I did my A levels at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. I stayed in a neighboring apartment throughout the 18 months. That was my first time staying alone, living by myself in a rent house. I had so many firsts when I was in college. One of them was being a minority.
I came from a boarding school, where the quota for non-bumis was only 10%. I didn’t mix around much with them and my classmates were all Malays. I didn’t see the importance of getting to know them personally back then. I didn’t care how being apart of the only 10% would feel like.
When I went to highschool, I had different experience. There were only 16 of us in our classroom. 8 boys and girls. But I had more friends from other ethnicities and races than before. Here was where I had my first Punjabi friends. Competing with kiasu Chinese friends was a new experience I had here as well. Nevertheless, I’m still part of the majority.
My first time being one of the only 10% in my whole class was at Taylor’s. There was 30 of us, but there were only three Malays in the whole class. There were one Indian, one Punjabi and the rest were Chinese. Before you get me wrong, please bare in mind that I enjoyed my 18 months in Taylor’s.
I learned a lot of stuff. One would be Chinese words of course. But I forget them all except for ‘Wo yao shui jiao!’ I learned to compete with kiasu kids. I learned to be humble and learn from the super smart yet even more humble guys in the class. Some constantly received text from me regarding math problems I couldn’t solve. Yet they were never tired and actually excited for more.
This year, I celebrated my first proper Chinese New Year celebration with my classmates. The preparation was so lit. Everyone had to bring food from home. Some brought sandwiches. One savage guy bought a paper bag full of McD’s hash browns. One dude even bake matcha cupcakes for everyone. As I am staying in a rent house, I was not able to cook. I hence bought my favorite drink which is Korean milk soda, Milkis. They made fun of me saying I brought rice milk and it’s totally ‘Haram’! Everyone wore red and we made our teachers skipped their classes to join in our celebration.
The best part of the day was the Yee Sang! It was my first time and I enjoyed it so much. It was a salmon Yee Sang. When I told my Malay friends about this, the first question they asked was ‘is it Halal?’ Well, the Halal-ity of a food has been Muslim’s top concern of all time. But rest assured, the Yee Sang I had is Halal. How am I so sure? Here’s how.
As some of my friends and I were busily arranging the tables and chairs for the celebration, the rest were preparing the Yee Sang. One of our classmates bought the ingredients fresh from the restaurant early that morning. As one of them was pouring some green and pink snacks (not sure what they are called) which is part of the meal into the big plate, I heard the others stopping him while stealing a glance at me. Eventually, they called me over.
I found out what the fuss was all about. They were unsure whether the snacks were Halal. They gave me the pack for me to check. ‘No pork one inside’, ‘got arabic writing as well’, ‘check the ingredient’. I almost brought up to tears. They were so caring and thoughtful. I was the only one in need of Halal food in the whole class. Firstly, we had Salmon because fish is surely Halal. The one who bought the ingredients made sure to ask about the ingredients. That’s why he straight pour the snacks onto the meal. He was sure about it. I had great food and great company.
We started our celebration with the symbolic Yee Sang. Everyone had to say some words of luck and wisdom and began stirring the Yee Sang with their chopsticks. I am a good chopstick user. I eat my Mamak noodles with chopsticks. I don’t know what got into me, but that day I lost all my skills. As I was joyously stirring the Yee Sang with the others, my hand slipped and I was left with one chopstick on my hand. I laughed hysterically when someone noticed that they’re stirring the Yee Sang with one extra ingredient, my chopstick.
I went round the table and tried the rest of the foods brought. My homeroom teacher cooked mee hoon. She apologized that I couldn’t eat it. She told me that there’s no meat inside, as our Punjab friend is a vegetarian. However she used the wok to cook non-Halal meal for her family before. When I was about to take an egg tart, my friend stopped and apologized. Again. He was unsure whether the bakery he bought it from was certified Halal. I repeated ‘it’s okay’ for a few times that day. Their mindfulness had me taken aback. Did I ever cared this much about others? What did I do to deserve them? Does my country take care of them as well as I’m being taken care of?
Please ponder upon this. Being a privileged in this country has made us being so reckless and thoughtless. I had done nothing for the country yet I’m still priviledge. I did not try as hard for education, did not perform as well, yet I had a scholarship while they don’t. My friend rejected Imperial College because he got no sponsorship to back him up. Yes, he might be rich, his parents could afford private institution for his A levels. But please bear in mind. Money is everyone’s enemy and education should never be politicized.
I hope we can search for similarities among us, for we grown up defining ourselves with differences. We define everyone through colors and races. We have forgotten the very fact that we are all part of the human race. When someone drive carelessly we glance to see which race they belong to and started cursing out as if carelessness is inherited. Stop judging others based on who they are. Stop judging at all. Hate the sin not the sinner. Stop judging and live as one!