Wherever they are or how long they have been away, home is close to Malaysians’ hearts. This Merdeka, they reflect on what Malaysia means to them. Read their stories on Star2.com.
By VANETHA CUTHBERT in SCOTLAND
It feels like a lifetime – well, almost half a lifetime away – since I have lived in Malaysia. I have lived in Scotland for 17 years after finding love with a Scotsman in Kuala Lumpur in 1997.
After all these years, you’d think I’d taken on the characteristic, accent and behaviour of the Scots. You would be wrong! I still sound the same (to the delight of my mother and dismay of my brothers who were hoping for a sister with a Scottish accent). Essentially, I am very much the Malaysian girl who left all those years ago.
As a mother of a 12-year old boy, I feel it’s more important than ever to ensure that my son, Lucas, understands and appreciates his Indian and Malaysian heritage as well as his Scottish roots.
We celebrate Deepavali every year with a house full of family and friends enjoying Malaysian/Indian/Scottish hospitality – a true mingling of cultures, reminiscent of what Malaysia represents.
It is with particular pride when I say my husband, Derek, and Lucas are huge fans of Malaysian cuisine with rasam (spicy Indian soup), nasi kandar, ikan bakar and bak kut teh high on their list of favourite foods.
Every Christmas morning, Lucas requires me to prepare a Malaysian breakfast of roti canai and chicken curry as the usual traditional Christmas breakfast doesn’t quite match up. This is our Cuthbert Christmas tradition and long may it reign!
My passion for cooking hopefully promotes the deliciousness, variety and utter delight of Malaysian cuisine to the Brits and Europeans as I also teach Asian cookery. It is a personal crusade as it combines my love of food and my pleasure in sharing it with like-minded people.
All the efforts Derek and I put into ensuring Lucas appreciates his culture is supported with our visits to Malaysia. These visits strengthen Lucas’ connection to Malaysia, our family and friends. Trips home are an elixir for me.
These trips are so filled with love and kinship that continue to bring me strength and support when I am tucked away in cold Scotland. Close friends from my youth are still just as close while my family is a source of comfort, love and familiarity.
Don’t get me wrong as I have carved a lovely life in Scotland with a fulfilling career, great friends and family. Despite the miserable weather, the Scots are some of the friendliest and most laidback people in the world who have a great sense of fun much like my fellow Malaysians. But home is home and yes, Malaysia is still my home.
Malaysia has changed so much but we have a lot to be proud of. Our small nation has had wonderful successes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was great for me to cheer the Malaysian contingent at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. Derek and Lucas even stunned a Malaysian sportsman when they shouted out “Malaysia Boleh!”.
My most abiding memory of Merdeka Day is when I was a Form 4 schoolgirl from Sultan Ibrahim Girls School (SIGS), Johor Baru proudly performing at the Merdeka Day celebrations.
After that, we were invited to the Johor Istana for dinner and serenaded by the then Sultan of Johor with a few Sinatra standards. A surreal but memorable moment indeed.
Essentially, it comes down to how I really feel. I will be honest: I worry and feel guilty as I am not there caring for my parents in their old age. I fear I won’t get home in time for life-changing moments. But I take heed of my wise father, Gunasegaram’s words, “You chose your life path, so go live it”.
I know that wherever life leads me, it will always take me home.
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By PARMILLA GNANASEKARAN in the UNITED STATES
This August marks my 10th year in the United States. But being Malaysian is my identity and it defines me and everything I do. I am proud to call myself a Malaysian, and I am constantly telling my friends and co-workers in New York City about Malaysia.
Being born and raised in a multicultural and multilingual nation has certainly taught me how to live and work together with people of different cultures and traditions. We instinctively respect people of different cultures and beliefs, not only to co-exist but to live meaningfully together.
Our culture and our food are two obvious manifestations of how our lives have been built around differences … and how those differences bring us together.
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