"IF you listen, you can hear it. The city, it sings." This is the first line from John McGregor's debut novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things.
The author goes on to describe the hustle and bustle of a city, which may seem mundane on the surface. But if you listen closely, it is the sounds, sights and stories of the folk that makes a city beautiful.
Though it may not be as busy as other cities, Johor Baru sings its own tune.
At night, the sight of roaring motorcycles plying the Causeway is hard to forget.
As a night owl, I often see the motorcycles with their large bag compartments whizzing along the main thoroughfares of Jalan Tebrau or Jalan Tun Razak to get to the Sultan Iskandar customs, immigration and quarantine building at the Causeway.
These motorcyclists are among the early risers of the workforce. Many of them start their commute to Singapore as early as a 4am.
It is at this time also that many food stalls selling breakfast staples of kuih, nasi lemak and mee goreng open for business along a stretch of Jalan Tebrau, near Taman Pelangi.
It is a very Johorean trait to start the day with a heavy breakfast. Having a heavy meal of rice and accompanying dishes is typical of the people of Johor and Malacca. Some prefer lontong and nasi lemak.
The "sounds" and "songs" one hears during breakfast is like that of a party. It is the one time of day where people catch up with one another and talk about the latest news or events.
"Did you hear about Safee Sali's divorce? It's all over the front pages," was what one man said to another during breakfast at a coffee shop recently.
You will see all kinds of workers at the coffee shops and stalls. There are those in uniform, formal suits and in jogging attires.
As the day wears on, one will hear the excited sounds of school children riding on buses, cars and vans.
Children scramble to the classrooms, laboratories and school fields just before the first bell goes off. The compound then empties as young minds go a-clicking in the classrooms.
The sights and sounds of lunchtime are quite similar to those of breakfast. The only difference may be the scorching heat of the afternoon sun, which forces many people to shelter in air-conditioned restaurants or heavily shaded premises.
As the sun begins to descend, office workers make the commute back home. JB folk begin heading for the playground with children in tow, while others head for the cinema or park.
Many can now be seen buzzing by on busy highways on their bicycles in groups of two or more.
Some of the cyclists also love to ride at night.
Dusk in Johor is marked by children finishing off their game of badminton or football in the suburbs, or traffic moving about the city centre in Johor Baru.
Of course, eating places such as the mamak, fancy coffee shops and restaurants are the popular haunts of young urban professionals and the older crowd.
All these references to eating simply proves how much eating and drinking are part of social interaction.
As night falls, the sounds of the state capital changes. It is a bit quieter. But it is also when places such as the JB Bazaar, popularly known as Bazar Karat, comes to life.
Another busy place at night is the Pandan wholesale market, of which I have been a frequent visitor since following a friend there once on his grocery rounds.
The market is packed at night as traders buy their produce for their respective businesses.
With these many sounds of the city, even the mundane of places are beautiful when we take the time to appreciate it.
As the John McGregor novel says, the city is full of beauty.