Romancing the Pearl of the Orient: A Personal Journey

As development encroaches what remains of nature at a rapid pace, what becomes of the memories forged there?

By Chui Lim

Do ‘spaces of quiet’ exist in modern lifestyle living of high-rise dwellings that can normally be found in traditional lifestyle settlements like the clan jetties? In mid 2015 I had uprooted from my sanctuary in Bukit Kiara (itself under threat of development) to plant myself in a sea-facing condo in Sri Pinang drawn by the expanse of the sea off Straits Quay, Penang. A wide promenade framing the resort was an added attraction as I was thinking that being exposed to the natural elements can school me in the art of ‘stillness.’

Photo: Irene Cho

There was majestic Gunung Jerai on the horizon, its serene silence inspiring meditative contemplation. It reminds me of my ties to my siblings in my hometown of Alor Setar, Kedah, and to friends I have bonded with.

The waves rolling in and breaking especially during July formed delicate curtains of foamy water breaching the blue-green sea. Its roar in September when they crashed against the rocks can be quite profound, pulling me along with it into a different dimension – a ‘silence’ from its “continuous, soothing sounds, allowing immersion.” It lulled me to sleep at night and refreshed me in the mornings like an outdoor shower when I awoke. As I listened, the waves were like memories – of my mother and the deep sorrow that I was not with her when she passed seven years ago and of the deep remorse at the disruptive childhood my daughter suffered from my broken marriage. The roar in the waves allow me to hear myself and to dive into the ‘silence’ drowning out the ‘noise’ in my head.

Photo: Chui Lim

Walking along the promenade at the break of dawn daily to catch the first glint of the sun rays filtering through the dense canopy of clouds, when it transformed the sky and sea into a breathtaking Fantasia is like venturing into another realm from the sterile resort-living of the condo. I can only stop to breathe, trying to take it all in, breaking into Aerosmith’s “I don’t want to miss a thing,” savouring the moments, going into my inner self – just Being

Delicate curtain of foamy white waves ” breaking ” in July 2016. (Photo: Chui Lim)

It is these moments when I enter into the ‘quiet spaces’ or ‘silence’  that I become more communally aware because the sea is a public space like the parks and hills. They are the “Commons ” meant for all of us. Unfortunately, the making of a 280-ha man-made island commencing from September 2016 has seemingly stripped the open sea of its natural beauty, riches and romance. The noise pollution and the social and environmental impacts from the 15 to 20 years STP 2 project in a city that is getting more congested by the day may well phased out one of the few ‘quiet spaces’ that a weary soul can go to in order to taste the sound of silence and nourish it.

Strong waves pounding at the rocks along the promenade off Straits Quay September 2016. (Photo: Chui Lim)

*Featured image by Chui Lim.
*This is the second of a two-part narrative by writer Chui Lim exclusively for Uppre. Find the first part here.

 

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