Musings on love, religion, and Article 11 over Penang delicacies – scored with a soundtrack too.

Hi, my name is Singh. Last month I was back in Paradise Island (I truly believe Penang is heaven on earth). It was a fine Saturday evening, and I was taking a stroll down Gurney drive. As I was recalling sweet memories shared with the love of my life, when the evening breeze drowned me in bliss. I slipped on my head phones and fast tracked to track no.786, Govinda by the band Kula Shaker.

I was getting into a trance like state chanting the sweet name of the glorious Lord Govinda, when like a revelation from heaven it struck me, Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution – freedom of religion. Just count the odds, there I was a bald Punjabi so called Sikh, listening to a British psychedelic rock band chanting a Hindu God’s name as I hear the beautiful call for Asar prayers on the streets of Pulau Pinang.

coloured pepper pots

Holy cow, now who on earth said that we have a Freedom of Religion issue going on? I am Article 11(1) personified, the essence of it in living practice. Nobody stopped me, nobody arrested me, and nobody threatened me. As I reached the end of the drive, I got myself a delicious mouth watering non-halal char kway teow . As I was blissfully chewing on the big, succulent tiger prawns, I continued to search for some divine intervention in understanding the depth of this sacred article . The track switched to Ramli Sarip’s Doa Buat Kekasih. I was swayed by this very special song, it marks a new beginning in my life. The authentic tune of Malay music artistry, takes me way back to 1998, back in primary school, when love was innocent and pure, when it wasn’t about religion or race, or status.

As I finished my heavenly dish, I chanced upon my dear friend and long time crush, Farah Lee Randhawa. At first sight, she greeted me with a warm hug and smile and then caressed my bald head while asserting that I looked very sexy. She just stopped by Gurney Drive before heading to Dhammikarama Temple – Penang’s sleeping Buddha temple. She sat down and called for another sacred dish of Penang, the ambrosial Penang curry mee. It is dogmatic for me that I accompany her in savoring the magnificent curry noodles, so I called for the Penang white curry mee.

While waiting for the dishes to arrive, I took a good look at my old friend and she looked very beautiful in her cyan baju kurung .

You see, Farah or Falira as we would call her is from a mixed parentage background. Her mother is a devout Bahai (not the common term used to refer to a Sikh man) of Sindhi ancestry, while her father is an agnostic Deist of Chinese ancestry, while she is a Hindu Buddhist who drags me to the annual Saint Anne festival in Bukit Mertajam, also the annual mega packed Thaipusam on the hill top Murugan Temple. I remember having spiritual conversations with her Dad, as he told me stories from the Quran, the Bible, and the Guru Grant Sahib (yeah he used to tease me for not being able to speak or understand Urdu), ironically the 60 year-old criminal lawyer claims he doesn’t believe in any of those texts (yea right, dude’s a big fan of the Surah Al-Rahman recitation; he has the MP3 in his flash drive.) Coincidentally my track changed to Heaven by Live.

Falira snapped me out of the trance like mesmerising state that I was in, evidently due to her goddess like enchanting eyes (it’s either that, or she was getting a little uncomfortable with my stares). Oh well, as usual I got dragged along to the temple. I was fixing the seat belt when I heard Jacky Cheung’s Wen Bie which brought back wild memories of love (Ouh, the intoxicating pain of a broken heart!). Driving through the streets of Penang on a beautiful Saturday evening, with the company of a good old friend and listening to Jacky Cheung, after two bowls of Penang’s cuisine specialities – now that is a worldly experience no heaven can match. It’s just the perfect combination!

We arrived at the temple. As I trailed behind Falira, my attention quickly caught the view of some monks harmoniously chanting words of bliss, serenity, and peace (well at least that’s what it sounded to me like). What was interesting beyond that was that there were monks of Indian origin, Chinese origin, and I believe Thai origin too, were sitting together, meditating and harmoniously repeating sacred mantras. As I was deep in observation my phone rang, for one moment I felt like I was going to get hurt real bad, because you see my ring-tone was Sami Yusof’s Allahu, and it was blasting loudly in a Buddhist temple. I quickly answered the call as the assembly looked at me with smiles on their face – much to my surprise.

The call was from another high school sweet heart of mine, Syahida Nawar. She called to inform me that the Kula Shakers will be in Kuala Lumpur coming August, she was a fan herself. I was in disbelief. Whoa, a Caucasian Hindu rock band in Kuala Lumpur!? The following were questions bustling in my head at that point:

1. Could this concert be deemed as an act of Proselytizing to Muslims?

2. Is the concert subject to Article 11’s limitations in sub-section(4) wherein there is a restriction of propagating any religious doctrine or belief to Muslims?

