I didn’t know what being a Malaysian means
Listening to the chatters of the adults in grandma house on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Brickfields while eating my favorite red bean tong sui along with my cousins.
The adults’ conversations starts off with “We the Chinese….and would mix it with “They the Malai/Dao Si…”. I was six and I didn’t know what being a Malaysian means.
Primary 1 to Primary 6 was learning the way to think as a Chinese (Confucious) and learn my roots as a Chinese through Mandarin. I learnt Bahasa too and managed to do well in UPSR scoring an A. But, I would often shy away from conversing with the Malay kids in my neighborhood as it came out sounding weird and unnatural much like the way my mom and grandma speak Bahasa at the post office.
In some way, I felt foreign and disconnected in my own country. I was 12. Junior high was spent in SMK Vivekananda, Brickfields. It was a radical shift from my typical same race surrounding. Hence, I have no choice but to use my broken Bahasa and try to converse with the Indian and Malay girls and boys from my class. Otherwise, I would have no friends.
For once, I have friends with names that doesn’t start off with a Lee or a Tan but with Ali, Sara, Prakash, Siti, Syed and Aru. I would have breakfasts and lunch that are not chee cheong fun or fish ball noodles but nasi lemak with spicy sambal, nasi groeng and curry mee. I was 13-15. From then on till Uni days in UM, my social circle is no longer made of the same race but multi race.
But the gap in how we define what it means by being a Malaysian is obviously gaping and dividing. We divide in silence. Emotionally, we at times agree to disagree. The media sensationalize it further. Feelings are hurt.
Yet interestingly, we always forget and forgive our conflicts and disagreements when it comes to FOOD. Food dissolves our awkwardness in being at odds with each other on what it means being a Malaysian. Food brings this nation together and it binds us closer than anything else. I have not seen food bearing such powerful social appeal and impact in any other multiracial countries but in Malaysia.
But surely, being Malaysian means more than our common love and passion for our food. If so, what else is there that define us as Malaysian? The answer to that eludes my grandma, my aunts, my mother and myself. I am 34. And so, to the next generations of Malaysians, I now look to you for clues and hopefully answers to what it means as a Malaysian.
Teach me, show it and live it by what it means by being a Malaysian; notwithstanding the differences in our cultures, values, political believes and religion. Love, Malaysian – By Mei Ying C