Atchafalaya Swamp

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Muhibbah Tag

This post is long overdue, and apologies to Chegu Naz for my belligerence and my 'slack-ness' in contributing my not-so-worthwhile thoughts to this much abused term.

I say much-abused because when someone mentions 'Muhibbah' the only thing that comes to mind is a quaint halal restaurant serving superb Chinese dishes nestled in the leafy suburb of Taman Tun, Kuala Lumpur.

I don't believe in this Muhibbah business because it's shallow. If you believe in God or even if you're a Darwinian it is a fact that your genes and mine are compatible. That's why a virile
Cinapek from Kampong Cina Tring Ganu can mate with a Kikuyu tribe lass in Kenya and still cause the sperm and egg to fuse into a zygote. Why? Because we are all 100 percent genetically compatible. There is no difference at all except for some superficial skin and facial features.

Otherwise deep inside we're all the same. So it is an affront to God to say that we're different and we need to bridge this so-called divide between the races.

We're all one race. The Human Race. Period.

And I don't want to bore you about my best friend being a Cinapek (it is, actually) because since I was small I never grew out of that phase where skin color color was a factor in choosing mates to play rounders with or climb trees. In this I am lucky. I never had elder who said, "Eh, don't go into their house,
ada anjing". Maybe because my grandfather who brought me up in a kampung with three mongrel dogs in the compound had something to do with it.

One of my joyous early primary school memory was this: One fine day we bundled these yelping canines into the backseat of my Atuk's Morris Minor to take to the orchard for
kebun duties. The durian season was in full swing. And coming home later only to incur the wrath of my Ustazah grandmother who swore that she will never step in the car for fear of defiling herself. After that she never got in the car at all to be taken by Atuk for her Madrasah duties (she taught the Koran at a small mosque nearby). From then on she walked the two kilometers or so, and never did she step into the Morris Minor again.

So somehow the love of dogs and my early upbringing caused me to look beyond skin. Eventually I was given a lab retriever (the best there is when it comes to family dogs) with the shiniest orange coat you ever saw. It was given to me by an Estate Manager who had to leave Malaysia in a hurry and I was the lucky recipient. Not only was it a pure breed but it was also properly trained. His name was Johnny. He knew not to step into the house and where to do his business. Of course he understood commands like Sit, Roll, Fetch or Shake Hands, Johnny. The saddest day of my life was when he died of poisoning. I believed some disgruntled neighbor gave him an egg laced with the bad stuff. The neighbors in the kampong were all Malay. And this is where I admit to you that I lied (sort of) in the first few paragraphs of this posts. I am a racist. Yes, but directed against my own. From then on I view all Malays with suspicion. With Chinese or Indians I have no quarrels at all, no Sir.

Here I will relate two recent episodes in my life to illustrate my animosities towards my own kind.

Some time back my wife and and I were caught up in a traffic jam in the back lane of a major shopping area in Batu Road road. We were already late and naturally I was upset so I got out of the car and walked a few cars up to a white gleaming Pajero whose door was open. Out in front was the middle-aged Malay driver arguing with a pot-bellied Indian man with red bloodshot eyes and helmet on his head, the straps flapping, arms flailing. I also noticed an Indian girl of about five cowering by her father's Kapcai. There was no real accident, only perhaps one of the two had not given way thus giving way to name calling and fist waving until they both decide to stop their vehicles to cause this unnecessary jam.

As I surveyed the situation I instinctively 'knew' the Malay driver must have been at fault. So I got to the Indian and drew him aside amidst a slew of 'Malayu kurang ajar' and 'celaka punya Malayu' under his breath. I also thought I smelled a whiff of something . . . so the situation could get get uglier. The Malay stood there looking smug with the righteous look of someone born with a golden spade in his Bumi mouth.

I pulled out my Dunhill and offered the Indian one. I knew I had to defuse this fast. As I lighted his cigarette, he said, "Damn that Malayu driver, just because he has a big car he can do what he like and cut this way and that without looking. My daughter almost fell off."

aner... relax laa. Forget about that stupid Malay. He think only he pay road tax ah? We motorcyclist also pay. Now go. But I sure give him also some shit don't worry. So next time he will think twice."

The Indian man picked up his daughter and left. The Malay driver was already in the driver's seat while I glared and mouthed 'stupid Malayu'. Again he gave me the same condescending look like he gave the Indian.

I felt good but not for the right reasons. I was able to do this because the Indian guy had assumed that I was Chinese. Now this is the closest thing to muhibbah for me since someone had looked at me but saw no color, or a wrong one.

And then not too long after something else happened at a parking lot near my house. The car park in the big hypermarket was full so cars had to circle my many times to find an empty lot. There is a protocol to these that some people care to break.

I was in my car with my mother, blinkers on while patiently waiting for a car to leave. As soon as the car exited, out of nowhere a Proton Wira swerved violently from the opposing side (wrong way as the lanes are marked one way) into the empty lot. What-tha-ff...

I honked and the passenger side opened to reveal a middle-aged Malay man. So I got out of the car and said in my colloquial Malayu, "Hoi! tak nampak kaa saya signal? Saya sudaa lamaa tunggu".

And I thought that was that but instead of apologizing (I saw a
tudunged woman through the rear window in the driver's seat --the wife? First or Second?) he grew boorish and claimed he didn't see my signal at all. Which was an outright lie as my turn signals were still blinking. This was getting too much so I came nearer to the man. He menacingly jabbed a condescending Bumi finger and now I knew why.

He said, "Lu ingat lu samseng kah? Nanti saya panggil polis!" (Are you a gangster? I'll call the police!).

Now I'm really losing it (to the tune of KFC's 'Im Lovin' It').

The guy thought I was a Chinese in my shorts, blue Asadi slippers and slanty-chinky eyes. So that's why he thinks he can run roughshod over me.

So I fought back. I shouted, "Kurang ajaa . . . bodoh punya Malayu! Lu bagus reverse. . . SIKARANG!" (Uncouth stupid Malay, reverse the car . . . NOW!)

With that he meekly got in, backed out and I got my space.

About two hours later I found myself summoned to a nearby police station for questioning. Apparently he did good on his threat and called the police while I did my shopping. So when I returned to my car there was already a policemen waiting to lead me to his boss, an ASP XXX at the station. But I knew there was no harm done as there were no physical contact or damage to property. Only harsh words were exchanged.

At the station, me and the ASP eventually had a good laugh. Ironically ASP XXX was Chinese. But the ASP needed to meet me and be sure before he tore the report the idiot wrote up. Of course that coward had already left thinking of his sweet success in making my life miserable.

And what was the laugh about? ASP XXX laid out the report for me to read.

Seorang lelaki yang berseluar pendek, di percayai keterunun Cina . . ."

The Chinese ASP said he thought we Malays had gone crazy. The guy's report stated that I called him a stupid Malay and that he was in fear of me as
a gangster or Chinese triad member out to do him harm. Is this Pakcik's racist paranoia for real or what?

ASP XXX shook his head and said, "That crazy old man said you are Chinese gangster. You called him a stupid Malay. What's wrong with you all?"

And thus ends my contribution to the Muhibbah tag.