Imagine a place where the high temperature makes everyone avoid walking in the street, up the stairs, and where respite is only found indoors in the artificial comfort of air conditioning. A spread out city where that same heat brings out the most intense, nausea inducing sewage smells to your nostrils before you even had breakfast. As your feet navigate the irregular sidewalks, you will also find mini ponds of suspicious looking, foul-smelling essences to practice your slalom skills. Not far from there, a skinny man is sleeping on carton piles, next to human size video advertisement screens blinking the image of people handing over to your direction the new hamburger to be had in town, all with ecstatic smiles.
At times, a walk there could refresh you, when an over-used air con unit drops a liquid on the back of your neck. Imagine a city, where everyone is motorised and uses their vehicles for the slightest errand, generating more heat, pollution, and noise that your body can dissipate in a night of sleep, before the dose of the next day. You will encounter lazy looking old men offering you “women, women” in the most secret, sleaziest of ways. As you continue your exploration, you will be touted into electronic gadgets shops by passive aggressive men that make you feel like you are in a moroccan souk, whilst you were starting to enjoy the space provided by the largest sidewalk you had experienced that day.
The shops are open to the outside and diffusing their cold air to the outside and some hysterical woman shouts about promotion in the radio. In these boutiques, you can see piles of colourful carton boxes, filled with plenty of individually wrapped sweet specialties to offer as souvenir or to bring back home. Further away, one severely obese woman purchases bags of bags of deep-fried goods and crisps from the display mountain with her equally obese son. The fat kid tears a bag open immediately and stuffs his face with the yellow crunchy stuff. Her car is temporarily parked on the roadside, and you are humbled by the purr of the large engine, still running to keep the cool inside, as a transparent cloud of invisible vapour rises to burn the skin of your face, outside.
Everywhere you look, you see vast expenses of stained, molded concrete arranged with absolutely no sense of architectural coherence, connected between each other by mixes of tangled strips of black wires.
Welcome to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is my hell on earth.
To be honest, the rather factual, yet novelised, description I wrote above could probably fit several developed, developing and third world capital cities other than KL on this planet. In terms of horror, it would probably also be beaten hands down by many other cities and megalopolis I have yet been fortunate not to visit. Some places have war, famine, rampant diseases, and that would almost make KL feel like a good place. And I think that tells a lot about the health of our societies.
I want to be an optimist and see beauty around me, even in dark places. I’m not denying that there can be beauty in KL, or any other such and worse places.
But seriously, what have we done? How can we live in such denial to still believe that life can be good in this furious chaos? How can humans keep their sanity living and working here, so disconnected from nature? All around the world, the countryside is depleting of its inhabitants, and cities grow, and grow. For some, they don’t have a choice. Some people do have a choice though and still choose this. It just fascinates me.
What about you? What is your hell on earth? Comment below.