So much to love about my ‘tanahair’


Cheong: ‘Tanahair’ is so special, so graceful. There is no accurate way to translate it into English.

WHO was your first best friend? Tell us a story about the friendship.

Paul Shiva lived 10 minutes down the road from me. We were the same age and we did many things together – played hockey in the evenings, hung out at each other’s homes, went gallivanting around town.

He attended Victoria Institution in KL and I was a La Salle PJ boy. After school, we’d take our respective school buses home and look out for each other at the stop near Jalan Riong. If I was there first, I’d hop off my bus and jump onto his bus headed into Bangsar. If he got there first, he’d do the same.

On the days that he had to stay late, I’d take my bus all the way to the old Klang Bus Stop opposite Central Market and wait for him and we’d take the bus home together. We were inseparable.

What’s your favourite childhood hangout spot?

My sisters and I loved going to The Mall (it’s called something else now) in KL when it first opened because it had an amazing indoor theme park. Our favourite ride was the Matterhorn and we’d go so often that we knew the people working there. Sometimes we’d convince the guy operating the ride to make it spin backwards, much to the surprise of others.

If you could have dinner with one Malaysian from history, who would it be?

My great-grandfather. He raised my dad because my grandfather died at a very young age. He was fascinating! From what my father told me, he would be what we’d call a post-colonial man; he had so much respect for the “white man’s greatness”. Yet, he raised my dad who never saw skin colour and had so much faith in us as Malaysians. I’d want to ask him what our nation meant to him, and how he would define patriotism.

What is the first thing you look to makan when you come back from an overseas trip?

Currypuff remains my favourite Malaysian delicacy. But I guess I’m a typical Malaysian ... I crave everything so I will have them all one at a time over a few days.

What is the one Malaysian quirk you find most endearing?

The way we speak – and not just the “lah”. There’s something very comforting listening to another Malaysian abroad, especially when you bump into him or her unexpectedly.

Complete this sentence: Negaraku...

Tanahairku (akin to homeland). I love that word – tanahair. I was very disappointed when I came home on Malaysia Airlines and discovered they no longer welcome you with that term when you land. Instead, they now say, “Selamat kembali ke Negaraku tercinta” (Welcome home to our beloved country). Tanahair is so special, so graceful. There is no accurate way to translate it into English.


   

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