Achievement Unlocked: I Got Published in the BBC! :D

Hey guys! I have some very exciting news!

I got an article published on BBC! 

Yep, that BBC. It’s a writeup on the stigma against dark skin in Malaysia. You can view it here:

IS THAT AWESOME OR WHAT? 

Sorry I’m shouting; I’m just so excited 😀 Granted, that was published like a week ago and I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to blog about it, but… still excited. 😀

I guess it’s every writer’s dream to be recognised for their work, and having been told before that I don’t write as well as my colleagues (I used to work in a newspaper), this is a huge achievement for me.

Anyway, the story of how this came about – last year in September, I wrote an article on fat shaming, which I put up on my rant blog and shared on my personal Facebook. It was picked up by a friend who works at a viral news portal. He asked permission to feature it. I said okay and it went ‘viral’, so to speak. The site has since closed down (I guess they weren’t making enough money to sustain?), so I can’t link it to you guys, but you can read my original version here: badwithchopsticks.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/thin/ I felt encouraged reading the comments: readers sharing their own experiences and how they know it shouldn’t get them down, that they related to my quest for a healthier life that not necessarily involved taking insults from people who knew nothing about the struggles I go through everyday.

The writeup was viral enough that I received an email from a BBC correspondent in Singapore, who said she loved my style and tone, and wanted me to write a separate piece on a similar issue (since they can’t reuse the one I already wrote). I was beyond excited, and decided to write about another topic besides fat shaming that has bugged me a lot growing up – stigma against dark skin. Those who know me in real life will know that I’ve never had the prized ‘fair’ complexion, which is prized as a beauty ideal in my community.

Fan Bing Bing, China’s highest paid actress – considered the ‘ideal’ beauty in many East Asian communities. Almond shaped eyes, sharp nose, delicate bone structure, pale skin.
And then there’s me. A happy tanned potato. On most days I like me, except on the few that haters get me down.

 

I admit, it was harder for me to write an article when I knew such a reputable organisation was asking me to – what if they didn’t like it? I held back a lot, as opposed to how I would normally sound (blunt, lol). There were a couple of rewrites with exchanges that lasted several weeks; and then I didn’t hear back from them after Chinese New Year in January.

Assuming that they had scrapped the idea, I put it out of my mind. After all, having gotten an email from them was already a very happy occasion for me – it meant that they valued my writing, whether or not my article gets published. I know my parents never liked me picking journalism as my major, and throughout my course and career they have (perhaps subconsciously) indicated their disappointment. Deep down inside, I struggled: I wanted to be a filial daughter who can make my parents happy, but if it meant sacrificing my own happiness to pick something they thought was a ‘good’ career (like accounting, or engineering)… I couldn’t live with myself. So I followed my heart.

Getting published wasn’t really the issue. It was the recognition that I am actually, you know, pretty good at what I’m doing.

Fast forward a couple of months and I got an email from the same correspondent, with a link. It was finally out! I proudly shared it with my parents. While they did not lavish praise, I could feel their quiet approval. Which means the world to me. I believe in my own writing abilities, but sometimes you just need a booster now and then, you know? xD

Let me know what you guys think of the writeup! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

 

Happy Birthday, Malaysia

57 years. That is a long way to come for a small nation of 28 million people.

We were once ruled over by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Japanese and the British. On this same date Aug 31, 57 years ago, our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman finally declared us free in the now famous footage of him shouting Merdeka (freedom) seven times on our field of Independence.

To understand a little about our country, we have to go back to it’s rich culture and diversity. Foreign readers of this blog will probably be confused as they think all Malaysians are Malay. Malaysia is actually made up of three major races – the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians. The Malays came here from Indonesia a long time ago, and established ‘Kesultanan Melayu’ or the Malay Sultanates. It was a glorious kingdom in the region, until the Portuguese invaded in 1511 (I still remember my history lessons!). Then the Dutch in the 1600s, for close to 200 years. Places such as Malacca were rich in natural resources, and something the Europeans needed – spices. It’s strategic location also enabled it to monopolise the spice trade routes.

The British, which have left a lasting legacy here that we can see from our day to day lives such as our parliamentary system, usage of British English, etc. took over in the 1800s. With industry developments of tin mining, the Chinese came in search of better opportunities (my great grandparents included :D) as well as the Indians (who usually worked in rubber estates). Then you have the Eurasians (Serani, or locals who married Portuguese people) , the Arabs, the indigenous peoples, etc. So you see, Malaysia is really a giant melting pot of different races/cultures. It’s not like in, say, China where most of the country is culturally homogenous.

A lot of things have changed since then.  Back in the days,  we were probably more united as  a nation than we are today.  The different races united for a common thing : to fight for independence. It didn’t matter what our skin colour was. We wanted a country of our own.

Today, the voices of dissent and racial/religious hatred are strong – not only here but also in other parts of the world; while moderation and tolerance are drowned. Selfish parties use race and religion as a shield, playing countrymen against countrymen.

I am fourth generation Malaysian-Chinese. My great grandparents came here from China more than a hundred years ago. I feel sad that even after so many years, I am still called a ‘pendatang‘ (immigrant), despite having lived my entire life here. I am often told to ‘go back to China‘. But how can I, when the only country I know, the only place I call my homeland, is Malaysia? I can’t even speak proper Chinese.

I am sad to know that because I am not Malay, I will forever be a second-class citizen, unable to enjoy the same privileges or educational opportunities for my children. Things will probably change slowly – even in America, black people were strongly discriminated against as recent as 50 years ago. And now they have a black president. Will Malaysia, with it’s constant calls for ‘unity’ (yet gives it’s citizens different privileges, which others are not allowed to question lest we be charged and thrown in jail) ever see the same? I would hope so. Maybe not in my life time.

Not all is lost, however. I recently interviewed ordinary, everyday Malaysians on what makes them proud to call themselves ‘anak Malaysia‘, and was pleasantly surprised by how effortlessly the answers came to most of them.

It is heartening that there are still lots of people out there who are all for a true 1Malaysia, who do not let the voices of dissent cause disharmony. It is true. We have much to be thankful for. Our food, our culture, our heritage… growing up in a country where I learn much about people of different races and beliefs. I am mindful of my Muslim friends who fast during fasting month, and I know not to serve beef to Hindus – things I wouldn’t know if I had been raised in a homogenous society. The bottom line is, we are all Malaysians, no matter our skin colour, our race, our religion, or beliefs. We are still sons and daughters of Malaysia.

 

Happy Merdeka Day, Malaysia.