October 5, 2006
After having walked the sidewalks of Brickfields on a hot hazy day, I wonder how it is that people living side-by-side can know so little about the other. You have the various racial groups huddled together in a little country, but put a C within an I community and you stick out like a sore thumb. Worse, put a C within a conservative M area and you get stares like you’re wearing a bikini in broad daylight.
Brickfields is a hustle-and-bustle community, all sorts of smells and colours, the odd lady throwing birdseed to pigeons that scurry till the motorcycle engine roars into life and disperses them like feathers in the sky. Blaring music against trendy thickly-lined-eyed-ladies. This is a part of Malaysia that I appreciate, but why, amidst all its diversity, do I feel alien?
It is natural for people to feel a sense of belonging amongst their own kind. Nevertheless the level of interest one takes in another community is telling of the degree of integration and assimilation into a larger society. That each community isolates itself with a set of cultural norms and values that cannot be pierced except upon forced entry (or research!) is not a good sign.
How many C’s fully appreciate the whole works of a M or I culture? And vice versa for each group. Is it skindeep friendship or are we able to ask those important life questions of our fellow neighbours without the fear of being accused as “disrupting national unity”?
Every relationship needs to be nurtured: how? By having open discussion when one is unhappy with the other, talking it out and explaining the situation till the other can understand based on fact and feeling. You do this without a hot head but in a calm, cool and collected manner. Any person with a friend or having been through a relationship will be able to tell you that. A relationship that fears to speak the truth, that cowers away behind a shield of false protection, with zipped mouths and a denial syndrome is a relationship doomed to fail.
So. Until we are ready and prepared to talk straight with the other, be open and frank in both the good and the bad things, I’m afraid that my cordiality is not a sign of unity. Indeed, the opposite is true.
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