An Afternoon in Masjid India

September 19, 2010. In and around Kuala Lumpur are a huge variety of markets selling a whole host of products that range from freshly caught fish to traditional fabrics and garments. Take a walk through one of these markets and you'll experience a small snapshot of the local way of life. Markets can be a great way to immerse yourself into the thick of things - there is so much going on that it truly is a feast for the senses. 

Personally, I love markets and they are one of the first places I head off to when I'm in a new location. After arriving in KL I scouted a market that was situated around the Chinese and Indian districts called Masjid India. The actual name of the street is Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. Approaching Masjid India I could feel my anticipation rise and I prepared my senses for the incoming onslaught.

As I rounded the corner to the start of the street market I could see the yellow and blue roofs of the individual stalls that each shop occupies, the number of people grew and soon, without really knowing it, I'm right in the thick of things with no real space to move about. 

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85mm f4 - 5.6; 17mm, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 200 

Preparations first - Aperture Priority mode is selected, ISO is bumped to 200, and the exposure compensation is increased to 0.33ev. I can now control the depth of focus whilst making sure I don't miss a photo opportunity due to a slow shutter speed.

Initially I'm overwhelmed and I'm not really sure what to look at, what to photograph, or how to behave but that soon changes and I begin to feel right at home. I enjoy the more candid photos so I try to not to announce myself before I take any photo, however sometimes, as I come to realise, this can't be helped. Afterwards, I like to show the person I've photographed the photo I took - a great way to break the ice allowing you to take additional photos of locals and their stall. 

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85mm f4 - 5.6; 44mm, f5.6, 1/60, ISO 200, 0.33ev

Early into Masjid India the temperature rises, noise increases and the smells from all the different foods, flowers as well as the people (including myself) intensifies. Unfazed I continue onwards. The one thing that stands out most is the vibrancy and colour of the place - everything is a different colour and nothing is at all dull.

There is so much to take in and as I slowly make my way through the market I observe as much as possible. Not an easy task as every store is different - clearly with no organisation or planning. One stall could be selling towels, the next traditional garments and the following a local culinary item - chicken wrapped in bamboo. Absolutely barmy but fantastic all at the same time. 

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85mm f4 - 5.6; 61mm, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 200, -0.33ev

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85mm f4 - 5.6; 33mm, f5.6, 1/40, ISO 200, 0.33ev

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85mm f4 - 5.6; 85mm, f5.6, ISO 200, -0.33ev

The further I walk on the more fascinated I become by the local food. I strike up conversations with the stall keepers so I can better understand what is on offer. As I foreigner I get the feeling they're enthusiastic to share a piece of their world - I'm even offered a sample free of charge!

One saying I really like, I don't know who said it first is, "I'd rather regret something I did than regret not doing it" or something to that effect. I feel I should be trying any or all of these new dishes and feel guilty whenever I pass up on the opportunity. I justify missing the chance on some dishes by claiming I've tried them elsewhere, such as chicken feet - I've had the Chinese Dim Sum version so I don't need to try the Malay curry version, really I don't. Even though it looks so appetizing!

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85 f4 - 5.6; 66mm, f5.6, 1/60, ISO 200

Likewise with fish balls, which I've had back in Hong Kong. However, I would actually recommend these although for some reason I'm not that hungry right now. 

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85mm f4 - 5.6; 85mm, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 200

Or perhaps chicken floss. Still, I'm captivated by the colour and presentation of all these cuisines - there is something utterly unique about seeing food displayed as such. Such order from chaos.

Canon 400D, EFS 17 - 85mm f4 - 5.6; 35mm, f5.6, 1/60, ISO 200, -0.67ev

I move onwards and push myself through the remainder of Masjid India, however I soon find I'm ready to leave. I've spent the better part of 3 hours roaming around the market observing and experiencing as much as possible. I've conversed with the locals, tried their food and I leave with a better understanding of what life is really like in Kuala Lumpur. I reckon I've exhausted all I can from Masjid India and throw in the towel hoping I've got something in the camera to express my afternoon. 

I have a feeling I'll be back.