Is jaywalking a crime here?

Credit —

My first day here in Kuala Lumpur. I flew into the city at 630AM and got two hours of sleep on the flight. Turns out, the guys designing aeroplanes seats use dwarfs as a size reference. After four hours of kicking the fellow on the seat next to me, I made into KL International Airport. As the situation in Bangalore, KL airport is placed so far out of the city, you have to take the longest road trip to get to civilization. I took a train ride with my backpack all the way into the city. I was expected to check into a backpacker hostel called Mingle at Pasar Sani, that noon. The train ride was great, the other passengers knew I was a tourist when I pulled my Go-Pro out every time I saw a palm tree from the window. The moment I got to Pasar Seni train station, I turned on the maps on my phone to see which way the hostel was. And there I was, on the crossroads of life. Literally!

Standing on the sidewalk by the train station, I looked at both ends of the street. I saw no pedestrian crossings, no walk signs and no zebra stripes. I was stuck in a weird trance right about now. I didn’t want to jaywalk across the street and get arrested. That was not going to be my first adventure in a new city. I just stood there waiting for someone to cross the street so I could figure out if jay-walking was a crime in KL. I wondered If it was like India? Back home, when there is no car on the road, you can run across like Wile E Coyote chasing Road Runner. For some strange reason, no one wanted to get to the other side of the road for a good three minutes. At this point, I’ve been standing in the sun long enough for my sweat patches to develop sweat patches. Finally, I see a shabby dressed old man with a cigaret in one hand running across the road. “AHH! So you can just run across!” my brain infers. Just then another thought popped in, ‘What if he was just a crazy old man who smokes in public and runs on roads?’. I DON’T want to be that guy! It’s been a good seven minutes and the backpack began to feel heavy on my shoulders for the first time in my six years of travelling. I walked up to a man sitting at a bus shelter nearby and asked him, “How do you I cross the road?”. The man gave me a look of surprise and disgust. I’m sure in his head he was thinking, ‘How do I answer this question without sounding impolite?’. To my surprise, he gets up and crosses the road like it was a casual stroll in the park. Getting to the other side, he turns around and gives me a thumbs up! He was “actions speak louder than words’’ personified. With a dumb smile on my face, I pick my moment and jay-walk across the street. I my head there were cheerleaders doing somersaults and screaming my name as I overcome by first endeavour in a strange land.

I walked further to my hostel, questioning the last 12 mins spent crossing a road. I think to myself, the reason it took me so long to cross a street is only because there is no popular sitcom based in Kuala Lumpur (or nothing I’ve seen). On my first trip to America, every movie or sitcom I had seen was like a subconscious guidebook to the country. If only people here had a more active Netflix scene, road crossing would have not been that big a deal. And as it turns out, jay-walking is not even a word people care about here, felt like home!

Kritarth Srinivasan
Writer / Standup Comedian / Mostly Dancing