Knowing you, Knowing me

HAPPY VAISAKHI: Najib at the Tatt Khalsa Gurdwara yesterday. Also present was Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin(not in the picture).

“Eh, I ingat you Melayu tadi, rupanya tak.” (I thought you were Malay, but you’re not) “I bukan Melayu, I ni Malaysian.” (I’m not a Malay but a Malaysian)

This is the usual line of conversation that goes on in my everyday life whenever I meet and speak to someone new. But it’s certainly not something that I am complaining about as it is something that I have become accustomed to coming from a mixed parentage background. Here in our country we are often identified by our race and though I’ve met some foreigners who have commented that it may be racist, I totally disagree with them stating that people here have no qualms being referred to by their ethnic origin.

Yesterday was the new year celebrations for the Tamils and the Sikh community. It is good to note that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon visited the Tatt Khalsa Gurduwara in Chow Kit to join in the Vaisakhi celebrations.

Raja Nong Chik had also said during a Press conference yesterday that we live in a cosmopolitan city which comprises various races and we need to give emphasis to the needs of all parties. Though presumptuous, I am sure not all Malaysians were aware of these celebrations yesterday. You see, we have become so accustomed to the fact that the nation mainly comprises three major ethnic group i.e Malay, Chinese and Indian.

What about our brothers and sisters in East Malaysia? Are we able to differentiate the language of the Kadazan Dusuns and the Bidayuhs? Or are we able to make out the dialect of a Kelantanese, Kedahan or someone from Negri Sembilan? I had informed a friend about the Vaisakhi celebrations on Monday night, and the reply I got was “Saki? What’s that? Is it Wesak Day?” I asked another colleague if he knew what the Tamil new year was called, and he paused and later said “Erm.. Deepavali?” And I have even had the most funniest experience once while I was trying to explain to a fellow reporter about my background, when another reporter quickly interrupted and said “Ah, I knew it, from your looks I know you’re a Buddhist.”(Not that the religion part was wrong, though).

I suppose there are still people who can’t differentiate between race and religion in the city. I met a government officer yesterday evening who once again thought I was a Malay and once again the usual lines were narrated by me. This time around however, the officer said “Oh Malaysian. Just like the PM’s One Malaysia concept,’ he said. I smiled.

Yes. Slowly but surely, it is hoped that Malaysians would be able to appreciate in totality our rich cultural diversity and not only know that one is either a Malay, Chinese, Indian or a ‘lain lain’. Perhaps, there is still a big group of Malaysians who are still ignorant and may view the need to know about the cultural differences of the various groups of people that make up this country. It is time for us to change this mindset and take some effort to learn about the celebrations, languages as well as history of our fellow brothers and sisters who come from different ethnic origin in order to fully understand, respect, appreciate and celebrate our rich cultural backgrounds and heritage.

From: Malay Mail

Writer: Pearl Lee

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