Am I Malay enough?

MelayuI attended an all-Malay event after a looong time yesterday. By that, I mean an event which is not a wedding, and definitely without trying hard to reconcile Western traditions and Malay customs (read: cutting a wedding cake or cutting a cake made of pulut kuning).
While at the event, I suddenly had this strange voice urging me to soak up every sight and sound around because I know I will miss this when I finally move to an ang moh country next year. I had an innate real fear of missing a Malay environment and all the meriah-ness that comes with it.

Since I hopped into the intrepid blog-world, I have been reading blogs of various young Malay Singaporeans, most of them professionals and many of them leading very enriched lives. Thanks to the new policy of allowing Singaporeans to sign their lives away with 10-year car loans, many of these young Malays are driving brand new cars too. When you meet them on the streets they will speak to you in English, and then say sorry quickly with “Sorry, my Malay not very good lah,” without batting an eyelid. You can almost sense a billowing smoke of pride when they say that. These are young energies in their 20s.

The more ‘elderly’ adults have it in a different fashion. The successful 30-somethings, often with kids in tow attending pre-school, complete with ballet classes and violin tuition to boot – will illustrate the strange detachment of being Malay in a more measured manner. If you are lucky, you will get the “Sorry, my Malay not very good lah,” statements, but being wiser adults – they say that sparingly as they realise saying it only shows how they are still grappling with their own identity and the fact that they still crave for nasi goreng on a Sunday morning, does not make them err..any less Malay or any more Western.

Today, I switched on Prime Time morning on Channel News Asia and frowned for a good 1 minute, when I heard the hosts refer to the ‘Asians’ as Japanese, Korean and Chinese. So where do you place the millions of Malays from the Malay Archipelago – are they Asian migrants instead? I flipped through yesterday’s Sunday Times (yes I am one of those who read ST the day AFTER on weekends) and saw a full page interview with a professor who insists that the Asian-language media will grow and grow – and by Asian he meant the Chinese and Indians. Err…orang Melayu tak ada media-massa ke?

It is baffling, but it is a sorry state when we as Malays, feel embarassed about our own self and then blame others for our own displacement. Are we about to be displaced? If we are not careful, my non-scholarly thinking say we will be. And this, mind you, is coming from a non-academic WITHOUT conducting research studies. I shudder to think what proper statistics will reveal.

I have heard too many Malays, women especially who said -“Aiya, that guy is so Mat. So Malay!” Gosh, that’s like taking an egg out of the fridge and then slap it against your own forehead. What does that mean – “So Malay?!”. I am determined that my kids will be as Malay as they will be, regardless if they grow up in the Canadian backyard or againts the Singapore/Malaysia backdrop. They can be as Minah and Mat as they want to be – albeit I know they might be a bit confused when Ibu and Abah will feed them salmon and sambal belachan for dinner. I had a Eurasian friend who said she is waiting for me to raise my Canuck-Mats (the Vancouver Canucks is the city’s famed ice-hockey team).

The only thing I have to keep in check is to make sure that DH doesn’t go overzealous with showing them P Ramlee movies, as he has done to himself – only to have him insists he will walk around Geylang in kain pelekat and singlet putih. Aiyayayaya…minta ampun!!

I hope I am Malay enough to carry through my Malay heritage regardless where we will be. And will never ever be apologetic for being Malay.


  1. “Takkan hilang melayu di dunia
    sumpah sakti penghulu berlima
    terjebak bila berkata-kata
    huraian manusia bertimpa-timpa
    yang banyak tidak tentu hala
    apa ada pada saktinya
    bila angkuh melawan takdirNya
    setiap yang wujud pasti binasa
    tiada guna bergiat rakus
    melayu tak kebal dari pupus
    kalau layu terus menerus”

    I am sure that Melayu in you is not layu. Saya sokong anda seratus peratus! Long live Mat Canucks!

  2. wow was that an original? Bagusnyaa….! Boleh copy and paste it somewhere tak?

    Mat Canuck main ice-hockey pakai songkok beb, watch out for that match!

  3. beautiful piece uja, and nazrah.

    i count myself lucky to be a malay. i actually wish that i am a bit darker so i wont be mistaken as a non-malay. As for my bahasa, i assure you my bahasa can sometimes be text bookish, which makes it actually awkward. I think the language is beautiful and i disapprove of this memelayukan english word! Like why say ‘ofis’ when u already have the word ‘pejabat’? Oh i should stop before i get heat rash, hehehe..

    uja, i call this telepathy!!

  4. salams,

    interesting topic. for me, i dunno why but i got asked quite a number of times, “are u a malay?” and my answer will always be “yes, i am very much a malay girl.” and with that answer, i will always get a smirk from the person who asked. i mean, what’s wrong admitting that u are who u are.

    its sad tho that the younger generation will say it with much proud that their malay isnt good. for me, i know i am ashamed of my gce n and o level results for malay language. but alhamdulillah, i picked up the language again along the way, and surprisingly, i did improved on both spoken and written malay when i was in australia. i reckon, when u are far away from your roots, u will tend to understand more about your culture, traditions and the language itself.

    ohh… and i have always believe that however ‘advanced’ u are, there will always a mat in a malay guy, and a minah in a malay girl. and it helps to admit to that fact coz, i grew up listening to search, wings, bpr and all those sorts. hehehhehe

  5. uja, you will find that the longer you are away, the more u cherish the malayness in you. u crave for it. ithas happened to me.and people comment that I more malay. people are surprises that I am more malay than the malays back home and I think that’s not a bad thing at all. People used the word – so Melayu! in a very negative way. like – so Kampung…and what is wrong with kampung or melayu? sorry – must not go on!

  6. I don’t wanna sound disgusting, tapi my dad cakap, “You are not melayu, until you berak kat sungai”. Betul ke?

  7. I once went out with a guy who wouldn’t meet me during or fter work if I were dressed in baju kurung/kebaya. He’d insist that we transit somewhere so that I could change! Kampung, kononnya. If I can’t wear my baju kurung in KL, then where can I?

  8. Ood: language text-bookish? That sounds like my mum’s – so when she marah macam bangsawan and it actually felt more effective! 😉

    Sweethuneyz: Wahhh…lama tak nampak budak satu ni! I hrd you going KL to work? Congraaatss! U sure will lap the city 🙂
    Eh Naz, BPR tu apa?

    KakTeh: Yes I HATE that phrase too – ‘so kampung’. I feel like smacking these pp sometimes.

    Ailin: Berak kat sungai? Wahhh…now thats what I call a Melayu investiture! Mandi perigi boleh qualify tak? Atau berak dalam jamban siram?

    Anedra: Issh mamat tu poonnn…tak boleh pakai baju kurung?! Kesian orang camni…so in denial.

    In: Aiayayaya…tukar lagi?! Busu going KL this weekend…next week you going to Melaka or not for the wedding? I think your dad wants to make it a day-trip.

  9. You know what? I too get annoyed whenever I hear or read people in the media taking the easy way out by referring or mentioning ‘Asians’ as Korean, Japanese or Chinese. Are they that geographically clueless? Lol! Gd luck in Canada.

  10. Hey Summersnail, yes tell me abt it.I get annoyed, calmed down and then get annoyed some more! LOL.

    And I was in the media, sigh.

    Checked out your blog – will be linking u up, can ah?

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