Thursday, September 17, 2015

Today, I feel like I do not belong

Why was the hatred that was spewed at the rally met with silence? Why did the Malay leaders not speak out against it?

A few weeks ago, while my friends and I were having a late supper at a mamak place in Jalan Ipoh, an elderly Malay gentleman in his 70s invited himself to our table. He then congratulated us on being ‘friends’.

“It is such a rarity to see people of different races having gatherings such as this,” he said as he shook our hands and took some time to get to know each of us.

My friends and I found it pretty amusing. We didn’t see anything unusual about us hanging out together. I mean, we do lots of things together all the time – we put on theatre shows, we handle acting workshops, play board games, celebrate birthdays, go on holidays, have potlucks and cookouts, watch movies, enjoy karaoke sessions… we even find comfort in each other when a shoulder to cry on is greatly needed.

While it was nice being applauded by the Malay gentleman for holding on to the Malaysian spirit, I thought it was kind of sad to have someone congratulate you for having friends of other races. I mean shouldn’t this be the norm in a country which takes pride in its multiracial status?

Today I finally understand the Malay gentleman’s surprise at the closeness he observed between the multiracial group he came across sharing a meal at the mamak shop. Maybe, we were never meant to be together after all.

As I browsed through reports on the Red Shirts gathering, and watched the video clips of what transpired and what the protestors and spokesperson of the rally had to say, my heart sank.

“Enough is enough. This is our land. Menjadi warganegara bukan bermakna kita ada hak bersama. Pendatang is pendatang. Babi is babi.”

The people I saw preaching those words weren’t people who had been dragged over and paid to say such things. They seemed like intelligent people. They seemed like my peers. They could have been my neighbours and my colleagues.

If educated young Malay folks had such strong hatred for the non-Malays, I fear for my future in this country I call my home.

But why? What have I done wrong to be treated in such a despicable way? Is it my fault that my ancestors weren’t Malay? Is it my fault that I have Indian blood running through my veins?

I have been a good child to my motherland all these years. And I can’t put into words how much I love and treasure my Malaysia. But today I feel like I do not belong here.

I used to believe that my Malay friends were the real Malays while those inciting hatred were puppets under the influence of others. But today as our atmosphere filled with so much hatred, my world came tumbling down. I did not see anyone standing up for me.

While some of my Malay friends ridiculed the Red Shirts Rally and some posted pictures with hashtags #IamMalaysian, the rest remained silent. As for me, I tried very hard to crack some jokes on social media to take my attention away from what the rally had turned into. But after a few attempts, I couldn’t keep it up. It had gotten to me.

The thing is, if only the Malay leaders who had been so opposed to the Red Shirts Rally, would have uttered a few words to console our bleeding hearts, it would have made a difference. It would have been much appreciated. If only my Malay friends had offered words of comfort to ease our troubled minds, instead of joking about images of Air Asia stewardesses dressed in red…that would have meant a lot.

I find myself wishing they had been a little bit more sensitive. Is that too much to ask?

All my life I have been proud to be Malaysian. All my life I have been confident that if I was hanging on a cliff, my Malaysian brothers and sisters could be counted on to give me a hand. Today, I am not sure.

In my 40 years of life, I have contributed to this country and its people in so many ways. I have raised my two children to love this nation and to contribute to society when they are capable of standing on their own two feet. I have even written articles calling those who abandoned this country for another as unpatriotic. But today, I ask myself if I was wrong all along.

Maybe this isn’t my country. Maybe I do not belong here. Do I sound bitter? Trust me, it’s nothing compared to how I feel inside.

For what it is worth, thank you Malaysia for putting me in my place.


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