IT is past midnight and I have just come back from a long day of Wesak celebrations with my family. We walked all the way from Brickfields to Petaling Street then on to Bukit Bintang. However, we didn’t continue the journey back to Brickfields as my little ones were by then wilting and I thought they deserved some food as well as rest. I thought they did amazingly well to walk all that distance without even once complaining about being tired.
Only Maya and Mika took part in this adventure, as Max was away, and it wasn’t the first time they were traversing the streets of Kuala Lumpur. But with every similar experience, they get to see people from all walks of life, which broadens their minds. On this particular walk, they got to see people come together to celebrate a big event, and were exposed to different cultures. There were thousands of people out in the parade; not only Malaysians but Burmese, Nepalese, Indians, Sri Lankans, Caucasians … and many more.
What was really fantastic was how restaurant owners along the way opened their doors and gave away mineral water, lemonade and candies. Unfortunately, their act of kindness also meant there was a lot of littering. I just wish people would learn to throw away their rubbish responsibly. Honestly, how difficult can that be?
Even though my kids are still too young to understand religion properly, I have no objections to letting them see and experience the way people of all denominations celebrate their beliefs.
After our tiring walk, we stopped at the big M to have a break while waiting for Dirk to pick us up. As we were enjoying our meals, we noticed an elderly man – who was not in the staff uniform – clearing away trays that customers left behind. He would go from table to table, throwing away all the leftovers and emptying the trays. Whilst admiring his actions, I noticed that he was also checking each wrapper, box and cup before throwing it away. This made me realise that he was probably very hungry.
I approached the staff and asked if he worked there, to which they replied no, but that he was always there to help. It struck me that he was probably homeless or didn’t have a proper job. He probably survived by eating scraps of leftovers. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, and I immediately bought a set meal for him. Although he didn’t say anything, I could tell from his eyes that he was surprised and very touched. I also gave him some money, which he put into his pocket. He then put his hands together as if in prayer, in our direction.
From his actions, I could tell this old man has a good heart and I felt happy to have helped him, if only in a small way. I didn’t know what to say or how to explain to my kids why I had bought him food, or given him money. Such abject poverty made me cry on the inside.
This incident brought to mind my recent travels where I saw just how great the disparity is between the rich and the poor. My experiences have really opened my eyes and motivated me to create a new label, emel (pronounced eh-mehl), which is my way of helping the less fortunate.
The word “emel” is derived from the word amal, of Arabic origin; it means hope, expectation and aspiration. In Malay, it means good deeds or charity. This new socially conscious fashion initiative offers a range of ready-to-wear apparel, with a percentage of the proceeds going to a selected charity. The first emel outfits will be featured in the coming Raya 2013 ready-to-wear collection, which are available for pre-order today and tomorrow at www.thepoplook.com, www.fashionvalet.comand shop.melindalooi.com.my.
I hope that emel by Melinda Looi will be able to bring some Raya happiness to the less fortunate. By creating an accessibly priced collection, more people will now be able to contribute to charity while doing their Raya shopping!
I am currently also in the midst of a design collaboration with a Malay celebrity, but can only say that more details will be revealed soon.
As humans, we must all do our best to help as many people as possible. Even small deeds that require only a little extra effort on our part (like buying someone a meal) can bring such joy into the lives of the less privileged. By showing that we care, we can bring a heartfelt smile to someone’s face.
Mel’s Place is a fortnightly column by Melinda Looi for The Star newspaper.