Saturday, June 25, 2016

Where are you from?

Ever since being back I have been questioned by my fellow locals "Where are you from? " or "Are you local?". I'll only betray myself if I said these questions did not make me feel the least bit offended. I expected them to recognise my unmistakably Malay features. Perhaps its the many years spent abroad that changed my accent and demeanour, sparking their curiosity. Also with the rise of expatriate population in Singapore who emigrated from countries that are members of ASEAN, these expatriates have facial features akin to Singaporeans. These expatriates and Singaporeans have mistaken each other as one of their own. God knows how many times Filipinos in Oman have thought I am a "Kabayan" i.e. fellow country person.

I claim to be a third culture kid who embraces diversity and enjoys meeting people from all continents. Therefore I should be acclimatized to the idea of being perceived as a foreigner, wherever I go then, right? No, not when this happens in my own home country. That sense of belonging disappears.

Then recently a video was shared on social media which made me think hard about my feelings, recalling what I have learnt through research and readings that my mind seemed to have blotted out. The people in this video were given the opportunity to question who they really are by doing a DNA test that reveals how much more in common they have with other nationalities than they think.

I need to think and act differently towards those aforementioned questions and take them as a compliment. I believe we all need to think and act differently too.

There's no one pure race. We're all biology linked somehow. Scientific studies on DNA has now proven what the Quran had stated thousands of years ago. No I'm not here to preach, though I will state on the amazement of such a holy scripture during a time when science and technology were in infancy. The verse may sound so simple yet truly profound. One does not need to be a believer to appreciate knowledge from a divine revelation.

"O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you." [Surah Al-Nisaa 4:1, Al Quran]

Moreover this video has also made me realise that my race, as officially stated in my birth certificate is Malay but my racial background is much more than that. I have been told that my ancestral background is Indonesian, which is related to Malay, as well as Chinese and South Indian. But who knows how much more lies within my DNA? Whatever it may be, I feel that this mixture makes me a unique and truly multi-racial Singaporean. Perhaps one day I'll take a DNA test to discover more. The Malay race might have been adapted by my great grandparents for assimilation into a culture that they were able to closely relate to for survival when they migrated here. There are countries I have travelled to that have brought familiarity even though I have never been there before. It could be a slight deja-vu of sorts caused by a small percentage of my mind, body and soul that may be reconnecting with a distant past in the now foreign land that was once home many years ago.

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