©2019 by Ross Journals

PUTRAJAYA SANDWICH

Putrajaya, Malaysia 2017

If the world is a large mosque…

I had 4 hours layover in KLIA2 before I fly to Langkawi Island. I didn’t want to stay in the airport. So I decided to see Putrajaya, and since it was past noon, have my first Malaysian meal there. 


I enjoyed the smooth train ride to Putrajaya along the vast green fields of Kuala Lumpur, at awe with the city’s well-preserved nature. 


Their bus station, beside the train platform, was empty except for a few middle-aged men sitting on one of the benches under the covered waiting area, and the three buses bathing under the scorching sun.


I walked to the ticket booth, its window stain blocking the view inside. Just as I thought, no one was there. 


I turned and walked towards the bystanders who were apparently drivers of the bus company. 


“Excuse me. Which bus is going to Putrajaya? What time will it leave?” I asked.


The drivers, thinking I was a Malaysian with my hijab and Asian face, replied to me in Malay. 


“Sorry, I’m not Malaysian.”


I stood there while they discuss with each other, thinking if I should just go back to the airport and read to kill time. But I really wanted to see the Putrajaya Mosque. Even just the mosque. 


When I did not get a follow up response, I walked towards them and asked again. 


“Excuse me, is there a trip to Putrajaya now? I have a flight at 4pm. I just want to know. Because if there is none or it will be late, it’s ok. I will leave” I pleaded, hoping they would say yes. 


The driver stared blankly at me, and finally voiced out, “Take that bus,” pointing me to the bus entering the lot.


“Thank you,” I smiled, relieved for the chance. 


I waited for the bus to stop and then climbed in. 


“Is this going to Putrajaya?” I asked. 


“Yes,” he said. He issued me a ticket and gave me a tourist map around the place. Seventeen places to see. I obviously cannot go and check all of them.


“I’d like to get off at Putrajaya Mosque?” I told the driver. 


He nodded. I paid my fee and moved to the back seat.


The style of the bus reminded me of the ones at Bonifacio Global City in the Philippines. It’s new and the first of its kind in my country. But Malaysia has probably had run this ahead of us. 


There was one row of seat on each side facing each other, while pairs of seat were installed at the back facing the road. The center was wide enough to fill up standing passengers with hooks hanged on bars for them to hold on to. And just like here, this bus company, the only service here, runs on specific timings.


The drive to Putrajaya Mosque wasn’t long. My transportation, though, became sort of a tour bus. The ambience felt quite futuristic due to the modernized buildings merged with the Islamic-themed government offices. My eyes followed the cobbled pedestals, neck hyperextended at times following the height of a few establishments. Architects would fall in love with this place, I thought. 


My bus stop came. Before I even stepped out of the bus door, the driver reassured me, “I’ll be back here at 2PM.”


“Ok, I’ll be here at 2PM,” I responded, surprised by his thoughtfulness. He noted our discussion earlier. He went that extra mile to take responsibility of it. 


I walked under the heat of the sun and the clear blue sky with less worry towards the enormous pink-colored mosque in front of me. The mosque was sitting at the edge of the water, overlooking the Putrajaya Bridge. The Pedrana Putra, with its Islamic greenish domes and castle-like appearance, stood further back, a few minutes of walk from it. 


My stomach rumbled, reminding me to eat. I looked around for a kiosk as I held on to my black cap while the wind try to whisk it away. Nothing. I calmed and resorted to eat back in the airport. This is going to be a quick tour anyway.


I moved through a tall and wide gate, feeling like an ant. Shoe metal racks await on the left corner. A mini stall which lends red large robes on the right for the non-Muslim visitors. I’m already wearing my hijab and long-sleeved top but I grabbed one before I continued towards the female section to the left, removed my shoes and offered a prayer. 


Next to Makkah and Madinah, this is the third largest mosque I have ever visited. High ceilings, artsy domes, geometrical columns and windows, large chandeliers, tall and wide wooden doors for a well-lit indoors, and definitely carpeted floors.


I hanged out on its left wing, overlooking the lake, the tiled floor casting my vague reflections. The upper wall was made of wooden squares, the ragged edges forming a triangle. I took a few photographs. 


After some time, three young girls came by. They were Malaysian Muslims. I thought I should start a conversation.


“Salam. Hi, I’m Ross.” I beamed, extending my hand to them. 


The girls introduced themselves, shaking my hands. 


“Where are you from?”


“I’m from Philippines,” I smiled, “Are you guys from here?”


“Yes,” one of them answered, all nodding in chorus. 


Our small talk continued. One of them shared a few Tagalog words she knows. Delighted about their kindness, I thought that I should keep a memory of them. 


“Do you want to take a picture?” wringing my camera on my right hand.


“Sure,” they giggled. 


After the photo taking sessions, I thanked them and parted with them, thinking that I might be taking so much of their time for their main agenda there.


Before I even completely went out of their sight, the girls approached me again.


“Have some,” said one, opening a red tupperware with a sandwich in it. 


Overwhelmed by my first hours of my holiday out of the country, I have almost forgotten to eat. 


I hesitated, thinking that it could be just enough for them. But the girls insisted. 


“Thank you,” I said, thinking of other ways to express my gratitude. 


I took a bite in front of them. I could taste the mayonnaise overpowering the tuna in it. 


“It tastes good. Really, thank you.”


“Your welcome,” they replied, giggling.


“Do you have a Facebook? Or instagram?” I asked, wanting to stay in touch with them. 


Their face glowed, and at once, shared their accounts to me. They left with a warm smile. 


I sat on the floor, dropped my heavy backpack and checked my watch. I still have 30 minutes left to enjoy solitude in the mosque, and the view of the lake, the bridge, and the buildings in the horizon. 


I continued munching on the sandwich. With every bite, I kept the girls in my thoughts. 


The sandwich meant a lot to me. It was my very first meal in Malaysia. 


They didn’t just fill up my stomach. Their kindness deeply touched my heart. 


And it wasn’t the first time that I crossed path with strangers inside the mosque, and felt one with the people there no matter their age or nationality. 


Exchanging genuine smiles. Spreading kindness to one another. Giving without expecting anything in return. 


Actually, I could call them my Putrajaya Angels. It felt like Allah has brought them there to deliver that food for me knowing that there’s nowhere near for me to buy it from. 


Finishing up my sandwich, I thought, “Our provisions does come on time.”


And as soon as I walked out of the mosque, the bus driver was waving at me.