Once upon a time, when cornered with "Asal dari mana?" (Where from?), it took me a while to figure out an appropriate response. I could never be sure of what to say.
Short of giving the one asking a lengthy discourse in my Sumatran (paternal) and Kelantan-Thai (maternal) ancestry, I would hem and haw before settling on "Saya anak Terengganu" (I'm Terengganu born and bred).
I was young and impressionable. Terengganu was the established backwaters of the nation; it just wasn't hip to acknowledge oneself as an 'ulu' (hick) chick from the boondocks. Such was my imbecilic, puerile state of mind then.
Speaking of asal (origin), none of us, save the pribumis (aborigines) - the Negritos, Semais, Semelais, Batiks, Sakais, Jakuns, Mahmeris, Ibans, Penans, Muruts, Kadazans etc - can lay claim to having our true origin in this land called Malaysia.
Let's not kid ourselves. We are all pendatang/orang asing (immigrants/ aliens) whose forefathers adopted this country as their own and bequeathed it to their descendants, only to have us betraying that trust by questioning each other's legitimacy to be here.
The Malays, the Chinese, the Indians, the Lain-lain (oh how I despise this term!) all have a legitimate claim over this country. It matters not at what point in time before 31st August 1957 their forefathers dropped anchor along these shores. This is home. Let's not question it anymore.
For the purpose of history, my Sumatran forefathers stamped their presence here a few centuries longer than the rest (perhaps with the exception of the entourage from the Chinese court who evolved into the Babas and Nyonyas).
The Megats, whose ancestral home is Pagar Ruyung in Sumatra, arrived in Tanah Abang (Malacca) in the late 1500s to accompany a Malaccan prince in exile following the fall of the Malacca Sultanate.
They eventually made their way to Perak, pledged loyalty to the Perak royal court, and served nine subsequent Perak Sultans as Bendahara.
The Megats and the Puteris are fortunate to have a well-documented family tree. Proud as I am to belong to the clan, if you were to ask me today, "Asal dari mana?", my answer would still be "Saya anak Terengganu."
I may not have a single stick of property, nor kith or kin, left in Terengganu; it has been 35 long years since I left Terengganu, and the memory of my distant childhood in Bukit Besi diminishes over time.
But the bones of my grandmother, mother and stepfather lie buried in Terengganu soil. I can't leave them. They are family. That's why my heart belongs to Terengganu and that's why I remain "anak Terengganu" until the day I breathe my last.