Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Mixed marriages and the melting pot

Just yesterday I was talking with a friend, having a teh tarik at a mamak stall. He's an ethnic Indian (Tamil) and is a fourth generation Malaysian Indian, their family having come to Malaya from India during the British Raj nearly 100 years ago. That's even older than some melayu families I know. His wife is a Malay and he was telling me some funny and not so funny stories about reactions from society and the problems he had to go through - especially when he converted to Islam from Hinduism. There are many similar stories like that in Malaysia which has become a melting pot for different ethnic groups and cultures. Of course this is not new and has been going on for ages. Many people have come, intermarried and settled down in the Malay peninsula to call this place their home. The Chittys and Nonyas have developed their own unique culture - a mixture of their origins with the culture of their new home - now old considering that they have been here for ages- for hundred of years
I often hear the term Chindian, a term commonly used only in Malaysia used to refer to the offspring of Chinese-Indian marriages. And amazingly, most of them look like Malays. I checked and its not even in the dictionary. Of course there is the joke about Skihs married to Chinese but I won't mention it here. Oops! I guess it slipped away. Lets not forget the Eurasians, some of whom have become very popular in the local entertainment industry - Sharimah, Wardina, Sasha, etc.
One friend joked that in Indonesia, people are divided along ethnic lines - from Bali, Javanese, Sumatra, Aceh and so on, even fighting for independence but when they come to Malaysia, everyone becomes orang Melayu and can live happily together.
I also know of several familes with members following different faiths but living together in harmony. For example one of my friends from Sabah is the only Christian in the family. All the rest including his father converted to Islam. Another friend who is also a convert to Islam lives with his mother who is a practising Hindu. Thats amazing isn't it. Thats Malaysia.

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