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“aiyah, these folks need to cari makan
“it’s their rice bowl”

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Heck! I make excuses for them ALL the time when they* constantly and repeatedly disappoint NGOs they agree to work for either pro bono or for a pittance.

But recently it has been bugging me. A lot.
Whilst admittedly I had a good laugh at the lovely and talented Travel Photographer – Tewfic El-Sawy’s recent blog entry POV : WTF! This Is My Photo Shoot! on similar experiences during his Bhutan photo expedition – and frankly (sorry Tewfic), I thought he was being a bit over-the-top (in a nice way, like I do too :p), gawd! was he RIGHT!!! And while I took deep breaths controlling my rising anger and concentrating on his words, I managed not to elbow any of the photographers – mostly wannabes – backstage.

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I mean, it annoys me a lot when I took the trouble to do research, tracked the troop down, made proper polite approaches and finally get access to deal with gatecrasher monkeys! who were solely interested in self gratification by like minded folks in tasteless forums and the likes, with a few building up their stock photo collection.

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So, with the paparazzi frenzy going on with a medley assemblage of cameras, I will have to continue following this troop to hopefully an obscure location next to complete the project of documenting the lives of the Chinese opera troop members in the interest of preserving our culture … though there’s still time, but bummer! I’ll have to take time off work {which I am preserving annual leave for Ethiopia} and it will incur unnecessary costs on my part. I guess this is part and parcel of doing things pro bono.
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\* there’s exception to the rule here … I adore some of my professional friends who are absolutely angels
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