This morning, as usual, I went for a walk in out local park, Taman Cempaka. It is named after a popular local flowering tree, and a number of them are planted there.
The sweet scented flower is used in aromic oils, garlands and in Malay traditional medicines. In Bali it is used in offerings to the gods. Of course, there are always a few people who steal the flowers from the park trees, apparently believing that the word “public” means they have a right to help themselves, in spite of signs to the contrary.
(Like-minded people go fishing in the river that flows through the park, sitting right next to the signs that say: NO FISHING. Malaysians are very good at pretending laws either don’t exist or aren’t intended to include them.)
I usually walk with my husband, but he was busy this morning, so I was alone. I did stop to talk to one of our neighbours, though. While chatting, a couple near us were stealing flowers from a cempaka tree. Some people jogging past them made some remark in passing, which I didn’t catch, about what they were doing. The gentleman I was speaking to – who is 70 years old – explained to the couple that one wasn’t supposed to pick flowers growing in parks. He was polite and non-confrontational.
At which the man can charging at him like a pit-bull, his fist clenched into a fist, drawn back in a way that suggested he was going to let fly any moment. I was so astonished at this unwarranted attack, I thought he must be joking. He wasn’t. My neighbour attempted to be conciliatory. Mistake. This enraged the man still further. Nice fellow this one. His wife made ineffectual noises in the background.
It looked like escalating into an attempt to inflict real physical conflict, so I stepped in front of him. He continued to pour out venom and threaten my neighbour with bodily harm for, apparently, daring to suggest that he wasn’t allowed to steal flowers. I wouldn’t let him past. His fist, clenched tight, waved in the air past my ear, shaken at my neighbour as he pushed against me in his eagerness to get at his target. (He really did remind me of a dog straining on a leash at this stage – he paid me no attention whatsoever, any more than a dog listens when it’s riled.) My neighbour, without actually apologising for speaking the absolute truth, remained calm and softly spoken, suggesting that they shake hands and go on their way.
That enraged him still further. “We weren’t breaking the branches,” the wife said, “just picking the flowers.” As if that excused anything, least of all his aggression.
In the end, I grabbed my neighbour by the arm and turned away.
If I knew the name of the man, I’d write it here, but I don’t. Stealing is stealing, mate. Read the signs if you don’t believe me.
And I am left wondering if he beats his wife. I wouldn’t be surprised. Or maybe he just has early Alzheimer’s and the personality changes that go with it.
A violent man or a sick one, he certainly enlivened my morning walk.