It was the first day of the not-a-lockdown movement control order and my wife Sheril A Bustaman and I realised we had to do the groceries for the week.
The day before was surreal because we saw instances in the news and also the not-news, aka social media, of Malaysians panic-buying and all the supermarkets were either packed with people or had empty shelves.
But we went anyway.
“Oh my god sayang! It seems to be a maddening mass calmness! How are we going to jostle our way through this insane normal crowd and queue up in these average length lines?” I said sarcastically to my wife.
She just laughed at me.
The scene that we saw in the supermarket was one that was like any other ordinary day in Malaysia. There wasn’t a huge crowd, just a normal number of people calmly buying groceries. The shelves were fully stocked and there were all the essentials, from chicken to vegetables and fish. The lines at the cashiers were not long, even compared to most weekends.
“It was a bit busy last weekend and we did run out of some canned items at the end of the day. But we restock on a daily basis. So every morning, things are back to normal. I don’t understand why these people were so kiasu!” one of the staff at the supermarket told me as she was arranging bottles of spaghetti sauce on a shelf.
We continued our shopping. We didn’t have much to buy because it was only for the week.
So we got a whole chicken, some box milk, Milo and Vitagen for the kids, a bit of vegetables and some snacks. While we were queuing up to weigh the chicken, a nice lady who was also doing her groceries chatted with us.
“Haiya! Why want to panic? Government has assured us food supply is enough already. See? Everything is available! Why panic? Go out and shop calmly, then go home and shower to stay clean,” she ranted.
Below is a video of our supermarket trip:
We felt lucky living in an enclave (somewhere in Shah Alam) where most of the locals are sane and rational.
Since the not-a-lockdown movement control order, the streets have been quiet and the restaurants, mamaks and kopitiams remain open but nobody has violated the rule to not sit and eat or drink. They all stand one metre apart from each other and take away the food.
The lake gardens where most people go for their walks and exercise are now very quiet. Every now and then, you’ll see two or three individuals walking or running by themselves. But the gatherings such as for taichi and zumba don’t happen anymore.
I admit that I still go for my daily runs around the housing area. But I do it early in the morning when no one is about so as to still abide by the proper social distancing rules.
The police are doing their rounds to make sure everyone abides by the rules and also to ensure safety. They go by the parks and food outlets to make sure there aren’t any large groups of people.
They smile and wave politely at me and then leave me when they see me running on my own around my housing area. Thank you Abang Polis for doing your job!
So when I read and watch the news that people in many parts of the country (I’ve noticed they are mainly in the Klang Valley) are ignoring the ‘not a lockdown’ movement control order, I get quite angry.
The situation is obviously very dangerous, hence the order. The virus is spreading fast and we need to be serious about it to keep our country safe.
So I plead to Malaysians to please not go out and meet people unnecessarily. Three days have past and there are just another eleven days more. Read a book. Watch that stand-up comedy special on Netflix that you’ve been meaning to.
Play with your kids. Hug your wife or husband. Heck, make love! Just stay at home. Duduk di rumah diam diam.
With all that being said, I also wish that the government and authorities can be much more forthcoming with their information. Give us instructions properly because we are relying on you now to make sure we are okay.
Don’t tell university students that they need to vacate the campuses and go back to their hometowns only to make a U-turn and then say they can’t go back.
Be clear on what travels are allowed, whether interstate or intrastate. Tell us how the businesses that can operate should operate. Give us clear and rational guidelines and we shall follow because if the communication isn’t clear, then you can’t blame people for not taking it seriously. But I think people are slowly becoming aware of how serious the situation is.
So I would like to suggest to the government to give us daily updates so that we Malaysians aren’t kept in the dark.
In the 1930s and 1940s, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation daily on radio to keep them informed of the recession and World War 2. It was called the Fireside Chats. It helped to keep the citizens aware and also to keep them calm. It worked.
Finally, I would also like to say that we need to take the situation very seriously indeed because it is serious. But, as times are tough, and we are practically being isolated from each other, we should also learn to not take ourselves too seriously. Have a little fun and try to keep calm because being too stressed and serious can also lead to panic and chaos (and believing and spreading fake news on Whatsapp!).
My wife is already annoyed at me for constantly acting out scenes from my favourite zombie apocalypse movies and television shows such as 28 Days Later, Zombi Kampung Pisang, The Walking Dead and Wayward Pines. I still firmly believe that instead of stocking up on instant noodles, what we really need are a shotgun, a CB radio and a horse that can run really fast!
So take care, stay safe, remain healthy, and most importantly, keep calm everyone. I strongly believe that we will get through this. We got this!
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