The other day I was watching The Seventh Sense, a new Tamil movie. It was not a very interesting movie to me. But one line uttered by the hero really struck me, "They beat us in Malaysia. They beat us in Sri Lanka. Now, here they are in our motherland Tamil Nadu, trying to beat us!"
The us here refers to Tamil people, a clan from South India, one which I belong to. Emphasis on Tamil. Not Indian. You could be a Ceylonese Tamil, and not be Indian. Now that line was really a blow in the head. I'm not sure if I'm making a big deal out of it. But as far as I know, the hero of the movie came to Malaysia to promote this film. And with a line like that, I would have assumed he would have been in big trouble. But I suppose the line was not central to the story line and it would have been snipped out by our beloved Malaysian censors.
So my point is: were we really beaten in Malaysia? If you're Malaysian, you don't need a degree in rocket science to figure out the hero was referring to the Tamil uprising in Malaysia led by HINDRAF in late 2007, which brought about the political tsunami in the 2008 general elections.
Let me be frank. I'm no political analysts with a string of degrees. All I can do is let you know my part of the story as a Malaysian Tamil small town boy. Never in my life had I felt racially abused in a severe way. Sure I have had some racially derogatory names thrown at me occasionally at school, even by teachers. Two of them in fact; one in primary school and the other in secondary. I will never forget them. But apart from that, no. Sorry guys. But I don't have a tragic story about how my ethnicity had a negative impact on my life. I went to the same school as my Bumiputra friends. I shopped at the same place as them. I have made close friends with them, most which will last for a lifetime. I eat the same food as them. So if anyone wants to call my country an apartheid nation, I will definitely take it personally. Having lived in such peace and harmony, I cannot see the logic behind such a big accusation.
My parents were never the ultra non-establishment type. They were generally thankful with everything they had. My father was a lab assistant at an elite boarding school, while my mother was a staff nurse at a general hospital. They bought our homes and cars with government loans. They never had much to complain about. Those who always complained were our fellow Tamil people who mostly never made it to college, or even passed school. It was these kind of Tamilians, who spoke broken Malay and bad English, who always, who drank alcohol, who found entertainment only in Tamil movies, who blamed the government for not giving them blue MyKads when it was they who were too lazy to pursue them; who constantly appeared to have something to complain about. I never saw myself as part of them, nor did I wish to associate myself with them. I never understood their plight.
But following my SPM, I applied for Matriculation. Before SPM, a few of my Tamil friends had declined applying for it, saying that the quota system will never permit them to enter. Once again, it was my alleged arrogance that told me it was simply their own typical Malaysian-Tamil-lower-middle-class-inferiority-complex due to their mediocre grades. I have always shown a good record since primary school, constantly being one of the top students in my year. I was overconfident I would get in.
When I was rejected entry into Matriculation, despite my Bumiputra friends who got less As than me, I was devastated. That was the first time in my life I felt like I was denied equality because of my race. Suddenly I felt the world was being unfair to me for something which was not my fault. Did I still fail to associate myself with the certain class of Tamil people I grew up looking down upon? Probably not so much at this stage.
But I wasn't going to immediately raise a banner and march on the streets. I was rejected entry into Matriculation. But I was offered a scholarship for a TESL twinning programme under the Ministry of Education. After two years of foundation level in a teacher training college in Sabah, I was sent to England to pursue my degree. I found my anger temporary. Probably when God closes one door, he at least opens a window, if not another door.
Not only was I given a free tertiary education which comes with a five year contract with the government, I was also sent to one of England's prestigious teacher training university. It was such a blessing. I suppose now my stand is, as long as one works hard, he can never be denied anything, if not everything. Sure, my dreams of becoming a doctor might never come true now. But I can always tell myself I completed university without troubling my parents in any way. I did not resort to having them send me to some unknown medical school in Indonesia or India. With whatever results I had, I made use of it to gain myself a decent scholarship to study. At least that is as much I can do to repay them for raising me all these years.