Letter: Let’s learn to respect one another

No Comments// Posted in malaysia, merdeka, writing by on 11.07.13.

This is my letter, featured by The Star on 5th Nov 2013.

Let’s learn to respect one another

WHEN I was six years old, living in Pontian, Johor, my neighbour was an Indian family.

Maniam was a cendol seller and his daughter Sugami, who was 13 years old, was very bubbly and friendly.

She was close to me and she considered me as her sister as she was the only child. She was very protective.

Her watchful eyes would observe me like a hawk and she would run after me when I absent-mindedly sprinted across the dusty kampung roads, trying to catch whatever insect that caught my interest.

As my parents were in the medical line, their working hours were irregular so sometimes, my mom would remind Sugami to watch over me as I spent my time with my grandma.

We would play “masak-masak” or “teng teng”. Sometimes, I watched her read her books aloud, admiring how intelligent she was for being able to read so well. It was so easy to impress a kid.

Every Monday and Wednesday, she would accompany me to Muqaddam classes over at my neighbour’s house, a stone’s throw from my grandma’s house.

She would pick me up after the classes and send me home safely.

Being a kid there were times I felt lazy but she would reprimand me and tell me that I needed to learn.

Sometimes, I would hang out at Sugami’s house and her parents would give me goodies like murukku and idli and delicious cendol.

However, when I was eight years old, Maniam moved to Negri Sembilan and that was the last time I met Sugami.

She taught me that love and compassion did not depend on your religion, the colour of your skin or how much money you make in a year.

Maybe I was too young to understand the significance of this but when I hear my mom retelling this story, the memories come flooding back. I remember how I cried when Sugami left and how much impact she had on me, a small Malay Muslim kid who grew up to be an educator.

When I look back at my childhood and reflect on how Malaysians treated one another, I wish more Malaysians realise that if we don’t learn to respect one another, if we don’t learn to tolerate, if we stop loving one another because we are of a different race or religion, we will end up being heartless intellectuals who see things from our own dogmatic perspective and not from our instincts as mere mortals.

To all my Indian teachers, lecturers, neighbours, friends, students and Malaysians, I wish you Deepavali Vathukkal.

Let us all respect one another and learn to love and never to hate.


Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

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