Dreaming of a better Malaysia, its cultural beauty within reach

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As we head to the polls, will be discover the ability to find strength in one another and to appreciate the beauty found within our various culture, wonders Ramesh Ganapathy.

More of us seem to be dreaming of a better future for Malaysia today than I have ever experienced in past run-ups to elections.

Thrilling though it may seem to finally be in a ship where a seeming majority see the same light, I fear that perhaps the circles I mix with are not a true representation of the rest of Malaysia.

Are we all really Malaysians? Does being Malaysian refer to a certain similarity that binds us all? In every other country in the world, we are Malaysians – but here in Malaysia, we are Indians, Malays and Chinese. I have no idea what the Orang Asli groups are even referred to, their identity today drops into an all-encompassing Bumiputera cloud.

There was a time when we shared common values. Once, we thought learning a common language as our national language would be the final cement to bind us. We came from different ancestries yet practised the same values – the values of Malaya that our ancestors fell in love with.

In the rush to keep us apart for political mileage, we’ve all learned our national language – but lost our shared values.

The cultural values of ancient Malaya grew from its position in the trade route between China and India. What of Orang Asli and Melayu culture as well? What were our origins? Do I not have a right to be an orang Melayu just because I’m not a Muslim. In other parts of the world, since I come from Malaysia, I’m known as a ‘Malay’. Given that I share the values of our country’s people in being courteous and welcoming of other cultures as well as valuing gentleness in communicating with others and respecting elders etc, shouldn’t I strive to be called a Malay in my homeland?

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Is this just my wishful-thinking description of our values? But aren’t these the values villagers in rural Malaysia still practise?

Whichever ruler sits on our parliamentary throne next, I hope they will allow us the power to live in peace and respect for one another. The Malay culture is as beautiful and deep as the Indian, Chinese, Iban, Dayak or any other Orang Asli culture. All that is required is the patience to look into each deeply and find that beauty. Before that is possible though, we need to be able to respect one another and accept that differences are our strength.

As a result of our divide-and-rule culture, we as Malaysians are now able to rattle off the weakness of each culture we have come across or have lived with in our country.

But where is our ability to find the strength in one another and to appreciate the beauty found within? Have years of pain blinded our eyes to that beauty within our reach? What fear took our love for our own kind away? What madness taught us that we are not all one race of humans?

Kedah-born Ramesh Ganapathy is a broadcast consultant by profession who has worked in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

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