When people ask me, where are you from? I would promptly answer, “Pahang”. Little did they know that my state of origin doesn’t really constitute who I am.
Being born into a mixed family, I always could not relate to people surrounding me. To start with, my father is Arabian and my mother is Chinese. My father was the youngest of ten siblings, and he has Arab bloodline from his father, which would later honour him and his descendants with a ‘Syed’ title, which in English translates as ‘Master’. However, my father is really a Pahangite, and his mother tongue is not Arabic. He speaks Malay in Pahang accent.
My mother is a Chinese, born in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur. When she was a few days old, my grandmother abandoned her and left her to a nurse of the hospital of which she was born at. By that time, Chinese people did not really appreciate girls in a family. If the family is poor, like my biological grandparents’, there are high possibilities for the family to give away the girls. My foster grandparents adopted her and gave her Malay name. They took her and raise her in Kampung Chatin, Temerloh, Pahang. Though she looks like Chinese, she could not speak Mandarin, or Cantonese, or Hokkien. Instead, my foster grandparents used Malay with Kampar accent at home.
My mother then gave birth to seven siblings. Most of her children have Chinese look, including me. What would perplex people later is all of us have Syed’s and Syarifah’s as our surname even though we look like Chinese.
In my father’s family, we stood out like sore thumbs as all of us looked different. And unlike them, we could not speak Pahang accent with accuracy. It was because at home, my mother would speak standard Malay with us; our neighbours and my mother’s siblings communicate with Kampar accent; and only my father speaks with Pahang accent.
Sometimes, people wonder why I do not have any accent. I would rather answer because I had lived in boarding school since I was small. I think it would take much time to explain my situation. Even in school, I could not speak Pahang accent with my schoolmates. Sometimes they looked down at me for the reason. For them, it is strange if you are living in an area your whole life but you don’t sound a bit like the rest.
Sometimes I did feel like a stranger, when I could not really speak the languages of people around me. When in boarding school and university, I speak standard Malay, but still with some slang from Pahang. When with my fathers’ family, I did not speak at all, and when with my mother’s family, again I have to listen to strange words uttered that sound a little bit like Minangkabau accent.
Nevertheless, I now don’t give a damn at all. As I grow up, I learned that your colour, language and thoughts are not important, as long as you have a good heart inside.
Pahang slang translation
Koi – saya
Awok – awak
Bela – baiki
Kampar slang translation
Paje ko ye – you little moron!
Panaih anyong – panas terik
Duduk ontok –ontok – sit quietly!