Unexpectedly, this was the piece that struck the most resonance with my batchmates. It’s a more manly way of saying that it left them blubbering like idiots.
When we were in STAR, most of the time we actually forgot that Yeoh was Chinese. For a start, he could speak with a real Perak accent which is more authentic that I could muster when I go back to my kampung near Batu Gajah. A funny incident related in his article is when a warden pulled his hair demanding, “Mana songkok awak?” Yeoh just replied factually, “Saya Cina, Cikgu.” I am sure until today he keeps his mouth shut or sticks to English while having lunch during Ramadhan so as not to attract awkward stares.
Yeoh was not the only Chinese in STAR ’86. There were also 4 other brothers. They all spoke flawless Malay from day one. I am not sure how they spoke before they came to STAR but as an amateur linguist I am convinced that everyone has an ability to adapt when one tries hard enough. Something for our proponents of national unity to think about.
I hear now the Chinese Starian is extinct in STAR (as are Indian Starians, I guess). How sad. For many, that could be the first real bond of friendship with a non-Malay, coming from a heavily polarised education system.
Why were my friends blubbering like idiots? As one of our ’86 brothers declared in our Whatsapp group, when we discussed the article, “Yeoh…for me u were never a Cina or whatever race u want to call yourself. U are my brother first. I am sure all of us feel the same.” Yeoh’s article drove home the point that our brotherhood was so strong, it transcends any racial barriers.
I can’t vouch for the other batches but in STAR ’86, there were really no Chinese Starians.