My month-long trip to Malaysia was coming to an end. During this month, I had a great time in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, and Penang. Now my next destination was Vietnam.
In Kuala Lumpur, I was able to observe Ramadan and the festival of Hari Raya. In Malacca, I had the pleasure of being invited to a house for dinner and I also visited different cafes where I was able to meet some nice locals. In Penang, I spent my time walking around the streets, eating, and doing street photography.
It was a great time overall and now it was about to end. I was taking a bus from George Town to reach Kuala Lumpur. From there, I was flying to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
I had booked a night bus to Kuala Lumpur which was supposed to reach there early morning. I reached George Town’s Sungai Nibong bus station an hour before the scheduled departure of my bus.
When I reached that bus station, a whole new experience was waiting for me. This article is about that experience and how it tested my patience as well as my ability to refrain from executing quick reactions.
Like what your're reading? Join my newsletter and receive latest updates from my blog.
As I reached Sungai Nibong bus station, I saw some guys asking passengers to buy bus tickets from them. Upon seeing me, one of them — a guy possibly in his mid-20s — walked towards me.
As I walked, he started following me and asked me if I wanted to buy a ticket. “Ticket? Malacca? Kuala Lumpur? Direct bus. Come with me,” he said as he walked beside me.
As I had already booked the ticket online, I had no reason to speak with him about buying a ticket. He repeated his offer, still asking me if I wanted a ticket.
I shook my head and said “no,” without looking at him, as I stood near a staircase, trying to figure out where was the ticket window I was supposed to collect my physical ticket from. The guy was still there, offering me a ‘direct and comfortable bus’ to different cities. I didn’t pay much attention to him when he repeated the same lines.
As I started climbing the staircase, the guy followed me and asked me where did I want to go. “I’m fine,” I said and continued climbing the steps — having no idea what was coming next.
Suddenly I felt as if I had entered in a dark space where I couldn’t see or hear anything. Everything went blank as I felt my head hitting a hard surface. I could feel the rush of the blood flowing through my body and it felt like I would fall down from the stairs. It took me a few seconds to come back to my senses and figure out what had just happened.
The guy was shouting at me in the local language. I realized he had just hit me with all his force and my head had hit the wall. I was still not able to react to his actions. Without saying a word, I picked up my cap and continued climbing the stairs as the guy walked away, still saying something I didn’t understand.
A few years back, I had learned not to give a quick reaction to anything. Before reacting, I make sure to think of my actions and its possible effect. I didn’t say or do anything to him. I climbed the stairs, went to the waiting area, and sat on a chair, thinking about what had happened a few seconds before.
I could think of two options at that moment: One was not to say or do anything and behave like nothing had happened. The second was to go downstairs, meet the guy and ask him about his actions.
I chose the second option. I picked my bag and went looking for him downstairs. I didn’t even remember his face. Walking around, I found a group of guys standing near a gate. One of them looked at me and started walking away while pointing at me and saying something to one of those guys.
I asked the guy to stop and said I wanted to talk to him. He walked towards me with a cigarette in his hand. I didn’t know what will happen the next moment. He could hit me again or those guys could do something to me, too.
“What?” Asked the guy as he came to me. “I want to ask you something,” I told him in a calm voice. “Why did you hit me?”
He didn’t say anything for a moment. I repeated my question saying “I am not here to fight. Just tell me why did you punch me?”
“I asked you twice if you wanted a ticket. You didn’t say anything,” he told me, trying to justify his actions, as if anyone who did not buy a ticket from him was blessed with his punch.
I told him I had shaken my head and said no, twice. I could figure that he felt ignored by failing to notice me saying “No.” Still, there was no reason to get provoked and turn the feeling of being ignored into his violent action.
“You realize you have hurt me, don’t you?” I asked him before adding that I wasn’t hurt physically but his actions had left me with a bad experience.
“I am a guest to your country. This is my last night here. I am leaving with a bad experience. How would you feel if this had happened to you?” I calmly asked him.
Now I could see a change in his body language. He threw his cigarette and looked at me. It looked like he wanted to say something but he took his time. I stood there with patience and after a few seconds, he said, “I am going through a bad time with family and my work.” His voice was softer this time and I could feel a sense of regret as he spoke.
He had clearly realized his actions were unnecessary and uncalled for. He knew he shouldn’t have done what he had just done.
“I know what you do is tough. You are working late at night and I understand things might not be going right with you,” I told him. “I don’t have any anger for you or for what you did.”
He said he knew he shouldn’t have done what he did, and suggested once again that if I had clearly said no, he would have got the idea.
I reminded him again that he had failed to listen to me. I also told him it didn’t matter and his actions were not justified. But realizing things will go back to a bitter note, I told him I was leaving.
Before leaving, we hugged and shook hands. I could feel how strong his hand was as compared to mine. I walked back towards the stairs, trying to forget whatever had happened during those five minutes and feeling a bump on my head which clearly wasn’t there five minutes ago.
I know he regretted his action but as a ‘man’ he couldn’t clearly say “I am sorry.” Not to another man, at least. It wasn’t my intention anyway. It was to make him realize what he did was wrong and I had succeeded.
When I walk in the streets, dozens of people ask me if I want a taxi or an auto or if I wanted to buy something from them. I always politely say no, with an eye contact and a smile. Because I know they are doing their work and simply saying no or smiling isn’t doesn’t hurt.
It was my last night in Malaysia and this experience had left me with some bitterness. I knew I would get over this soon. It didn’t leave me with a bad impression of the country, its people or the guy in particular. But it reminded me once again how everyone is fighting their own fight every given moment. A small incident or some words can trigger negativity inside us and we might end up doing something we never intended to do.
This incident reminded me of an auto driver in India who once misbehaved with me and asked me to get down his auto. When I asked him to calm down and think about what he had just said to me, he instantly regretted his words and said he had some problems at his home. He still dropped me at the airport after this and we also had a cup of tea along the way — to end up on a good note.
Every action has its reaction. But by choosing not to react the same way as the guy did, I made sure not to turn this small incident into a big one. I didn’t tell anyone about this before writing this article. I didn’t feel it was worth sharing, in fact. But I decided to publish this article because experiences — both good and bad — are part of our journey. They should be shared and they deserve to be remembered.
Us humans are vulnerable — whether we admit it or not. Travelling alone, I know how good it feels to find someone who just listens — without judging you or being eager to give an advice. Someone simply listening to you can work wonders. When I listened to the guy acknowledging problems in his life, he also realized he shouldn’t have done what he did.
Us men, we think apologizing makes us look weak, often failing to realize that it’s actually a sign of strength to clearly acknowledge our mistakes.
I was now waiting for my bus to depart and reach Kuala Lumpur from where I was to take another bus to reach the airport. New experiences were waiting for me in Vietnam and I was waiting for them. I was leaving Malaysia with a punch from a stranger, a bump on my head, and lots of experiences to remember.