This may be slightly belated but Selamat Deepavali everyone. This is one of my daughter Athena’s favourite festivals, and I’m sure it is because of the colours that are all around, from the clothes to the kolums.
But then again, all the festivals we celebrate are Athena’s favourites. She loves Hari Raya because of the feminine baju kurung she gets to wear, Chinese New Year for all the money she collects.
Christmas is a favourite because of all the gifts she gets and there is halloween because she gets to pretend to be all kinds of characters. The only festival that she isn’t too fond of is Thaipusem because she hasn’t mastered going into a trance.
I like the fact that Athena feels no inhibitions in wanting to celebrate all of these festivals. I hope that spirit will carry on way past into adulthood. And I pray that she won’t be influenced by other Malaysians.
These Malaysians that I am talking about are those extremist Malay Muslims who condemn and forbid any other Malay Muslims to wish those of other faiths greetings during their festivities.
Growing up in a multicultural and multifaith family, I had always been confused, especially in school, when classmates (and sometimes even teachers) would tell me that I will go to hell for celebrating Chinese New Year.
Because according to these people, Malay Muslims are forbidden to wish others Kong Hei Fatt Choy, or Merry Christmas, Happy Deepavali, or whatever else other than Selamat Hari Raya because it would mean your faith would erode.
But I was lucky that I had a set of good parents and relatives that just couldn’t be bothered with all this nonsense. We were happy and proud of the fact that there are all kinds of ethnicities and religions in our family.
But recently, I can’t help but noticed how we as Malaysians (and Singaporeans, because a lot of my family members are from there as well) are so influenced by a racial outlook when it comes to, well, almost everything.
Of course, like any modern family, we have a Whatsapp group to communicate. And last Tuesday, a few of the Chinese cousins started wishing ‘Happy Deepavali to our Hindu cousins’.
That’s fine and all, but I think everyone should take a step back and see who celebrates Deepavali. In our family, it’s everyone because we would all gather at the houses of our Hindu relatives and gamble!
And so it is for Hari Raya when the others would wish ‘Selamat Hari Raya to our Muslim cousins’. But, then, everyone would gather at our houses to eat and err… gamble. This is the same for Chinese New Year. And gambling is definitely a must then!
Don’t get me wrong. I, and everyone, knows that it is with the best intentions that we all wish each other that way, and I am proud and happy about it. But I would also like our family to just see ourselves as one and the same no matter what.
Well, I’m actually not too worried about my family. We are really doing quite alright and heading in the right direction. What I really want to see is that Malaysian society as a whole can come to the point my family is at right now.
Selamat Deepavali to all Malaysians.