One of the Few

yeohUnexpectedly, 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.

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6 comments

  1. Ho Kok Sin

    My name is Ho Kok Sin a batch 88 Starian and same Black house as Yeoh Phee Lee my senior. I am proud to be a Starian. And glad I did not opt to leave when I was in Form 1. I held on and went to finish all the 5 years in STAR. Had no language problem as I adjust when I converse with my Kedah or Perak or Kelate classmates. I owe it all to my alma mater and my beloved Starian classmate. As Arwah Fauzi Abd Rahman told me before there is no race in STAR, we are all the same Starian.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bakh

    There is this contradiction, kind of an irony. Just a view, no offence intended.
    This below as quoted;
    “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.”

    Although it meant well, to transcend racial barriers one needs to totally accept, not deny the other person of his race. To say ‘you are never chinese to me’ implies… the person would normally not want to be associated with a chinese person and denies him of his race as though there is something wrong with accepting him for what he is.
    The contradiction lies in; having a sincere expression of comraderie/brotherhood and unintentionally insulting him at the same time in one short sentence. ; )

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    • tigerlaneboy

      Thank you brother for your comments. What I really meant is in my batch we don’t discriminate on the basis of race. There is no subtext of negative association with a Chinese person. If you didn’t understand that I blame it on my inadequate writing skills. Anyway, perhaps you would change your view if you read Yeoh’s article. Also because a lot of context is required to understand what I said, one might not appreciate my views stated there if one did not go to STAR or know me personally. Cheers and please come again.

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    • Khairul Ridzwan

      Our Chinese and Indian brothers have bent over backwards to assimilate themselves into the predominantly Malay culture in STAR. But how many of us Malays have been accommodating and accepting of other cultures? Brotherhood is a 2-way street, and I don’t think we have met our non-Malay brothers halfway on this.

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      • tigerlaneboy

        The sad reality is people who are in the majority don’t feel they need to accommodate. People are just lazy and since our non-Malay brothers have already put in the effort to become accepted there is no incentive for others to do the same. Admittedly STAR is not a model of inter-racial tolerance but for many, as I pointed out, it was the first opportunity to engage other races.

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