So what if a bunch of louts makes noise outside a mall? It’s just a 100 or so of them. We must shut them out. And listen instead to the many good ones in our midst. The real Malaysians.
IT’s the dead of night and a motorist’s car suffers a breakdown. He’s stranded with his family when a couple of guys stop to check. The motorist fears the worst.
No, it turns out they are not robbers. They are kind souls. They get help and fetch a few mechanics to get the car running again.
The family offers the men some money and they say no.
“You need it more. It’s your Hari Raya,” they say.
The family insists, puts the money in a packet and offers it as duit raya.
Now, the men accept.
A lady’s car blows a tyre close to the edge of the road. It’s tough enough trying to get a tyre changed in the open. But at the edge of a kerb?
A Punjabi milk seller stops his bike, rolls up his sleeve, removes the flat tyre and replaces it with the spare. He, too, rejects payment.
In both cases, the victim is of a different race from the Good Samaritan.
Heartwarming stories? Yes. And no.
They are just stories that go to show that we as Malaysians will still help others in need.
The sad thing is that these stories have actually become news items or gone viral on social media. It’s a sure – but bad – sign that people believe these are outside of the norm.
It’s not. It’s the way we were, and in many cases still are. We have always been Malaysians, and stopping to help someone – victims of an accident, a robbery, a breakdown – was a common thing. It should be a common thing.
It is not news. It is dog-bites-man kind of stuff.
So, what’s news?
The story of a brave policeman who pulled out a man from a car just before it exploded?
No, not really. Like L/Kpl Aliff Alzam himself said: “I am touched by all the appreciation. But it’s my job after all.” He knows what it means to be Malaysian.
Now, the story of Rajagopal is news. The man is an office boy, aged 52, blind in one eye and living with his wife and daughter in a three-bedroom apartment. He turned over one room to an older man he had known years ago. That man had been reduced to living on the streets.
Rajagopal fed him for 10 years and cared for him. And when the older man died of dengue, Rajagopal helped in the cremation ceremony, with Hindus and a Sikh paying respects as a Buddhist monk did the final rites.
Now, that’s heartwarming.
Or the story of Connie Wong, or Cikgu Wong, a Buddhist who has raised five children as Muslims, two of whom are still staying with her.
She makes sure they attend Islamic religious school, eat halal food and attend Friday prayers. She also makes sure they observe puasa during Ramadan.
She’s not rich. She drives a bus to make a living and sells fruits to add to her income.
And when politicians came calling to help her with monetary aid, she gave them a flat no.
They are “her children” and she will take care of them. She is in Sabah and over on that side of the South China Sea, such things are commonplace. Which is probably why we have never heard of her until now.
But there are many like that in the peninsula, too.
Take Shirin Aziha Shahidan. She knew an apek, known to her as Uncle Ah San, when she was 10, some 17 years ago. He was the guy with big legs who sold sweets and the very Penang ais kapai.
As a 10-year-old, she would help him cross the road by pushing his tricycle before he went on his merry way.
She has long since grown up and is now a busy career woman in the Klang Valley.
But no trip home to Penang is complete without a visit to Uncle Ah San.
On Hari Raya day, she visited him with her mum and a couple of nurses to give the elderly man a memorable festive day.
He had his new baju raya, plenty of food and some great company.
The story of Shirin Aziha is special. Not only does she visit him, she and her friend are paying nurses to care for the man who is suffering from elephantiasis.
“It takes just 15 minutes for a nurse to handle his usual treatment. But for him to get to the hospital and be treated, it could take more than an hour, what with his non-motorised wheelchair,” she said.
To her, he is family.
“I did not think much of helping him except for the odd few ringgit I would give him until his wife died.
“Now, he has no one. I think we should help.”
She thinks of it as paying forward.
“We must put aside religion, race and other differences. It does not even matter if the other person is Malaysian or Bangladeshi or Myanmar, we must be ready to help.
“Who knows, the favour could just be returned to me. If not me, maybe my children will one day benefit from some good deed of mine,” says Shirin Aziha, who also does other charity work in the Klang Valley.
The Government is now thinking of a Harmony Act to bring the people together. With people like Rajagopal, Cikgu Wong and Shirin Aziha, who needs such an Act.
We just need to make them the news, the mainstream of the Malaysian narrative.
Not that bunch of loudmouthed louts at Low Yat Plaza. They belong in the footnotes of our history, a black dot somewhere in the background, not on the front pages of our newspaper.
And building a mall just for them, so they can sell and buy among those of their own ilk? Somebody please shoot that idea down. If the Harmony Act needs a death knell, it’s a suggestion like that.
The writer, who can be reached at email@example.com, just got out of hospital. Now, there’s a real multi-racial institution. Where everyone cares and all know the meaning of hurt and pain.
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Dorairaj Nadason is The Star’s Executive Editor.
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