So there I was in Medan, Indonesia. I was feeling sick and nauseous due to the thought of the flight back home the next day. I have a fear of flying. I wasn't feeling very good and I just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep.
However Pak Supardji (I changed his name on purpose), our tour guide had other plans for us. He brought us to Istana Maimoon. It was a splendid palace built on a sprawling piece of land. The palace wasn't that grand. It's nothing like Istana Iskandariah in Kuala Kangsar or Istana Besar in Johor Bahru, but it had this old world charm to it.
A long story cut short, after visiting the balairong seri etc, as I was making my way down from the grand steps towards our tourist van (or van pariwisata in Indonesian), I saw my brother and father make way for the royal quarters. I wanted yelled at them:
"Ayah!! That's where the royal family live! You cannot go there!"
See, the descendants of the Malay Sultans of Deli still lived in the palace, and according to the curator, the royal quarters were off limits. But my dad and brother had other plans. They wanted to use the loo.When a man has to go, than he has to go, come rain or shine. I was waiting for a security guard to tell them off or at least stop them from going towards the royal quarters.
To my surprise, a security guard who was standing nearby just looked at them and did absolutely nothing.
I waited for them to come back. When they finally came back, my brother told me that the people who were operating the toilet were the royal family. A sharp imaginary stab of a dagger went straight through my heart.
In Indonesia, the royal family of the Malay Sultans of Deli are not given a single cent as allowance. I learned that the museum curator, the person who collected donations for the palace and the toilet operator were all part of the royal family.
The government does not give them a single cent to maintain the palace. The fund for the maintenance of the palace was solely derived from public donations, and also through the selling of various souvenirs.
What saddens me is that the Sultans of Deli were Malay Sultans. Some of them actually married Malay princesses from Perak. The museum curator was a direct descendant of one of the princesses from Perak that had married into the Deli Royal Family. His grandmother currently lives in Kuala Kangsar.
My brother and I told him about how the royal family here lived in absolute wealth. Not just the Sultans and their immediate family members, but also their extended family members. I told Pak Supardji that the Sultans here in Malaysia use Bentleys and Maybachs as modes of transportation. We explained high and low about the high status of royalty here.
Pak Supardji's melancholic reply was short but full of meaning:
"The royalty here rents out their toilets for money to eat"