The backstreet behind Jalan Raja Laut is small, and littered with discards, organic or otherwise. The drizzle that fell that Sunday afternoon was a mixed blessing; while it helps to wash away some of the dirt, it also help the decaying organic matter to release a greater stench. But in a backlane such as this, such sights and smell are part of the life here. A life where many ordinary people would turn their sights away and would rather not know, or really do not know.
Its been nearly a year now since Lajnah Kebajikan dan Kemasyarakatan PAS Pusat(LKKPP) held an outdoor activity. Apart from assisting the PR in the past General Election, many of the committee members too each have a schedule of their own. And while many of the 20 odd commitee members are from KL-Selangor area, a sizeable few are from outside. Alhamdulillah, for today though, members of the LKKP-Wilayah Persekutuan was able to assist in this Ramadhan activity.
Aje followed the last of the 3 groups that moved out from Bangunan PAS, and made its way to the road connecting Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Raja Laut. Along the short distance, several men sat by themselves in clothes that were ragged and dirty. One particularly, was happily having a conversation with a concrete pillar. Most though, have the sad dejected look on their face. And when they try to smile, their lips looked too heavy for them to do so. They, are the outcast of the society. Some, are old people with no jobs or income. More than a few though, are drug addicts. Yet some, are sex-workers who ply their trade, initially for want of a better life, but now more for mere survival as the dreams they once had has long been discarded, maybe quite like the latex condoms that can surely be found in the dustbins of the rooms on the 1st and 2nd floor of these back lanes.
Sometime back in the 1980's, an issue of Times magazine tells a story of an Imam in Surabaya, Indonesia. While there are lots of Imams throughout the world, the story of this Imam came as surprising (perhaps shocking to some), as he chose to live an the red-light district of that city - all around the Imam's house were the homes cum pleasure rooms of the many prostitutes there. The Imam, in his bid to bring these ladies of pleasure back to a decent life, never admonished them. Rather, he invited them to his house where he and his wife (an Ustazah) gave free lesson in Quran reading and the teachings of Islam. Alhamdulillah, the magazine reported several successes the Imam had in leading these ladies out of their 'pleasure' ways. I believe, this story gave inspiration to a quite recent Malay movie.
Moving in and out of the lanes can be quite a culture shock to many people. Life, here, is a world of its own, with its own distinct culture and social norms. For the many who lives there, the sight of a group of men and women wearing kopiahs and tudungs, and walking towards them, can be quite a scary sight. And it maybe likewise for many of the volunteers at the sight of thick lipstick, multi-hued hair, and short revealing clothes of the people there. Perhaps worse still, is the naivety in ascertaining the gender of the sex-workers, where some can be stunningly beautiful, if not for the deep husky or shrill-like voice they have.
Before leaving the surau in Bangunan PAS, the group of volunteers were given a short talk on what to do and expect when they meet the sex-workers, where the target group for this day are the transvestites. The main idea for today is to break the ice with these people, so that future meets will be more casual and welcoming. Apart from handing out packed food, the sex-workers were also given phamplets containing some friendly words as well as a hadith. To lure them into accepting, a paper rose were tied to each phamplet.
As the group Aje was with approach the night market there, several men stared at us with one having a rather menacing look in his eyes. A quick thinking Cikgu Saleh (actual names not given), one of the streetwise volunteers, quickly put them at ease as he briefly mention of our intention. Perhaps they were legitimate traders, perhaps not; we were not there to judge.
In between the 2 sections of the night market, 2 of the 3 volunteer groups bumped into other. The 2nd group, led by the Chairman of LKKP Pusat, Doctor Lo'Lo' Ghazalie, had covered a shorter but busier route than ours. It was at this same time which Aje decided to retire as he was still recovering from his flu. The 2 groups however, went on with their objective which was scheduled to end by maghrib. InsyAllah, LKKP Pusat will be conducting more meets and outdoor activities quite similar to the one today.
Anyone interested in giving financial assistance for LKKP activities, may do so through BIMB accout number 12113010026150. Alternatively, one can write to my email where I will forward it to her, with a cc to the original sender.
* The actual report of this stroll can be read in the next issue of Siasah, and insyAllah, in the Pemuda Wilayah's website here.