Saturday, April 12, 2008

Standing United, The Star, March 29 2008

I read Alexandra Wong’s article, Standing united (Weekender, March 29), where she narrated her childhood experience living in a multi racial neighbourhood.

I grew up in a similar environment although I belong to a different generation. I grew up in a kampung in Klang, sandwiched between Chinese and Indian neighbours. Boys and girls in those days played and studied together regardless of colour or religion. I was able to speak Tamil and Hokkien.

I had a good network of friends and business associates from different races. But it is sad that after 50 years of independence, we are regressing whereas unity in diversity should be our strength.

The country needs more young people like her.

Datuk Kalsom Abd Rahman

I enjoyed reading Alexandra’s article about unity and small town values. Even though I enjoy many of the conveniences of modern living, I miss the friendliness and sincerity of the orang kampung.

Most Asian countries have a long history of racial and religious tolerance with a few unfortunate exceptions. In Malaysia, we are lucky enough to remember a time of true harmony between people of different faiths and ethnicities.

She is Chinese but she has non-Chinese friends, watches Tamil movies and knew about chicken varuval even before she heard of Monk Jumps Over the Wall. I am not Chinese and only know a few words of Mandarin, but I love dim sum, watch TV dramas from Taiwan and Hong Kong and my CD collection is full of names like Wang Xin Ling and FIR.

Even among the older generation, people talk about how much better off race relations were in their time. Why didn’t things remain that way? If you ask me, the hunger for modernity as well as race-based politics have driven us apart.

Going back from the time of the ancient Malay kingdoms right up until the beginning of the 20th century, most of our people lived in villages. After we started modernising and more people moved to big cities, they lost touch with their roots.

As more of us got used to the way things had become, we just accepted it. I’m not optimistic but I do think there’s hope. Anyway, it should be known that there are many like her who can remember a better time and wish our country had taken a different path. Maybe it’s not too late after all.


You can view the online version here