Monday, April 30, 2012

Did Dr. Seuss Visit Penang?

When I leave home to walk to school Dad always says to me,
"Marco keep your eyelids up, and see what you can see."
But when I tell him where I've been, and what I think I've seen,
He looks at me and sternly says, "Your eyesight's much too keen.
Stop telling such outlandish tales,
Stop turning minnows into whales."
Now, what can I say when I go home today?
                  From And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street
                  by Dr. Seuss (published 1937)

Oh, how I used to love this book as a child. I remember lying on my bed, turning the pages to look at Dr. Seuss's outlandish illustrations and enjoying the story Marco embellishes about what he sees on his way home from school along Mulberry Street. Growing up in a quiet Houston suburb, I never saw anything more exciting than a golf cart rolling down the lane. My children cannot make the same claim. No need to invent sights to behold because, unlike on Mulberry Street, anything is possible in Penang. Sometimes I wonder if Dr. Seuss ever had the chance to visit this city. Perhaps it would have inspired him.

Walking home Friday, my daughter exclaimed, "Watch out for the cow, Mama," as we strolled through the school parking lot. Cow? We're in an area filled with homes, condo towers and beach resorts. There are no pastures nearby. Why would a cow be here? But she was right.

Does Penang have leash laws regarding cattle?

Then came another cow on a leash. It seems that the school parking lot was the perfect place to graze. Whatever! If my story ended here, I'd still claim it was worth telling people.

Nom, nom. Can't talk. Eating grass.

Next thing I knew, I had to jump off the sidewalk as a man on a motor scooter zipped by on it. This is actually not all that unusual here. He pulled into the parking lot and gave a ride to the two cowboys.

A little further down the road, I came across what Dr. Seuss might call  "a broken down wagon".

Even in Penang, you don't normally see this on the road.

They were busy tying flowers onto the posts. Like Marco in the story, I guess they thought their cart was a little too tame. My two younger kids didn't seem the bit enthralled by the sights we had just seen.

After a while, my middle school child was a bit past due for arriving home, so I headed back to the school to find him. (This is when I started seriously considering getting him a mobile phone.) Aha! No "Rajah with Rubies", but the cart was completely decorated.

A flower bedecked chariot is something to see, sitting aside on Mulberry Street. 

But now... I don't know... It still doesn't seem right...

But it'd look simply grand with a great big Drum Band!

A band that's so good should have someone to hear it.

A large crowd gathered behind the cart.

People were streaming from the nearby hotels over to the cart. They were mostly Indians, but I saw Chinese and Malays, too. Many people had thumbprint-sized red dots on their forehead, much bigger than the bindis I'm accustomed to seeing on women. Looking around on the internet, I'd guess it was a tilaka symbolizing the third eye. But I really don't know and don't have a way to confirm it.

At this point, my oldest kid finally emerged from the school.

Clearly this cart was "really too heavy a load for one beast." It needs two cows at least. Ahhh, now the cows make sense. The cart started to make its way onto the busy street, followed by the crowd, drummers, and someone blowing a whistle rhythmically.

Say! That makes a story no one can beat (when I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street).

But then there came an "awful traffic mix-up."

It takes Police to do the trick,
To guide them through where traffic's thick!

A few uniformed guards stepped out in front of the procession, halting traffic where necessary. You can imagine how quickly the cross traffic flew when they saw what was coming down the road towards them. Stopping at red lights was not an option!

Confetti started popping out. Not dropped from airplanes as in Dr. Seuss's story but shot out of hand-held cardboard tubes instead. There was a even a Chinese boy running behind them — but no magician or man with a 10-foot long beard that I could see.

I was almost home and...

I swung 'round the corner and dashed through the gate,
I ran up the steps,
I felt simply great!
I had a story that no one could beat
(and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street).

Everything excites me and makes my heart beat! But what exactly did I witness? I don't know. My girl thought maybe it was a funeral procession because of the large portrait on the cart. Were the fireworks coming from the nearby Hindu temple that night a coincidence? Unlike poor Marco with his unimaginative father, you can see anything on Jalan Mulberry. 

1 comment:

  1. Love it. Dr. Seuss is one of my favourite authors ;-) Like your analogy.


I read each and every comment. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Comment moderation is on, so your comment may not appear immediately.

Web Analytics