Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Part 4)

Weekend in Ozzie Suburbs

Make sure you place your accommodation reservations for Saturdays in Sydney well in advance. Otherwise, you'll be stranded and had to depend on friends' goodwill to put you up for the night. Thank goodness, an FB friend from my old Kaki Bukit neighbourhood invited me to spend the week end with his family in a suburb close to Matraville. Or I would have hopped on the InterCity train to Melbourne.
    Sharp at noon, RD and his boys, Guistino and Zayan, picked me up in their bright green Toyota Prado. I was whisked off to Ozzie suburbia on that hot Saturday afternoon. To my foreign eyes, the residential and commercial areas which whizzed by seemed to be identical. I might as well have been passing through the streets of Evanston (a suburb of Chicago), Brookline (a suburb of Boston), or Sherwood Hills (a suburb of Madison).
A charming Federation Style Home at Randwick
    That afternoon, I went along with RD, Rose and the boys for a multicultural class and an informal weekly gathering for the Malaysian-Singaporean community at the Matraville Public School. That was where I met Hamidah McGrath (a damsel who hailed from Kuala Pilah), Hawa Juzaila (a violinist from Selayang), Maimunah Hamed (a junior at UW-Madison from Sarawak) and her husband, Ramshah Shariff (who also used to live in Kaki Bukit).         


MAAN is short for Malay Australian Association of New South Wales. The MAAN School, which is held every Saturday afternoon (2:30-6pm) at Matraville Public School, was set up on September 5 1992.  Initially, only 20 students were enrolled. The members of the association pooled their resources to buy books and other stationeries. Thanks to the generosity of Ms Hawati Bokhari, an educator from Singapore, an assortment of Malay workbooks and story books were used as 'text books' for the Bahasa Melayu classes.
    According to Ramshah, the MAAN School is "a success story of the Malay community in Sydney. There are more friends attending the school now. It's managed by a group of second generation Malay Aussies, ie our kids, who once upon a time attended the school ..."
The homepage for MAAN 
    There is another Muslim Malay initiative which I did not have the opportunity to visit. That is the Darul Imaan, a Malay Masjid in the suburb of Arncliffe. Ramshah, as unofficial spokesperson, appealed for funds from generous donors in the Malay World via various FB Groups for Muslim Malay solidarity in the Nusantara.   
    "IMAAN () more than MAAN needs the money for their extension programmes. Darul Imaan is managed by dedicated Malaysians and Singaporeans, hence it's only fitting that fellow Malaysians and Singaporeans support its current programmes."  
The Darul Imaan Masjid currently under construction. Activities such as tahlil,
religious classes, talks, MaulidurRasul and Aqiqah are held here.

Day Tripping to Canberra

Early the following morning saw me seated between Tino and Zayan on their long awaited trip to the Australian capital city. The reason for their visit to Canberra was a new born male cousin, whom they couldn't wait to meet. 
    I've always heard of Canberra from colleagues, Juli Edo and Kamal Suhaimi, who pursued their doctoral programmes there. I've also read about the administrative capital which is about a 3.5 hour drive from Sydney. 
   The view from the car window was rustic and we stopped for Neapolitan cookies sold by charming Italian blokes from an open truck and some mementos from a senior with a 'voice box' by the highway.  
Canberra is home to the Australian story
Canberra is a "beautiful city within a garden" and great for family activities
    Since it was a rare family visit for the Osmans, I requested to be dropped at the National Museum, where a highly promoted Renaissance Exhibition was taking place. The ticket for the exhibition was AUD25 and the dainty lunch set me off by about AUD15. The exhibits were priceless but I discovered that the free exhibits on the Abo art pieces were more interesting. Later in Melbourne, I found that the Renaissance art showcase was gratis. Boo hoo!      

Brown Skin, White Mask

As someone who prided myself as a post-colonial subject, who was once fascinated but not necessarily obsessed by white skin, blue eyes and blonde curls, I found it odd that many Malay friends and relatives who make a big deal out of marrying whites and having children with porcelain complexions and sky blue irises.
    I can understand if the fellow is drop-dead gorgeous, urbane, learned and charming, but if he’s just your ordinary John Doe, what’s the big deal? Is a regular Red Neck or Hill Billy better than your everyday Awe Kelate or Mamat Lemau (NOT a Sharp Guy)? Can a well-groomed, presentable Mat KL ever beat a geek from New York hands down?
    When my daughter returned home for a holiday in July 2011 with a Latino boyfriend (and prospective mother-in-law) in tow, my son and I were bemused by the adulations showered by some of her girlfriends on her ‘white’ conquest. We never realised that snaring a Mat Salleh (Macedonian-Colombian, actually) was such a ‘good catch’. In fact, it was a disturbing reality to my son that Malay women of his age group thought that foreign, white males were superior husband material compared to the local, brown-skinned men.        
    If that is so, is it about ‘taste’ and refinement rather than skin colour? Should it not then be a cause for alarm if the  preference for a white partner is not something deeply-embedded in the colonised psyche?       
    Apart from skin-deep conception of beauty, the second fascination must have been with foreign sounding names and languages. Vojka does sound like Vodka – exotic, potent, intoxicating – compared to plain Ali, Ahmad or Mohamad.   

Next episode - Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road.

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