malay malaise

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I had to write this post, I simply need to get it out of my system. My homeland Malaysia is now in mourning, since the announcement by our Prime Minister yesterday. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (Kuala Lumpur-Beijing) which disappeared an hour after take-off on March 8, ended in the remote part of the southern Indian Ocean 8 hours later. Hard to believe, but that’s the conclusion the authorities have arrived at after careful investigations. The Malaysian government has been criticised to no end in their handling of this unprecedented crisis. They believe they have done their best of course, and to a certain degree I’m sure they have. It’s more the manner in which matters were related and conveyed that’s in question. Many Malays (not all, there’s always exceptions) lack effective communication skills. I am a Malay, I know what I’m talking about. We can come across as defensive, aloof, even cold sometimes. See my point? I still have a lot to improve on myself! We don’t seem to express sentiments of concern, love or sympathy very well at times. In our culture and as a nation we might accept these flaws, we tend to close one eye over them. Never mind lah (Malaysians like to add lah at the end for emphasis), that’s what we would say. Some Malays can also be a bit laid back, they like to take their time, much to the annoyance of the Chinese especially, who are known as fast-moving people. So in the case of MH370, where lives were at stake, this character flaw is a definite setback. It’s imperative to move super quick and get your act right the first time around too!

Let me relate to you a simple story which happened to me the last time I was back in my homeland (a few years ago). I took my family out for a meal at a renowned international restaurant in our capital, Kuala Lumpur. I was disappointed however when the vegetables which I ordered didn’t fit the description on the menu. Seemed like the cook couldn’t be bothered to add butter and whatever else that was described, he simply boiled and served them. My mom told me not to stir a scene, just eat them up she said. I would have done so in the old days, but you see, I have changed quite a bit since living in the West for almost 2 decades now. I can’t just be quiet! I was paying a lot of money for the food and I believed I deserved exact copy as described, not a simplified version! I summoned a waiter and explained that I wasn’t too happy with my orders. Before I knew it, another waiter with better English came to apologise on behalf of the cook, and minutes later a perfect version of what I ordered (along with extras) was laid before me. Yes, I did get stares (much to my mom’s embarrassment and annoyance) but I’m used to that. At least my hubby wasn’t with me that time, he normally caused heads to turn just because he looked foreign. Oh, and by the way, there’s no such thing as it’s rude to stare in Malaysia either! Took me a while to practise averting my gaze quickly when I first lived in England.

Anyway, to sum up my point, even though the Malaysian authority had done what they could in handling this tragic incident, certain character flaws have got the better of them. Had it been a local event it would have been a storm in a teacup; we would have accepted, forgave, forgot and moved on like we normally do. But the loss of MH370 is an international catastrophe, other nations will not close one eye and be as forgiving or as understanding. Changes need to be made big time, Malay youths could do with thorough lessons in public relations and communication skills. Learn to express yourself effectively, it will benefit you in more ways than one. It helps make you more human. The English of course are very good at it. I recall my experience during bad turbulence on MH4 (London-Kuala Lumpur) when I returned home last time. The Englishman next to me looked very concerned, he noticed how scared I was, clutching my toddler tight. He tried to comfort me by talking and assisting me (we were served our meals then), which truly helped. The Malay guy on the other side couldn’t care tuppence how I felt, if he did, he didn’t show it. Need I say more? What is our admirable trait then, as Malay Muslims? The ability to accept (when all else fails), in this case to believe whole heartedly that MH370 has met its fate as decreed by God. Death is the only reality in this world, we shall all have a taste of it, how and when only God knows. Farewell MH370, my tears are with you, along with my prayers. May God grant abundance of strength to your loved ones to cope without you, may God replace their sadness in losing you with something better eventually.

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2 responses

  1. I agree with you Rosa….we the Malays or Malaysian are still behind time in expressing ourselves or communicate effectively. We ‘ve got so much to learn…but this tragedy is our first so far & with the limited assets & technology that we have i guess they (the government) are trying their very best…
    All of us here have been watching like a hawk at the news since day one & we are saddened by the unfortunate event so much so this week kami berkabung & all the state/federal functions are postpone.
    Though I know it hurts & intolerable in losing your loved ones but the Chinese are taking it out of hands…the Malaysians,Indonesian,Australian & even American were among the victims & yet the family concerned are trying very hard to remain calm.
    I can say this becos when i accompanied my hubby to Guangzhou some years ago for his kidney transplant which had been a success thanks to them!…they ‘re loud & can even be aggressive at times but…they’re hardworking & willing to learn….
    Anyway…let’s pray for MH370…may they rest in peace…&…Alfatihah for the Muslims……

    • Innalillah and Al-Fatihah…dealing with tragedy is never easy, all the more we have to thread very gently…political differences should be cast aside…people’s emotions and feelings are real and raw…must be dealt with utmost care. That is my point really…