Monday, September 15, 2008

A Sense of Belonging

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.


Hi&Lo said...

Puteri Kamaliah,

Di mana bumi dipijak, disitulah langit dijunjung.

Your genealogy is very interesting. I have relatives in Medan whilst am a Penangite, now cari rezeki di Sabah.

Growing up in a close-knit community, we treat family friends and neighbours as extended family regardless of colour and creed.

It's said small towns grow great characters.

Bergen said...

Dok nok wak guaneng, do okk gggitu.

Pak Idrus said...

Putri Kamaliah, Great writeup. You are right we all are 'pendatang; Immigrant, full stop. That is the fact. Accept it, we are all Malaysian now.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kak Teh said...

puteri, being away for so long - we've stopped analysing the asal usul - because the standard answer to the question is usually - from Malaysia (to the locals) and to malaysians asking - Dari Kedah, is the standard answer.

But i know there a small percentage of me that's a pendatang from the small island of Mergui in Burma.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

hi&lo - how apt. disini terletak kesetiaan kita. tak perlu dipertikai lagi. glad to make your acquaintance.

bergen - owk sokmo, sapa dok rowk nok tanggong..

pak idrus - if only semua terima hakikat, alangkah aman hidup kita.

kak teh - kita semua dah caca marba, kan? mana ada melayu tulin lagi.. kecuali orang asli.

MrsNordin said...

My maternal grandparents are from Sumatera as well, Pagar Ruyung, I think. My mum and aunties still speak in Bahasa Rawa. I always wondered why they came all the way here to settle down...

We still have relatives there, but since my grandma passed away, i think no one bothered to keep in touch anymore. So dah tak tau asal usul. Sigh..

Anonymous said...

The melting pot of cultures is really the beauty of our dear country. It should be the duty of all citizens to not turn this beauty into anarchy.It should also be our duty to understand the history of our nation and most of all to understand and respect the Basic Laws i.e the Constitution which has successfully bound all of us together as a people for more than half a century.

Anonymous said...

Apa susah nak jawab?
Tak nak tanya asai saya?
Asai dari perut mak.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

BB - hear hear!

lap - betui la jugak, hehehe

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Mrs N, some years ago 2 of my brothers made a meaningful trip to Pagar Ruyung to discover our roots... disambut dengan begitu meriah oleh suku sakat di sana, masih kekal dengan adat istiadat lama. there is a museum there yang provide comprehensive documentation of our genealogy. one day, Insyaallah, saya akan kembali jugak.