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A day in the life of an ordinary Malaysian – By Mariam Mokhtar

A day in the life of an ordinary Malaysian – By Mariam Mokhtar


I wake up and retrieve the newspaper lodged in the letter-box. My “Keling paper” has delivered it faithfully, come rain or shine…

I go to the kitchen and make breakfast. Into the toaster goes the bread sent to my home, the previous afternoon, by my “Keling roti”.
It has been made by the local bakers, the FBI — Federal Bakery Ipoh — owned by a mamak.

But if I am out for breakfast, it is usually a roti canai at my local Indian’s. Followed by a char koi snack from “auntie”, a Chinese lady.

Halfway through the morning, the sound of a horn alerts me that Ah Fatt, our “grocer on wheels”, has arrived. He brings me fresh vegetables,
Fish and the usual dried condiments.

Once a month, our local “Keling botol” comes round to collect our empty bottles. Our “Cina paper” too comes to collect the old newspapers.

My neighbour comes round with some pisang grown in her garden. She is Indian, married to a Chinese policeman. I am grateful for his tips on how to
Keep my house secure. When my ubi kayu harvest is plentiful, I’d go round and return her kind gesture.

I have a gardener. His name is Velu. From the name, you can guess he is Indian. He is much adored by my children. If my son is not in his room,
I know where to find him — under the mango tree, in the garden, sharing chapatti, dhall and “tapau” teh tarik with Velu. I told my son off for demolishing
Velu’s packed breakfast, but Velu was happy to share his meal.. Both were sporting toothless grins — Velu has no teeth and can’t afford dentures.
My toddler has just lost his two front teeth.
I’ve no idea what they chat and laugh about. Sometimes not a lot of gardening gets done. But who cares? At least they’re happy. When Velu died,
My son was distraught. He had been with our family for decades and refused to be pensioned off.

My general practitioner for the usual coughs and colds is Chinese.. All women have a gynaecologist — mine is Indian. And my dentist is Chinese..
These people provided services to my parents in the past, and I simply carried on with them.. No complaints. Good service. Reasonable fee.
I did go to a Malay doctor once, but he was more interested in “tackling” my younger sister. I dismissed his lack of professionalism as testosterone driven.
He was still a bachelor then.

And on the second visit, years later, he was fishing for information about other members of my family. One personal question might be excusable.
But twice is too much of a coincidence. I never did return to him. In my eyes, his professional conduct was compromised by these intrusions.
I know I shouldn’t be generalising, but this was my personal experience.

When I had to be admitted to hospital, the surgeon who operated on me was Indian.. The nurses were either Chinese or Indian.

I once had to use the services of a lawyer — an Indian.

The person who supplies me with stationery is a Chinese woman married to an Indian man. She once supplied my father’s business with his office
Stationery needs..

When I once had a leaky water tank, the plumber who successfully mended it was an Indian. He now takes care of all the house’s plumbing repairs. He
Was my parents’ plumber too.

When my house needed new electrical wiring, the electrician was a Chinese person. When I needed outside electrical work to be done, the electrician was
Indian. Both had provided long-term services to the family.

Before Raya, I would go to my Chinese tailor to make my baju kurung. My hair is cut by a Chinese woman. As before, these people once supplied my mother,
All her tailoring and hair-grooming requirements. My father’s barber is an Indian.

Again, before Raya, my mother’s Chinese friends at work would send tins of “love letters”, kueh kapit, for us to enjoy and serve at our open house.
And early on Raya day itself, several plates of pie tee would arrive and my father’s Indian colleagues would send a big pot of chicken curry and putu mayam.
The dining table groans with our rendang and the contributions from our friends, of all races and religions..

For several decades, until my parents were too old and infirm to receive guests, we would have an open house that was a riot of people sporting various
national costumes. A real melting point — a true reflection of Malaysia.

These people once provided my grandparents and my parents essential services. Either that, or they were colleagues at work, or friends from their younger days.
They, who have grown old alongside my grandparents and parents.

And now, people are telling me that these non-Malays whom I have grown up with and who have remained friends, through thick and thin, are second-class citizens..?
That they do not deserve to be Malaysians? That they are far inferior to me?

So am I to believe that should my neighbour’s husband, a Chinese, make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, that his life is not as valuable as
a Malay policeman’s?

Who are these self-serving, self-righteous bigots kidding?

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