Washington DC has Pennsylvania Avenue. London has Downing Street. And Malaysia has Putrajaya, and in Putrajaya, the place that would be an equivalent to Downing Street or Pennsylvania Avenue would be Dataran Putra.
I have seen images of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Complex many times before but never at close range until recently that is, when I happened to be in Putrajaya, the ‘new’ administrative capital of Malaysia.
Putrajaya itself is relatively new when compared to the more established Kuala Lumpur (KL), the nation’s capital. So established is KL that with all the development work currently on-going in KL, it will soon achieve ‘concrete jungle’ status, where the roads are always chock-a-block and whatever highways there are connecting KL-lites to all points of the compass, it is still not enough considering the sheer volume of traffic on weekends, never mind weekdays.
Before long, the buzzword will be ‘urban renewal’, if what happened to all the big cities in the world happens to KL, which is another buzzword, ‘urban decay’. Hopefully not.
In contrast, Putrajaya residents are spoiled somewhat, with the sheer width of the roads making driving actually fun. Alongside the wide roads of Putrajaya, there are lanes dedicated for the use of bicycle enthusiasts, joggers and other keep-fit enthusiasts.
In addition, the number of highways linking Putrajaya to the rest of the country gives one many options as which route to take when one decides to drive from point A to point B.
Spoiled that is, if you do not consider the number of malls available in Putrajaya itself, which can be easily be counted on one hand. But I digress.
The trouble with Putrajaya for me is the road system. Despite the many times I have tried to understand the road system in Putrajaya, I am still stumped, never mind confused, until my other half gave me a very important pointer on how to navigate the streets of Putrajaya.
Well, I still remember half of what she taught me anyway, and that is good enough for me.
Signboards are a very important feature of my navigational system especially in Klang Valley. I have tried to waze myself around but by my smartphone’s battery always falls flat at the crucial moment.
This despite the valiant attempts of my newly acquired power bank to resuscitate the phone to give me that precious few minutes before that voice on Waze triumphantly tells me, ‘you have reached your destination.’
And as Paul McCartney sings in ‘Silly Love Songs’, ‘and I look around me and I see it isn’t so’, it is so demoralising especially when you are SO new to Waze.
But over the weekend, my in-built navigational system (ie relying on signboards and powered by a full tank of petrol) paid handsome dividends for me.
The first was that part of Putrajaya where the food outlets available nearly rivals that of the lone local mall. I will gladly admit that I discovered it by accident and like (or unlike) Columbus, I was glad to have found it regardless of HOW I found it.
Now I have additional options of where to eat and what to eat. Surely a very welcomed discovery.
Secondly, I found Dataran Putra. Loosely translated, it means Putra Square, despite Dataran Putra not being squarish in design but rather circular.
Some would say ‘Circus’ would be more apt but then again, I do not think that will go down too well with a lot of people (from both sides of the political divide, considering the state of politics in the country at the moment).
So ‘Square’ it is, even though it may be circular in design.
What’s the significance of Dataran Putra you might ask? Well, this is where you’ll find the Prime Minister’s Office complex or more commonly referred to as the PMO, images of which I have seen many a times on TV, in the papers and on the Internet.
Bedecked in green, it looks OFFICIAL, if you know what I mean. But then again, it is supposed to look OFFICIAL.
And next to the PMO Complex is the Putra Mosque. Convenient that, for all concerned. A spiritual sanctuary nearby, offering refuge from the madness that is politics and the constant headaches of governing a country.
As you enter the compounds of the mosque, the Putra Mosque IS what it is : sanctuary for the tired and the weary. Its mini gardens dotted by what seems like mini-islands of greenery, caressed by the cool evening breeze coming in from the man-made Tasik Putrajaya (or Putrajaya Lake), making one start forgetting whatever there is to forget, trivialising what should have or would have been trivial in the first place.
And as you enter into the bosom of the mosque and perform your prayers, you feel spiritually revitalised whilst the coolness of the high ceilinged inner prayer hall relaxes and soothes you physically and spiritually and by the time for you to step back to the realities of the physical world, you are revitalised, refreshed and ready to take on what is to come and what has yet to come.
As you make your way out from Dataran Putra, you can but not help notice the ironies that is Dataran Putra.
The office of the Chief Executive of the country, charged with the burden and responsibility of governing the nation with all the trappings of power and authority and next to it, a mosque, as majestic as any other, offering sanctuary for the tired and weary to they who are charged with the responsibility of governing a nation.
The world is full of ironies, isn’t it?
Date : 24 May 2015