Sunday, 25 March 2012

Malacca History (2)

In this post, I give you the details of my gene-rich Malacca heritage.

Well, being born and raised in Malacca, I inherit a weird background, that I stand nowhere but somewhere on this Earth.

I am a third generation Dutch from my maternal Burgher grandmother who came from Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

I am probably 16th generation Ming Chinese from my paternal grandmother who could be related to Yap Ah Loy somewhere from Chow Kit market area where a lot of Chinese grew vegetables, even my paternal-maternal great grandfather had a Malay name but a Chinese suffix when I know he is probably Indonesian from his facial features. 

I am 10th generation Hadrami Arab from my paternal grandfather whom I have never met as he died before my parents got married. From his photos in my dad's pendrive, he looks Indian or a dark Malay but a funny thing is all my uncles are fair Chinese except my dad who looks Indian to me, and I take 50% Indian features from him. This week I heard he is Bugis - that's 3 years posthumous identification! 

I had a maternal grandfather whom I couldn't make out what he was - I had thought he was in the wrong place, which is true. Some 24 years after he died, I had the opportunity of Indian colleagues in my dept, who are well-travelled and they identified my grandfather to be a typical Indian, and specifically from Madras! Can you believe that?! That positive identification helped solved a lot of mysteries about him. 

I then presented the same photo of my maternal grandfather to a Malay-Arab, one of my Syed uncles. He said my grandfather was most probably Indian with a lot of Arab infusion based on the probable location of his birthplace! I almost fainted! His birth certificate can't be found. Without proper birth identification, it is hard to tell a person's background and inheritance. I then visited the large graveyard in Jalan Perak where my grandfather used to go every Aidilfitri. I was told earlier this year (2012) his ancestors were all interred there, in a special plot some distance from Makam Dato' Keramat (after who Jalan Dato' Keramat is named). I don't know keramat and qaromah stuff. But I guess, having an ancestral plot near the Makan could mean my grandfather's ancestors were probably workers for Dato' Keramat or his people, or else they would not be buried in the area close to Makam Dato' Keramat. 

Now back to me, I am nowhere but somewhere. I am Malay Bugis Burgher Indian Dutch German Chinese and Arab, or MBBIDGCA for short. If that is not enough, then try and add Princess van Rooyen, Sultan Mansor Shah and Princess Hang Li Poh to the picture. What do you get? That's who I am from a historical standpoint. To make it even stranger, I am married to a Chinese-Malay. So if you expect me to dress in baju kurung, I will of course laugh. If you expect me to dress in short skirt and blouse and wear high heels, I will also laugh. I am modestly dressed as my female ancestors have dressed before me - with a lose long dress and scarf (like old mother hubbard). 

A lot of people have problems trying to fit me somewhere and usually they will ask - "Are you Malay or not Malay?" Of course I will answer "Saya orang Melayu tapi saya boleh cakap English" and then the conversation goes on in English. My husband had thought I was Eurasian until I told him "I'm not!" Even the Filipinos thought I was a Filipino. I am Malay by today's Malaysian definition.

The only one thing that distinguishes me from the typical orang Melayu is my food - I eat Mediterranean cuisine for heavy meals and Chinese cuisine for the light meals. I like sandwiches. I don't have snacks. That was how I was brought up. 

The first Malay food I learned from my Malay teenage friends was nasi goreng with mixed vegetables. Then I have never stopped cooking Malay food. I have added Thai friend rice, etc to my culinary skills. I'm learning nasi biryani but still not getting it right yet. 

In a nutshell, I can say that Malay is just a label and living in Malaysia means you just live as you please. There is no need to stick to being Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc since everyone is so mixed that it doesn't matter and shouldn't matter anymore. 

So, is Malacca a great city and empire? I would say yes and no. What else did we benefit from having Malacca in Malaysia? I think a mixed heritage not only in the houses and cultures we see today, but also the genes have mixed so much that we all have 'global genes'. That's how I look at Malacca and its importance. Being a Malacca person makes it even more real and a living proof. 

I have no problem adapting and going on living anywhere on Earth, so long as it is not a cold place. I prefer places with Mediterranean climate. When I was in San Francisco, a Chinese restaurant owner asked me if I could do regular cooking demo for his restaurant! He must think I knew how to cook Chinese cuisine so well?! 

In any mixed cultural setting, there is one thing that we must learn to accept and that is despite being culturally different, socially we must try and look to our different cuisines as a binding force and try each other's cuisine for there is a lot to learn, and I think we will all be happy when we try different foods of the different ethnic groups. There is already teamwork at the workplace but sometimes teams don't function so well, and falling outside a team is often better.

I'm baking olive bread this morning and that is a Greek recipe. Olives are mentioned in the Quran. I take it that olive bread is a healthy option (based on its chemical property) and can be made a global item for Muslim dining (can suggest that to Halal Hub). That is how I look at coming together as a nation and globally. 

I still don't understand why people still want to wage war. There is no need for war. When one is of mixed heritage like myself, there is a lot of peace in the heart and mind that war doesn't come into the picture at all. Why do we need war? Why are people after power struggle? Why do people still want to kill? Why do people still want to plunder poor countries? Tell me why? Why do we have so much politics and back-biting? Even the religion Islam tells us what happiness we can have on this earth by coming together. Why can't we be humans and behave like humans should?

Need to check on my olive bread - it is also in my cooking blog.

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Malacca History (1)

Malacca has a rather strange history in that nobody can truly give us the exact coordinates of the Malacca Empire. Despite its greatness and importance both in Malay History and World History, there is little written evidence in our local collection, be it within the National Archives (Arkib Negara Malaysia) or in the hands of the Malaysian populace.

I have read Malay accounts that tell the boundaries of the Malacca Empire covered Kedah and Kelantan today. Even graves present in Kedah and Kelantan provide the evidence that were part of the Malacca Empire. A strange thing though that makes me wonder, is there a clear boundary that separates the Malacca Empire from the one in the north (Siamese Empire)? What empire existed south of the Malacca Empire? Muslim Damak Empire? If Damak was the only Muslim empire, then what was the Malacca Empire, Hindu? I will leave it to the historians to write and explain.