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Monday, September 08, 2008

The Confluential Appendage

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Walski's inspired inspirational accredidation forenote: This post has been inspired by something written at the Crankshaft blog. It reminded Walski just how diverse Malaysia is, and how that rich diversity is what has made our nation the almost-success it is today. And not because of something called racial purity - because one way or another, we all pendatang (immigrants). It's just a question of when and how. (Update: some corrections to certain historical facts in this color)

Allow Walski to share with you folks some of his family's history. Nothing specific, though. Just a brief narrative of how Walski came to be here in Malaysia. Walski could offer all the nitty-gritty details, but in truth, it's not really that necessary. There's a point to telling you his family history, which will become evident at the end of the post. Eventually.

Let's start with his Dad's side of the family.

Image taken from Japan Focus, hosting by PhotobucketMap of The East Indies, c. 1662
(click here for image source)

The Palembang Connection
On Walski's dad side of the family, one would have to go back about 300 years or so (update: sorry, not 400-500 - Walski's apologies for the accidental exaggeration), to when the first of his forefathers arrived in the region from Hadhramaut, Yemen. According to dad, they first landed in Palembang after which, over the centuries travelled to Mindanao, travelled across Borneo to Sarawak, was associated with the Kubu Sultanate in Pontianak (Kalimantan), and in between back to Palembang, Sumatera. The actual history is rather convoluted, so Walski won't elaborate in detail (updated: for a slightly more accurate picture).

And it was from Palembang that Walski's dad's more recent forefathers crossed over to Peninsular Malaysia, via Penang, ending up in Kedah, sometime in the 19th century. Along the way, from the first landing in Mindanao, until ending up in Kedah, the family has picked up a lot of other local genetic material, making that part of Walski's heritage pan-Archipelago, so to speak. With some Arab in the mix.

Walski has, of course, skipped a lot of the specifics, including the royal connection bits. Both his paternal grandfather's and grandmother's families came across to the appendage of Asia from Palembang, although Walski isn't quite certain about the path that grandmother's family took, or where/when they initially landed in the region.
(and then there's Mom's side, and more, in the full post)

Walski's mom's side of the family history is a little more recent. And somewhat more diverse.

The Indian Connection
Walski's maternal grandfather's side of the heritage equation comes from India. Grandad's father came to Malaya (at the time) to work with the Malayan Railway. Not much is known about this individual, except that he, too, is of part-Arabic descent, and that he left a family (wife and kids) to come over here. When he was here, he married grandad's mother.

Now Walski's great-grandmother's dad, is also of Indian origin, but the family can only trace him to Penang, where he was born sometime in the 19th century. No one knows where in India or when the emigration took place or whether it was his parents or grandparents that made the journey from the sub-continent.

Granddad's father eventually went back to India, ditching his Malayan family, as Walski understands it.

The Chinese Connection
Both Walski's maternal grandmother's parents came to Malaya from Hong Kong. You might not know this, but there actually is a very large Muslim community in Hong Kong, who got there partly from mainland China, and partly descendants of immigrants from various parts of the world - Pakistan and Turkey being two of them. But in terms of language and culture, they are very much Chinese.

Not much is known about Walski's mom's father. If not mistaken, he was an engineer of some sort. In any case, he too ditched his wife and 4 children, and left the Peninsular sometime before the Second World War. Where he went to is not known.

Walski's maternal grandmother's mom was already married when they arrived in Malaya, presumably sometime in the early 20th century. Now what Walski's been told is that great-grandma was as Chinese as one could get, and couldn't speak much Malay even to the point when she passed on sometime in the early 60s, before Walski was born. Grandma (now deceased) had 3 siblings - two sisters and a brother. One of her sisters died soon after (or during - not very sure) WW2. She was the youngest of the four. The eldest is still alive and now lives in the inner Segambut area, just along the fringes of the ever-growing Mont Kiara area. Her brother moved to Singapore, where he joined the police force, and remained there after the island separated in 1965.

Walski's mom's generation (her cousins from oldest grand-aunt), her included, speak fluent Cantonese - a skill that unfortunately grandma decided shouldn't be passed on to Walski, for some unfathomable reason. Walski can remember the two sisters chattering away merrily in Cantonese whenever they visited each other.

The Point of The Story:
The sum total of the various historical connections, spanning some 20+ generations (on dad's side) and about half a millenium, produced, in 1964, the person commonly known in the Malaysian bloggerhood as Walski. It all converged here, on this small appendage to the the great continent of Asia, part of the nation known as Malaysia, through various historical circumstances.

Now, with such a rich family heritage as he has, why the fuck does everybody insist that Walski is Malay? And Walski is damn sure that he's not alone with this predicament.

The truth is that at some point, all our forefathers, and foremothers, were immigrants to this land. Some earlier, some later. This includes those who spend their energy upholding the so-called "rights" they have as "sons of the soil" (so far, no one's insisted on the term Bumiputeri yet, so don't accuse Walski of being sexist, okay?). 

Walski is very proud of his heritage, by the way. But even so, he's not Arab, or Indian, or Chinese -"truly Asia" would probably come close, but that's not what Walski considers himself either. 

Just like anyone else who calls Malaysia their home, Walski is 100% bona fide Anak Bangsa Malaysia. And anyone, regardless of heritage, as long as they're born here, and regard Malaysia as their home, is equally 100% Anak Bangsa Malaysia in Walski's book.

Why some people just simply refuse to get that fact into their dense, racially-blurred skulls, is simply beyond Walski's comprehension...