We’re minions of all-consuming New Year’s discount
BACK in Cape Town, New Year’s Eve would find me in my swimming shorts, splitting my time between turning chops on the grill and cooling down in the pool.
But tonight the Bawas of Doha – via Johannesburg and Cape Town – will be among the hordes of revellers counting down the clock in Bukit Bintang, the fashionable shopping and entertainment district in Kuala Lumpur’s city centre.
One of the advantages of living in the Gulf, and part of the expat’s routine, is being able to travel regularly thanks to the region’s proximity to many parts of the world – which is why I’m writing this week’s column from Malaysia.
I’m looking forward to experiencing a very different New Year, but before I do, there’s some shopping to be done.
The city of Kuala Lumpur has a population of about 1.5 million people. Most of them, together with visitors from around the world, seem to have descended on the Malaysian capital’s many malls in search of a bargain.
Shihaam, having had her fill of the Pavilion mall located near our hotel, informs me it’s time to take this shopping show on the road.
“We’re heading for KLCC,” she says. Kuala Lumpur City Centre, all seven levels of it, seems to be bearing the brunt of the shopping force. From Louis Vuitton to Hugo Boss to Harrods (yes, the mall has its own Harrods store), the stores are teeming with credit-card-carrying customers.
I’m not one for crowds, especially those whose eyes see only “sale” signs and not the innocent feet their trolleys crush. But Shihaam spots a Gap – and takes it. “Let me just see if they have anything nice for the kids,” she says. “Okay, but please hurry,” I reply. “Between the prams and the trolleys, I’m starting to worry less about losing my salary than I am about losing a limb.”
With a look that implores me to can the dramatics, Shihaam disappears into the melee. For a brief, irrational instant, I panic that I may never see her again – and she has the hotel room card.
But I realise I’m being silly – after all, how hard can it be to get another card?
Five minutes turns into 10, 10 into 20, 20 into 30. I confront the inevitable – if I’m ever going to get out, I’m going to have to go in. I take the gap and immediately dodge a flying checked shirt. Clothes are lying on the floor, people are shouting, sale signs are everywhere you look. The way crazy-eyed customers are scrambling for items makes me think this really is the very last day for shopping. Ever. In hell.
I find a place to breathe next to a pile of clothes. I pick up some T-shirts while I wait. “Looking for anything particular, sir?”
Yes, one wife and the closest escape route, I feel like telling the sales assistant. “No thanks,” I reply.
He persists. “This style would look great on you and collar T-shirts are so versatile – you can wear them with jeans, a chino or shorts.”
That’s true, I think, picking up one in blue.
“Fitting rooms are this way, sir,” grins the assistant, tugging his cap over what looks like two sharp objects trying to push through.
I don’t know how much time has passed when I hear my name being called. “Ridwaan, Ridwaan – why do you look so confused, and what are you doing carrying all these T-shirts?”
It’s Shihaam – she has found me wandering around with a bag full of T-shirts. “Slow down and stop babbling. Just tell me what happened.”
“So versatile, so versatile. Jeans, shorts, chinos. And they’re 50 percent off. Fifty percent! And if you buy five you get an extra 20 percent off…” I trail off, realising that, in a moment of madness, I’ve become a minion of the allconsuming discount.
“Help me,” I whimper. “Sshh, it’s Okay,” says Shihaam. I exhale loudly and get ready to return the clothes.
“Wait,” says Shihaam, “don’t you think these jeans would look great with those T-shirts? And they are 30 percent off…
My shoulders slump. I realise there is no point in fighting. When it comes to New Year in Kuala Lumpur, I can safely say I’ve been there, done that and bought the T-shirts.