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  • It is 8.30 pm, Sunday in Ipoh. The audience slowly trickles in even though the show was supposed to start at that precise moment. The red brick stage curtain remains down. I waited impatiently in my seat, waiting for a sign, a sound that signals the show is going to start. It is to me, a mind boggling culture. In times like this, I try to gather all the understandings I could find but still, I could not get myself at peace with this culture, this culture of starting it at least 30 minutes after the time is due; so that every time, something is planned, you have to be prepared to accept that there is a high chance that it will start 30 minutes after the scheduled time or there will be a group whose idea of making it on time is to arrive 30 minutes late.

    Appropriately I was there I was at the Cultural Centre in Ipoh. And true to our culture, the show is not going to start exactly at 8.30 pm as is stated in the brochure and it is a culture that I hope will be erased soon enough. But unlike this 30 minutes late culture, I hope the traditional theatre (the bangsawan) will continue to thrive as part of our culture. I pray though, for the day when the 30 minutes culture will vanished.

    It was 9.00 pm, and still no sign that the show was going to start. 9.10 pm, and yes, a sound came off the micropohone. A reminder to switch off the phone and to avoid movements that might disturbed the actors on stage. Yes! A sign, a sign that the show is materialising but I, I was losing my interest. By that time, I half wanted to just walk out of the theatre, go home and be with my kids. It has been a half hour of wasted time which I could use to be with my kids at home. So maybe, it was also guilt, the guilt that I left my kids to be there, and finding myself spending a good amount of time, sitting there, doing nothing. My other half sits patiently. I admire his patients.

    So what was I doing there? Curiosity if you asked me – wonder, admiration -- because I neither have the confidence nor the courage to push myself to the front and act as someone else – someone admirable, someone despicable, someone vulnerable -- in front of a life audience. It is something I dare not do, and those who does it, wins my admiration.
    And that night, the subject of my admiration is my colleague who by the day, dress in his smart academic attire, sit in his little box of an office, meets and discuss only the most intelligent of topics (?), and teach the cream of the crops in our country. But that night, he was supposed to be a completely different person. A long gone Malay nobility who has served the Kingdom of Perak during the British rule. I wanted to see the transformation.

    Isn't it wonderful, to take yourself away from your comfort zone, to try something way off your ordinary duty, to see the other aspect of the world? It must be refreshing, wandering off your ordinary day to day life trail, and finding a view that's new to your senses.

    9.15 pm, the theatre starts. It started with a song. And the song brought tears to my eyes. It wasn't because the song was captivating but because it reminded me of a woman, who during my childhood, would once in a while, in a leisurely afternoon, sing the "bangsawan" in her soft sweet voice. The bangsawan was something which I remembered being mentioned by her. I don't know if she has been in one or seen one, but I can see her, her luminescent face, sitting, beloved mother. I missed her. She is a memory worth keeping.
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