I’m trying to write a ‘straight’ review instead of drawing my reviews, but it’s hard, I tell you. It’s a book of short stories by an expat who writes about Malaysian characters (with one story set in Singapore). My mind is taken on a pensive ride… wondering a whole lot about what makes these stories Malaysian . I mean, it’s about the people of Malaysia and so does that make the stories Malaysian, even if it’s written by an expat? I’ve met Malaysians who consider their citizenship a cancer or disease to themselves (and their unborn children) and desire more than anything else to get a PR in another country. So I don’t think anyone is Malaysian because it says so on his/her birth cert… it’s probably more than that.
Yet in hindsight, I find myself guilty whenever I’m reminded of how I used to think when I was in secondary school. I’ve always loved music, movies and art and when I flip through a magazine or newspaper and find ‘bad design’ or when I hear a local band with indecipherable lyrics, I’ll poke my sister and say, “See so Malaysian la the design/singing… look at the font/listen to his accent… ughh.” Being quite self-deprecating, I believed that everything awful was probably Malaysian—which is not an uncommon thought among teenagers who are less exposed and misguided by the media. But the question still beckons, what is ‘Malaysian’? Is there a definitive voice/sound/visual/style that could be pinpointed as ‘Malaysian’? And are we too caught up in searching for a national identity to relate to that we forget to look within ourselves? Among the mishmash of cultures and languages, we try to find parallels of similarities without ever being personal—we easily leave it to seasonal Petronas ads to do that for us.
And so, perhaps what is ‘Malaysian’ lies not in the way we sing or play or write or speak because those are auxiliaries to who we are, but in the heart and passion of an individual. This is a multifaceted topic and I feel I’m only scratching at the surface and I’m sure many have covered this before, but this is definitely therapy for me before I work on my review, although I doubt it will be any easier. At least now I got this somewhat out of the way.
On another note, I was watching Kylie Kwong one night and found out that she doesn’t know the proper way to eat a xiao long bao or Shanghai dumpling (the kind with soup wrapped in the dumpling). Anyway, she made a real mess, but that’s ok I guess since people love her and she’s got her own cooking show. I found this interesting diagram from a chopstick wrapper in Singapore’s Din Tai Fung restaurant:
[click to learn!]