The followings are the sequences you will most probably face once you step into a restaurant around Kuala Lumpur, especially those managed by Indian Muslims who are fondly called Mamak.
One: You take a seat and immediately a waiter greets you to take an order after pretending to be wiping the table with a cloth. Sometimes between three to four waiters will take their turns asking you the same question without knowing that you have already ordered.
Two: Your meal is served. Well, at leat your drink for now.
Three: A moderately-dressed couple visits your table for sedekah.
Four: A well-dressed hawker hits your table with some socks or ballpoints or sometimes children books or pirated dvds, even layer cakes!
Five: Another moderately-dressed couple visits your table for sedekah after uttering some inaudible words.
Six: Another visit by another moderately-dressed couple (maybe and may not be a male and female combo, they could also be a female-female or male-male duo but one of them MUST be a handicapped).
Seven: A well-dressed hawker in his or her early twenties approaches you to sell items you most probably don’t need. He or she will turn away only after you have declined the offer the fourth time -- meaning you have politely said “ tak pa…tak pa” four times before they leave you in peace, for a while.
Eight: An unfriendly-looking African street peddler offers you leather items, fake designer watches or wallets which are mostly a fav among the immigrants here for their unimaginative colors.
Nine: A well-dressed man in his early thirties show you some fake designer sling bags with his cliché opening line of "Bang, hari ini saya nak bagi abang the baik punya offer…bla bla bla... He could have been having his meal earlier at the next table…
Ten: Another couple, not so well-dressed but not too shabbily approaches your table with some pocket calendars or tissue papers in mini packets usually with “assalamualaikum…”
Eleven: A man in his late thirties with a skull cap greets you for donation to build some mosque somewhere, usually in Southern Thailand or the Philippines. There were others from Kelantan or Kedah making these rounds for some mosque in that state too…
By now you might have transferred all the items on your plate and in the glass into your tummy and was about to enjoy a fag when part of the sequence repeat endlessly until you leave the restaurant.
Twelve: You went up to the counter to pay for your meal and you will never miss a small metal box right on the right or left side of the counter. It was meant for donation to again, build some mosque somewhere which most probably you have never heard of.
Believe me these are the usual scenarios at our restaurants and they are really stretching our patience and tolerance as well as our generosity to the limit.
The best part is that there is no escaping them, they are everywhere and every time with everything and they simply approach everyone for that matter. They do not have any qualms approaching even uniformed personnel be they some Bandaraya enforcement officers having their meal in a group or simply motorcycle-riding cops taking a break.
And again, the best of the best part is that NOBODY is doing anything about this – not the Bandaraya, no particular ministry, no department and not even any religious authority.
Nobody seems to care about this problem of Kuala Lumpur. Then again, these scenarios are not peculiar to Kuala Lumpur for all the major cities and towns elsewhere in our country are not spared.
Simply put, they are everywhere… and always in your face…
Five years ago I have written on this occurrence in a Melayu-language daily but unfortunately the next few days my letter to the editor were met with negative responses criticizing my complaint which were also carried by the newspaper.
Conclusion: Readers do not share my view on the matter and meaning they were sympathetic and generous to the beggars.
Earlier this week I was having Nasi Goreng Cina and a glass of Nescafe Ais at Maju Curry House Restaurant behind the Grand Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur like I used to with some friends and unfortunately we had to endure the same situation I experienced five years ago at another Indian Muslim restaurant in Bangsar.
The only thing that has changed was that Indo China-looking child beggars and bare-footed monks were no longer seen doing these rounds anymore. It was either the authorities got rid of them from the streets or they were no longer part of the trade.
I tend to believe that their role were clipped for a not-so-new approach of having well-dressed makciks or pakciks who were usually partially blind and in tow a healthy woman or man to assist the “predator”.
The point is when will all this stop? Who is responsible to manage this problem? Is there anybody doing anything about this? To whom do we complain to?
Again, the best part is – does anyone care??
And again, they will always be in your face…