The Malaysian abroad

Who am I amongst my friends? Always the Malaysian abroad. And who is the Malaysian abroad? The one who left home at 17, and have studied, lived and worked abroad ever since.

The one who comes home only for the summer holidays, the one who knows her country only from memories as a child and teenager, from the cocoon of her parents’ home.

The Malaysian abroad knows Malaysia as the perfect motherland, but perfect only because she does not know it well enough.

The Malaysian abroad knows her country from a distance, from Western newspapers, from online news websites. BBC, CNN, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune.

The Malaysian abroad has never known the persecution and hardship endured by her peers. Her peers who live, breathe and eat Malaysian soil, the soil that tastes of racial injustice, crime and fear.

The Malaysian abroad has never been to Form 6, never been denied a place in universiti, never slept in an asrama. She has never had to call Telekom, does not know where to pay her saman, cannot navigate the LDP.

No wonder the Malaysian abroad loves Malaysia. She longs for its nostalgia, sees it through the eyes of Somerset Maugham and George Orwell, dreams of the halcyon days.

The mother land… a remote ideal that is never intimately known. Idolised only because it is beyond the horizon and allows the existence and behaviour of the Malaysian abroad to be made worthwhile. If she should go home, it would lose its sublime nature, and she would cease to be a superior man….


  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure if George Orwell ever wrote about or visited Malaya but if his novel “Burmese Days” is anything to go by (or most of his novels for that matter), I doubt his view of tanah tumpahnya darahmu would be pretty far from a sunny tropical paradise.

    Somerset Maugham, I think yes. He has been accused of seeing things with his colonial glasses on, and his works have been retrospectively judged as being too far removed from what life was really like for the “natives”. So perhaps Maugham is your best bet as the archetypal blinkered Western writer on the Far East.

    Anthony Burgess is a real treat. Although he’s of a slightly later generation than the first two. Probably the sharpest “non-native” writer about Malaya/Malaysia, whose caricatures of the various races are still surprisingly accurate in the present age. And he’s a Mancunian to boot!

    By the by, if my observations are far off the mark, I do apologise. It’s been ages since I last acquainted myself with these writers and their works.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Blimey, the last sentence of the first paragraph should read “I presume his view of tanah tumpahnya darahmu woul be pretty far from a sunny tropical paradise”.

  3. wanphing says:

    Wow, that’s quite an essay. To be honest, I’ve not read Orwell’s Burmese Days. And I never knew Burgess was Mancunian! woop woop

  4. Cheng Lu says:

    I like Malaysia, perhaps everything but the “sunny, tropical” bit :) I guess it depends on how you look at it :) If it’s through the lens of God, I think Malaysia is a blessed nation in many ways. I’m proud to be Malaysian! speaking my Manglish lar :) how are you dear? hope things are going well :) take care, ya! keep writing, i love reading your blogs :) x x x x

  5. wanphing says:

    Thanks Cheng Lu, glad to know you’re reading my blog!

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