Pick of The Day :: Nov. 28 2007
No Favours Asked
by Patricia Pereira
I am a first generation Malaysian Indian. My father came to Malaysia from India in search of a better life. He left behind the security and comfort of his homeland, his family, his relatives and friends because he truly believed that Malaya (as it was known then) was a land of opportunity. This country, he told himself, would become his new home. No one forced him to come – it was a personal choice.
In time, my father sent for his bride to be and my mother too came to this unknown and foreign land. They soon settled down and started a family, which would grow over the years to include seven children.
Life was not easy here but my father persevered. He could have easily thrown in the towel, packing up his family and leaving for his familiar homeland as did many others, but he did not. Yes, he faced many kinds of trials and tribulations – financial woes were aplenty and discrimination at the workplace was rife. But he took it all in stride. This was his homeland now – both my parents had given up their Indian citizenships and were proud to call themselves Malaysians. They were willing to take whatever life gave them.
My father has since passed away. Since coming to Malaysia, he only visited his country of birth on two occasions – the last one was just a couple of months before his death. My mother on the other hand, returned to India only once and it has now been more than 40 years since her last visit. When I asked her if she misses the land of her birth, she said that except for wanting to visit her siblings over there, she is quite content in remaining in Malaysia as this is her home now.
I am not afraid to admit that growing up in Malaysia has not been a complete bed of roses – there have been numerous ups and downs, many instances of discrimination and injustice but I have learned to take it in my stride. Many a job has slipped from my fingers not because I lacked the qualifications or experience but simply because I am the wrong colour. Yet discrimination comes in many forms – so it will be unfair for me to only highlight the racial discrimination that still exists in this country – we face discrimination in many places – in our places of worship, amongst our own ethnic community, in the workplace, gender discrimination etc.
There are many like me who have faced walls and barriers and there are many like me who have picked ourselves up from the dust of oppression, put a smile on our faces and marched on with determination. I don’t hold my parents responsible for the struggles I face in life and I don’t lament that the world owes me a living.
I know of many people who have pulled themselves out of the depths of poverty through sheer hard work and determination and who have made something of themselves. While it would have been easy for them to start pointing fingers and blaming everyone else for their sad state of affairs, they have chosen to channel their energy into something worthwhile and make something of themselves.
Then there are those who use their talents in helping others – in bringing a positive change to a particular group or community. They are aware of the many shortcomings in legislative measures and government funding, so instead of merely making noise about the situation, they chose to do something about it as well.
If we believe that our community has remained at the bottom of the ladder all these years, then perhaps its time we asked ourselves why. Have we allowed ourselves to remain in the shackles of “colonisation” and hoped that someone would hand us the key or have we attempted to break free? There are many success stories amongst the Indian community so why do we continue to sit and wait for hand-outs when we can fend for ourselves?
Let’s face it – there is no one government anywhere in the world that is perfect. If there were, then there certainly would be a mass exodus to that Utopia. However it is not impossible to reach this Utopia – all we have to do is free ourselves from this “the world owes me” mentality and learn to help ourselves.
A quote from the great Mahatma Gandhi says it well: “Rights that do not flow from duty well performed are not worth having.”
Patricia Pereira. “No Favours Asked.” The Sun 28 Nov. 2007: 21.