Report from Ipoh - Notes on the Chinese Diaspora
By Dr Moni Storz
I am writing this in Ipoh, my original hometown in Malaysia. Having left it over thirty years ago, I have come back to move my mother to the south - to Johor Baru, across the causeway from Singapore. This is a sad time for us, saying a final farewell to Ipoh where we have all grown up, went to school and where the story of my first novel, Notes to My Sisters was constructed.
Malaysia is multi cultural, multi lingual, multi religious and multi culinary. I always think that this country which included Singapore prior to 1963, is the best laboratory for studying diversity in terms of globalisation. In the early years when I began to train global executives, I often drew my stories from my experiences of Malaysia. Colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, Malaysian culture also has strong elements of European and Christian influences. Close to the hearts of the Malaysians in my parents' generation, are the Australian and New Zealand armed forces. Aussies and Kiwis fought alongside the British soldiers during the Japanese occupation of Malaya (prior to Independence in 1957) and after the war, during what the locals called the Emergency, Aussies maintained the security of the locals against the so called Communists operating from their secret hideouts in the jungle, in caves and caverns of the mountains.
I am sitting amongst boxes and crates typing this furiously. There is a surreal feel about my current situation. In this house that my father built a quarter of a century ago, in this small town of Ipoh, everything is as it was when Jeff and I were kids. The neighbours bring food and drinks bought from hawkers by the roads. They hang around trying to be helpful, all of them with an average age of 70 years! They, being Chinese and hard of hearing, are yelling on top of their voices and these echo through the empty house. Even the ghosts of our ancestors are being woken up. Ipoh is a town of abandoned parents, a friend of mine said this once and I agree now as I watch my mother's neighbours. Their children, like us, are all over the world now, members of the Chinese diaspora. In our own family, Jeff and I are in Melbourne, Mona, my elder sister, is in Vancouver, Valli, my youngest sister, is in London and Maureen, sister 'Number Three' as my mother calls her, is in Singapore. The Chinese diaspora, so strong and widespread globally, gives global business, an interesting complex face, that defies description and explanation within the limited place here. The Malaysian Chinese and Singaporean Chinese are unique in their own ways in that they stand out like sore bums amongst the Chinese in China. We can always tell who the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese are. We are usually more multi dialect speaking and we love chillies in our food! That is the Malay and Indian influence.
So dear students and readers of this newsletter, I am afraid this is a bit of a rambling from me in this issue. I am sweating like a pig in heat - it is so hot and tropical here. Every day is the same here in Malaysia. The palm trees and the bougainvilleas ever colourful, and the jungle, luscious and ever seductive, the nights balmy and the smell of curry laksa wafting in the air....all these and much more, this is Malaysia. Selamat Jalan, Goodbye and Zai Jian. And with that, I send you love & light for this Sunday, May 26, 2002. This is a very special day, as this is the birth of Mohammed, as well as the birth of Buddha and also the birth of my Guru, Baba Muktananda, an Indian Hindu modern saint. I hope all of you are triply blessed in your own journey.