perhaps i really am a snob.
i sat through a luncheon celebrating the 85th anniversary of the malaysian eng choon association thinking that i don’t belong there. my father and sister are both active members and i grew up attending their events, winning their book prizes, going for dinners that my father had forked out thousands of ringgit for in support of the association. yet i have no desire to follow in the footsteps of my dad and older sibling and join the association in the future.
my father was born in eng choon, or yong chun as it is known in hanyu pinyin. he has cousins who continue to reside in china and he keeps in touch with them via snail mail and the annual phone call during chinese new year. he’s got strong connections with the place despite spending most of his life here in malaysia and a number of years in various countries around the world.
as for my sister, she seems to have inherited some of the responsibility my father feels towards the eng choon community in the klang valley. i’ve never really understood it, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that she’s the eldest child of a man who is relatively well-known in the malaysian chinese community and hence cannot help but have some of that…stuff(?) passed onto her.
i have never felt that way. perhaps it’s because my only real exposure to being chinese chinese is at home, where the lingua franca is mandarin. i went to a sekolah kebangsaan, spent 2 years in an english medium school and my closest friends read books like “to kill a mockingbird” and listen to robbie williams. i don’t feel any connection whatsoever to my chinese roots – save for my love of dim sum and teresa teng – so being in that hall this afternoon, among some of the most distinguished persons in the malaysian chinese community, i felt completely out of place.
both my parents originate from eng choon (no, they didn’t get married in an arranged marriage as kids, don’t get the wrong idea), a province in china with a beautiful name that translates loosely to “eternal spring“, and i am a 1st generation malaysian who has mentally severed my roots to that place.
i’m not sure if i should count that a shame, consider myself a snob, or rejoice in the fact that i identify myself as being more malaysian than chinese.