Project Lockdown #1: Kuala Lumpur

Edited by: Chua Jia Ying

2003. A week-long travel restriction on travellers from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam, among others, was imposed following the outbreak of a then-novel coronavirus – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

2020. We see a repeat in history but on a much larger scale.

In this article, our writers detail the surreal experience and impacts of the movement control order through their eyes.

ZARA_KL_004Photo by: Zara Abbas

“Those brick red chairs whisk me back to another time- an entirely different place. The sounds of people shouting out orders, humidity gathering itself on my skin in the form of sweat. The smell of char kuey teow and sizzling meat from a nearby stall. And most importantly- the burst of flavours on my tongue, jostling each other for room on my tastebuds. 

All of that is gone now. The kopitiam is now devoid of chatter and noise, but silence screams louder than ever. What is left behind is a few stalls, shying away from one another like scared children. What is left is an owner of a chicken rice stall, struggling to sell more than a 100 packets each day, trying to encourage customers to visit for dinner too. Dwindling customers are silent behind the masks stretched across their faces. The difference between the kopitiam merely weeks ago and now is scary, strange, every fearful word there is. There are people longing to go out, and people longing to return home. There are people who are able to return but unable to touch their loved ones. 

Hawker centres are a constant, something I’ve always taken for granted. I’m sure I speak for all Malaysians when I say I really, really look forward to the day it returns to what it once was- crowded, humid and familiar.” – Zoe Yap


Processed with VSCO with 6 presetPhoto by: Tatiana Sutulova

“Social Distancing seems like a common phrase these days. “Stand 1.5 meters away from everyone and everything around you!” It does seem to give out a bleak visual to accompany an even bleaker situation. However, I personally feel like social distancing is an act of solidarity. We agree to have barely any contact, physical or social, with anyone to protect ourselves, our families and our society. We cooperate and we work together, we have patience and we are kind to those who need help the most. Sundry shops that operate to serve our needs, making sure stock is enough to fill up their shelves for us, they deserve more credit than just being storeowners. Because of them, we have what we have in our kitchen right now, we are able to put food down on our dining tables and our family won’t be going hungry during the ‘lockdown’.” – Christie Wong


Processed with VSCO with 6 presetPhoto by: Tatiana Sutulova

“The hospital seems busier than usual. Nurses clutching clipboards bustled around and the wards were so crowded that it reminded me more of a busy bus stop than a healthcare centre. 

I walked out and just as I was about to take a breath of fresh air: “Oi wear face mask lah!” I didn’t know Malaysians could be that disturbed by my breathing mechanisms. It’s not like I’m going to infect or anything. Moreover, what happened to the times when people would litter used tissues or spit on roads?

My stomach began grumbling, I walked to the nearest grocery store to grab something to snack on (Gardenia maybe?) Why is there a queue to enter a normal convenience store? I stepped back to look at the signboard just to make sure my mind isn’t playing tricks on me. Nope, still Pasar Raya Ahmad.

Great, people are hoarding food now? Is it a TikTok trend or something? Like the one where people were wasting milk cartons. I sighed and picked up whatever that’s left and called it a meal.” – Irishka

Full photo collection by our photographers, Zara & Tanya is now up on Instagram (@musamonga)!


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