What If KL Were To Be A Person? See What These 5 Malaysian Writers Have Imagined

Illustrations By @bungadanbintang


How’s your Urbanscapes week going? As we delve deeper into the local art scene, you can’t help but wonder how Kuala Lumpur has impacted the lives living in it. For some, KL is a dream come true, home or their safe haven. Some may feel the ups and downs more, like something is missing. You can’t deny that Kuala Lumpur has character.

In an effort to encourage festival goers to reflect, reimagine and reconnect with KL, Urbanscapes reached out to writers to bring the city to life. What if Kuala Lumpur was personified? How would he/she be? Here are some of our favourite stories.

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The Stepmum State
by Nadia Khan

Sometimes I look in the mirror of the shiny new building of the week (this week, it’s the monstrosity that is the Tun Razak Exchange) and wonder, what is it about me that makes it so hard for them to love me?

They’ve benefitted from me, that’s for sure. They’ve pillaged and scoured this home that they refuse to call their own, for whatever wealth that suits their fancy.

But when they talk about me to their friends, I’m the one painted as the gold-digging whore; the money-squeezing machine.

“She’s pretty, though,” one of their friends says. 

“Of course,” they answer with a smirk. “KLCC is pretty too. Then down came the rain and sewage water out!” they say, singing the words to the tune of Itsy-Bitsy Spider (of course they would choose an English nursery rhyme—they wouldn’t want to look “kampung” in front of their friends). 

Every public holiday—Raya, Gong Xi Fa Chai and even a measly 3-day weekend if my birthday happens to fall on a Friday or Monday—they rush back to their own mums as if they can’t stand the thought to be anywhere near me any longer. Then they would come back to me, boasting about how great a cook their mums are—with their nasi Royale, nasi ganji, nasi kerabu, mee kolok. I’ve tried to prepare these dishes for them, only to be scorned with the same phrase: “It’s not the same.” 

To them, I’m both an enigma and an open book. They don’t understand me yet they’ve gotten me all figured out. Perhaps that also explains the way they love me—they love to loathe me. 

And perhaps that shall forever be my fate. Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan—the stepmum state.

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