Emergencies Bring Communities Together.

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Tell me, regardless of where you live, how often do you really and honestly mingle with your neighbours? I’m not talking about an early-morning nod-and-wave when you go out to the front porch to pick up the day’s newspaper. I’m talking about good and proper conversations, including the exchanging of names and contact numbers.

No? Yeah, neither do I. Well, let me tell you MY story of why I’ve lost touch with mankind.

Before I got married and moved out, I used to live with my parents and a sister in a terrace house within a lovely neighbourhood with friendly and helpful neighbours on either side of us. We had what we’d love to call, a multiracial and multicultural community. We had peace. We attended each other’s open houses. We made some really good friends.

One day, all that life had given to us, life took it away. The neighbourhood turned into a nightmare, with the affluent coming in and buying over homes, tearing the original foundations down and rebuilding it from scratch. Residents came and went. Residents stayed and left. The niceties became the nasties. Good neighbours became bad neighbours. Contractors doing renovations in other homes trespassed into other people’s properties and ransacked their homes for valuables. Your morning can be ruined the moment you wake up and find that your neighbour has parked his or her car in front of your house, thereby blocking your front gate and preventing you from leaving for work, and causing you to run late and quite possibly miss that meeting that your boss was expecting you to attend. There were scenarios like that, and then some.

This year marks my first year of living in a condo with my husband, and yes, we have seen other residents and tenants living in the same block among us, but we haven’t actually stood next to them and talked… until the power cut last night at 10:30pm.

Everyone came out of their units in their sleepwear, children and adults alike, asking the questions that no one had answers to. Pets howled and meowed because of the heat. Children tugged at the hems of their parents’ clothes, demanding to know why the house was in darkness. The mothers turned to the fathers, who then turned to their neighbours. And that’s when the dam broke and conversation started flowing. It was as if we needed something to happen and push us to do our part. Fathers agreed to go down to the guardhouse and work it out with Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), our local electrical utility company. Mothers stayed with the children. Grandparents took care of the pets. Everyone suddenly had a role to play but they didn’t do it alone. It was magical!

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Oh, by the way, because TNB had said that it will take them a couple of hours to solve the problem, my husband and I eventually went out for a drink. Since we know of a cafe that stays open 24 hours, we knew where to head. Sudo Brew (above) for our favourite brand of flavoured beer, and a bite to eat. True enough, the electricity came back on two hours later, and we’ve all gained a new friend or two.

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