The Malaysian in us

IT is an interesting time to be a Malaysian of Indian origin. According to a message I received, Indians are the kingmakers regarding swing votes in GE14. The message provided figures and the names of precarious seats. I was intrigued by the content and how little I related to the message.

On one hand we Indians are the marginalised group and on the other we are said to yield so much power in the general election. I wonder how true the statistics are.

After the last election in 2013, when a newspaper carried the headline "Apa lagi Cina mahu?", I won't pretend, I did feel slighted.

Don't get me wrong, it was an extremely distasteful yet telling headline. One filled with racial sentiments, providing a window of what the following five years would look like, and boy has it been such a vile regression.

But I felt an extra slight by those headlines because there was no concern about Indians. But what irked me more was what about all Malaysians. Why was one ethnic group singled out?

So it was interesting to read the statistics in that kingmaker-swing vote message and to then see a one-page spread in the newspapers the next day about all that was now being done for the Indian community.

It was also enlightening to find out about the Malaysian Indian Blueprint which shares the same acronym as the Hollywood blockbuster Men in Black.

Jokes aside, the Indian in me never quite knows how to react when the politicians talk about Indians. Which Indians are they talking about?

I say this because the Indian community is fragmented not only by ethnic lines and religious beliefs but also social and economic standing. Oh and let's not forget skin tone.

The Indian diaspora's spread is colourful jobwise and ranges from thugs to lawyers, activists to sound, event, media, administrative and HR-PR people to drama queens, lottery ticket sellers, academics, doctors, fixers, cleaners and parking lot attendants. Then there are the two famous tycoons who tilt the community's economic standing. Indians in Malaysia are indeed a diverse bunch and there isn't a single narrative to being an Indian in Malaysia.

My experience as an Indian in Malaysia is different from someone who was born in the plantations or estates and varies to someone who lives in the Indian enclaves of Brickfields or Klang or to those who live in Bangsar or Ipoh.

Which makes my Indian bubble very different. I cannot pretend to understand what those who are born in the estates experience neither can I pretend to know what the other races born into poverty experienced and continue to experience today. What I do know is that inequality is the problem.

While there isn't a single narrative to being an Indian in Malaysia, there isn't a single narrative to being Malay or Chinese or Orang Asal or Malaysian for that matter either. There is however a single narrative when it comes to inequality.

Inequality is about the Malaysians who after years living in this country still hold a red IC or remain undocumented compared to a foreigner who marries a member of the Malaysian elite. Where their application is fast-tracked into receiving not only Malaysian citizenship but also native privileges.

Inequality is how much attention is paid to a crime that takes place in low-cost flats compared to if the crime took place in an upmarket gated, guarded condominium. Justice is a universal language.

Inequality is also generational and how the current working generation cannot afford what their parents could at their age even with higher qualifications and opportunities.

Inequality is what kills a nation and I suspect our politicians already know this to be true.

So they spend money on advertisements to tell the people all that is being done which on the surface looks good.

But what that means is that the inequality which kills a nation is built into the system because our policies are not crafted to address inequality of all Malaysians but carved out based on race.

So instead of elevating Malaysians, our policies actually continue to suppress and perpetuate such inequality which is why we remain a fragmented society.

We experience inequality every single day. From the cars that zoom by, to the types of schools, extra activities and gadgets that money buys, holidays we take, experiences we buy and even the food we eat.

Putting right the wrongs of past policies is not easy but it has to start with a collective Malaysian mindset to make sure that the policies that benefit me do not disadvantage someone else.

The next government has to review and rectify every single law and policy to make sure that we start thinking of the Malaysian in us and what will benefit the Malaysians around us, because that is something we have in common.

Maybe then the headlines after the next election will read "What do Malaysians want?" and the Malaysian in me will be able to relate and respond.