“Melakka (Its also written as Malacca) is a historical place”, they said. At numerous coffee shops and other places. Being this romantic sucker for history and the stories that it tells, it was only a natural that the car found itself making an unplanned detour to ‘check out Melaka’. Actually, we were famished. I could have given my right hand for some food. That famished.
There is something distinctive to every city. Even the most nondescript ones. Sometimes it hits you in the face. At other times, it envelopes you in a seamless trance. Yet other times, it surprises you. Here we were, looking forward to set our foot and have some food in a city with history and character. And the first sign board that we saw was this: ‘Dont mess with Melaka’. Mess with Melaka sounded rhythmic, but also caused the eyebrow to arch.
“Dont mess with Texas” was a similar campaign that ran in far away Texas. How a campaign that started out as a campaign against litter turned out to give a deeper cultural meaning to Texas and Texans is stuff that advertising legends are made of. That phrase went on to become a federally registered trademark and later on the motto of a nuclear Submarine : USS Texas!
“Dont Mess with Melaka”, is a similar campaign against litter, “robbers, snatch thieves”. To promote a clean environment. All this information came after a frantic searching the web. Truth be tolda, “Dont Mess with Melaka” caused some consternation. Albeit, a mild one at that.
Now, Melaka has some history to it. A cursory glance scramble of the fingers on the Malacca’s wikipedia page, will lead you to some interesting facts. It has a Malay-Portuguese-Dutch-English rule to it. A history that dates back 13th century. A diverse population. A size that is less than three times the size of Mumbai. It has the Malaccan straits names after it. But what seemed bigger than all of that to the famished me was this : Melaka city had Restoran Selvam.
It was Deepavali day and all shops were shut. Restoran Selvam was however open and we had a melange of tourists eating out of banana leaves. I was famished and the sight of the spectrum that seemed to be mind numbingly focused on the food increased the hunger quotient by a large number. Taste buds seemed to erupt in some tantric dance as they stayed stimulated by this gastronomic delight. Food that we were used to, but having a different etching to it.
After the food, I wandered the road with the camera in hand and got a few shots of a small sleepy city, caught deep in festive slumber. Melaka seemed to invite everyone. The ancient seamlessly invited the new. And the new, respects the ancient, not deferentially but taking its place in the modern scheme of things, rather gracefully.
Across the road from Restoran Selvam, is Discovery Cafe. It teemed with people who seemed to be visiting Melaka but sporting an air as though they belonged there. Backpackers with beer, languidly conversing is a pretty sight to watch. I made a mental note. Melaka was a place to visit again. With a backpack. Tasty food, history, culture and an opportunity to trade your story for another’s. Thats Melaka. What more is there to life?
Ofcourse here is a lot more to life, if there are kids with you who are keen to keep you busy. The daughter is one such. We soon drove out of Melaka. Missing the River Cruise, the Dutch & Portugese forts and several other aspects of the architecture that teeming travelers and their accounts on the internet point us to bear in mind while planning the next visit. Melaka City’s city centre got its ‘UNESCO Heritage’ tag in 2008 and that means something.
Thats that Melaka. Or atleast, that was my short visit to Melaka. Ah, there is one more aspect that I accidentally bumped into. The ‘Chitty People’. People who migrated from Tamil Nadu in the 15th Century and made Melaka their home. Mingling with the Malays, Chinese and the Javanese folks, this is a set of people who have assimilated from every culture, while retaining aspects of their roots. Wikipedia announces that there are 2000 people left of them. That number doesnt add up in my mind. That is one more reason, I want to go back. Soon.