This happened in March. I decided to take a short detour on my way back from office and thought it would be a good idea to return through the KL convention centre. My destination was the Starbucks inside. I loved the elaborate interview Starbucks goes through before getting my coffee. By the time they finish enquiring about the different boundary conditions for my drink, I usually don’t remember what I ordered in the first place. But then they do make great coffee.
The convention centre is an impressive building close to the twin towers. I was too distracted to notice the unnaturally empty surroundings around the centre, devoid of the usual loitering tourist. At a distance, next to the main entrance, I noticed a fleet of swanky cars. A couple of old men had just alighted and they were surrounded by a group of animated photographers clicking away wildly. There were four colourful dragon puppet like things frolicking around the old men in an apparent bid to welcome them. All this was accompanied by loud and incoherent drumming. Apparently finesse and sobriety were dispensed with in a traditional welcome in this part of the world. Obviously the whole thing was too much of a visual treat not to attract a more detailed attention from yours truly. So I decided to take a closer look and followed the troupe as they entered the convention centre. The old men were the centre of the attention and obviously were some sort of local bigwigs. A few guys in suits and dark glasses hovered around whispering what sounded like Roger, I can't hear you, this is fun, albeit in a Chinese accent, into state-of-the-art walkies.
The ensemble entered the main hall. So did I. The sight inside was stunning. The whole hall was spectacularly decked up with flowers and confetti with a huge crowd in their best evening attire. They were in groups sitting around brilliantly made-up dining tables. The moment the gang I was shadowing entered the whole hall stood up and everybody was completely silent.A deep voice announced over the microphone ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dato Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak the prime minister of Malaysia’.
I just had the biggest WTF moment of the decade. To say I was surprised would have been an understatement. Being an Indian, who has grown up watching the smallest cog of the government machinery guarded by a posse of grim faced sentinels and having bragged about the sixty car convoy of our own prime minister which I happened to witness a couple of times, standing at an arm’s length of a head of the government, by mistake, was a situation I was finding very difficult to come to terms with. As Wodehouse would describe it, I was in a pickle.
A huge board at the side proudly indicated that I had crashed into the Chinese New Year Gala Dinner. That explained why most of the guests were in the traditional Chinese attire. There was only one person in the world who would have convinced me to have been bold enough to continue with my bravado and sit out the whole event and pretend to be a guest from the Indian embassy. But he was trying to sell things on EBay a thousand miles way. So I felt it was time to call off the adventure and decided to quietly make my exit. I hoped that no one would notice an individual hopelessly under-dressed for the occasion, listening to an IPod had wandered in and none did.
A big sign outside listed the guests for the evenings. The ambassador from the People’s Republic of China, the American ambassador, the British high commissioner, a host of industry and organization heads, the city administration, the party had them all. I do recall not reading any name from the Indian embassy though. I tried to exit the building with that same confidence with which I went in but that plan ran into difficulties when I discovered I had lost my way. But before I was hauled up for walking briskly with no apparent reason around the corridors outside the hall, a sweet lady comprehended my problem and cheerily showed me the way out.
So what was the LFI* ? As long as you walk assertively without furtive glances, you can crash the most exclusive of parties.
*Learning from Incident. I read quality management manuals with my meals.
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