Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Of living in a gated community I : Gossips

Gated communities can be defined as walled and gated residential developments that restrict public access.

Source Roland Atkinson and John Flint The fortress UK? Gated communities, the Spatial revolt of the Elites and Time-space trajectories of Segregation

“Did you hear about the fight over the weekend?”

“What fight? There was a fight?”

“Between Ray and Fred. It was horrible! There was blood everywhere.”

“What were they fighting about?”

“I can’t tell you really. Its too scandalous. I’m not really suppose to talk about it even.”

“Must have been about a woman right?”

One of the perils of living in a gated community, gossip often spread like wildfire and incidentials are reported with great details.

A theme party was organized last weekend in honour of Charles’ and Camilla’s wedding. Nobody actually cared about the Royal wedding but it was a good excuse to have a theme party anyways. Gave the residents who were interested an excuse to dress up, pay big money to eat Fish and Chips (cooked by a chef who never tried a Chippy in England), eat and gossip with your neighbours and basically have fun. Not that there was much else to do in terms of entertainment here. No cinemas to go for. No Opera or theatres. So dinner parties and dances become one of the great sources of entertainment.

Another aspect of living in a gated environment, even if you don’t get all the details at once, someone else will supply you with different excerpts of the incidents.

“Did you hear that Ray beat up Fred?”
“Really? What happened?”
“Ray saw Jane dancing with Fred and he was jealous.”
“But errr why?”
“Ah they are saying that Ray has a relationship with Jane.”
"Isn't Jane married to Martin?"

We chose to live in a gated community because of the convenience of facilities, promise of security and proximity to people who are possibly leading similar lives to us. I said possibility, because all of the residents in the gated community are expatriates like us. People who are here mainly due to work contracts. Thus living in a gated community would give us the opportunity to make fast friends in this artificial expatriate environment when people come and go all the time. One year here, six months there. There isn’t much time to form deep friendships. Some do eventually stay on for a long time, others move on as soon as they managed to make friends.

Life within the walls can be somewhat artificial and unreal, compared to life outside the walls, that is. In a country where women have to wear black shapeless robes to cover themselves, within the walls they are allowed to wear anything they like. Except those black flowing robes that is. In fact, almost all forms of local outer clothing, namely the guthra and abaya is not allowed. In some gated communities, women wearing headscarf, even the brightly candy coloured ones are frowned upon and treated like an outcast. Some of the residents do not want to be reminded that they are in a country were there is a strict social dress code for women.

Perhaps our lives in here are so sad, that even the smallest gossip would generate such widespread interest.

“Did you know, that girl she is working as prostitute as sideline here.”
“Acckk really?”
“Yes she has been servicing some of the men here.”

Living in a close knit community is a new experience for me. AndI have since found that the kampung-mentality is actually a universal quality, rather than just a Malay concept. No matter where, there are some nosy people about, some sort of scandal going on, some affairs and hanky-panky. One self appointed penghulu, a mother hen who keeps tabs on people, the nosy parker who reports goings on and of course, the E! journalist wannabe.

But at the same time, there are also genuine people. People who are struggling to make an honest living. Trying to make a better life, if not for themselves but for their families. People who try their best to get along with their neighbours and friends.

The coin has two faces after all.

And tomorrow we will be saying good bye to another friend here. C'est la vie.


CK said...

So any idea where's your next destination? :)

Sunflora said...

Allahualam. :)

Kak Teh said...

you mean you are leaving for somewhere? when?

anasalwa said...

sunflora: where ever you are, wish you with salam harum-wangi and all the best in the world.

Sunflora said...

Errk kak teh no, another friend here is returning to France. One went to Japan 2 weeks ago.

Anasalwa.. thanks so much dear. And I wish the same for you too.

Leen Ash Burn said...

You'd never think that the supposedly well-travelled, sophisticated expats would have the mentality of a Lumba Kuda flat dweller kan? But there you go.


atenah said...

sounds merimaskan...