Friday, October 30, 2015

Aman Central - A Lifestyle Beckons

For many of us, an occasional trip to Penang often means going into a city with all its glitzy malls, branded goods and chic restaurants.

Aman Central opened on the 1st of this month. H&M, Chi, Sakae Sushi, Padini Concept Stores, Nando's, Starbucks... with one opening of this new upmarket mall, a new lifestyle is emerging. Coffee above RM10 a cup, gym in a mall, hawker food in a posh environment, everything shiny, bright and inviting. Where once, Alor Setar used to be a city with a town kind of lifestyle, this will surely and subtly infuse a lifestyle of branded names.

You walk into the mall and you can feel the difference. Baskin Robbins at RM10 per scoop. We used to balk at such prices for ice-creams. Yet if you look at the traffic at the ice-cream parlour, you would think that the people don't seem to be batting any eyelids where the price is concerned. Expensive clothings are flying off their racks too. The economic slowdown doesn't seem to show yet.

But perhaps that lifestyle has always been there. It was just that there were no avenues for it to be gauged. I was admiring a pair of shoes which was almost RM400. There were at least 5 pairs hanging on the rack. A few days later, they were gone, replaced by another series. Maybe the opening of this mall is good for the local economy. It is too soon to tell but already hawker centres in the viccinity are undergoing their own facelifts.

Yet there are still little tell-tale signs of small town here. Patrons who seem lost in the vast multi-tiered parking lots. One pakcik even drove against the traffic coming down the multi-tiered carpark. Toilets are smelly and wet. It feels as if those using it don't quite know how to keep the floors dry mostly. But these will surely change.... hopefully.

The official opening will be held in November. Not all outlets are operational. Not all business space is occupied. It is almost a month down the road. Cars still jam up the place, albeit at specific times now. Some businesses are thriving but there are those which are struggling too. But whatever it is, this mall heralds something new to this town-like city.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Parking Lot

Son started work this year. Like many of young adults entering the job market, the place to start.... the bottom. It's a place devoid of perks. And like most parents whose kid has just started work, conversations evolved around his new phase. In one of our conversations, it got to the parking issue. When you are a junior, you sometimes don't even get a parking pass. In cities like KL, everything is congested and packed. Parking costs. And so, he told me.... some day he is going to have his own parking lot.

A parking lot. Those in the senior positions often get their own parking lots. Senior managements have designated parking lots. The bigwigs get paid parking lots. Small people with limited $$$ pay for their parking lots. Ironic, huh? Somehow, doesn't it feel like it's always 'one-up' for the privileged?

The parking lot conversation made me think about leadership. Contrary to what people say about being given the opportunity to serve as a leader, I think it is more about owning the privileges than anything else. A parking lot is just one of many, a symbol of position and power.

I once parked my car in a designated shaded car park by mistake. Being new, I did not realise that some of the lots nearer to the main entrace were designated parking lots too. I only parked there for a day as the usual place I parked was undergoing some construction. I am usually very early to work. In the gray light of dawn, I missed the sign above. A few days later, as I was walking, a voice called up to me and asked whether a certain number plate was my car. I said yes. And immediately after, I was reminded that it was his parking lot. A parking lot serves too as a reminder of position. When that position is deemed to have been trespassed, there seemed to be this need to reaffirm that position.

Parking lots are symbols of power. Go anywhere and you will see designated parking lots. In olden days, the division of our social structure was very clear. The world seems to have move on but the feudal mindset has remained entrenched as ever. Leadership comes with even more privileges. In the olden days, generals and kings would lead the charge in a battle. They stand an equal (if not more) chance of dying in the battlefield. History is filled with stories of such leaders. Fast forward a few centuries, leaders these days hide behind an amazing array of defences. And they tell us we need to keep them alive to lead us.

Service.... If at all it is service that is the core of leadership... Privileges and recognitions. I think they ring truer for reasons to lead. A leader gets a private jet. Small people never get that.

Parking lots are about wealth and power. Take a walk in a condo and an apartment. The difference is clear for all to see. Designated and none designated. Shaded and road side parking. Parking lots... We need to buy them or get them designated to us. Either way, they point not to humble leadership but arrogance of power and wealth.