3. Would Pemuda PAS or Perkasa organise a demonstration to call off the concert?

4. How on earth are my Muslim friends going to attend this concert?

5. Would there be lots of Hindus at the concert?

It then dawned upon me: Fear – because of fear, questions like that overshadowed the excitement I had. Why do I have that very irrational fear? What is going on in this country? Why is there so much fear? Why is there so much emphasising on ones identity to belong to a particular race and religion? How does my race or religion make me any different from another fellow human? Why does the Constitution prohibit religious doctrine or belief to Muslims? Would they be less Muslim by knowing what other people believe in? Why it is necessity for a race and religion based segregation? Are these double standards and segregation of any benefit?

I felt icy soft fingers caressing my head again, she was done with her rituals and so we headed home. I told Falira about the concert and she was very excited too, and she did ask the same question I was wondering about; would Pemuda PAS organise a demonstration to call the concert off and if our Malay Muslim friends could attend? I just said, “I am not sure, but it would be fun if they did, it’s their right anyway.” She asserted, “It’s just good music, art! Why can’t they join us in appreciating music? Even music got religion ah?”

She asked me if there is any law stopping our friends from going? I said, “I don’t think so, but well it depends on how you look at it.” She rolled her eyes and said “Lawyers!” with a big sigh. I replied, “I’m not a lawyer yet, because I’ve not been admitted to the Bar yet.” She went, “My point exactly, my point exactly…”

As she drove through the Penang Bridge under the beautiful night sky, my track changed to Linkin Park’s Crawling. “Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal, fear is how I fall, confusing what is real…” As I relived memories of the painful separation from love, because my race wasn’t what her father had imagined for her future, because I wasn’t Chinese… Falira snapped me back to reality, “Oi! Missing your beloved ex-girlfriend is it?” I replied with a faint smile “No… I’m missing her mother” and we both cracked into laughter, and she said “Don’t worry Singh, racism will die, I assure you of that, someday.” At the point where my Allahu ringtone went off again, my smile grew, it was my Bugis Princess.

Till I write again, remember my name is Singh, and I’m not a racist.

Lingswaran Singh has been a LoyarBurokker since he was 5. He speaks an open but disinterested language, dictated not by passion but that of humanity. Independence is his happiness. His country is the world,...

24 replies on “My Name is Singh”

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  2. Good job. Love the way you voice it out. Love should NOT have any boundaries or fence. Keep up the good work ya!!

  3. Brilliant piece, amazing how you fusion all those elements. Love the sincerity, and multiculturalism depicted. Makes me miss Penang so much!. Proud of you bro!

  4. sounds like a movie script in the beginning till reality kicks in rite… still rememba when Linkin Park waz dwn, they almost didnt play thanx to all the protest but thank god Lp still manage to rock it out… i definitely agree that we the so called new generation has the power to change all this crap mentality on race and bla bla… we have the right, knowledge, power and common sense to create a world without racism… i myself listen to mandarin. Japanese and malay songs and believe we all shld embrace our diversity… race or color shld not be a barrier to be wit sumone you like…..

  5. Well as for starters. I feel that in this current 'Malaysia', pains me with pangs of sadness. I used to remember the times when were still in Primary school, where students of any race or religion could still casually have good conversations and enjoy each others company. The racial storm that has taken Malaysia abruptly, actually began long before these past few years, however we were just to blind to see it. Small signs which indicated a shift towards racism like 'kelompok melayu, cina, india and those who are stuck in between called 'lain-lain' or 'pelik-pelik'. These 'kelompok' started alienating themselves and arousing a broken link to our "1Malaysia". Our own pride led us to be instigated to believe in SELF-SUPREMACY, which led to self conceitedness and this pride knocked off communication among many races.

    Later on the little 'racist kelompok' went a little further to narrower points of view that "Melayu are Muslims and Chinese are Buddhist or Taoist and Indians are Hindus and Lain-Lain are just impossible to know what are they. Due to this paradigm shift, our country is not only a breeding ground for racism but also festered by segregation of religion. We should try to humble ourselves and maybe, just maybe Malaysia will be Paradise again.

  6. Very interesting article. I like how your mp3 player played the right songs at the right time/ how you managed to relate to each song as your day went by.

    Religion is indeed a very tricky albeit interesting topic. As yourself, I’m of the believe that you should try to understand all religion and you seem to be doing a better job than I am. I do hope that with this knowledge, the artificial barriers erected within societies will dissolve and that people can live in harmony with everyone. As the human race.

    Lets hope that your article will help point people in the right direction and then let us hope that these people will traverse the path of unity and understanding.

  7. Your tale brought tears to my eyes. Mongrelisation is the only cure to racism and fundamentalism. Lets all make love, to all.

  8. Mister Singh, u sure u got no Chinese blood in u ah….. 'Lings'waran HAHA. Amen brother.

    We are all of the human race.. Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian etc all have red blood and all can donate & receive the same blood(well disease free blood anyway)

  9. i clicked on the link coz i thought it's an article abt the mighty Karpal Singh, my King! he he but this is good too. thanx 4 sharing, lings

  10. Prof Faridah, i beg to differ. You may say that humans need religion, but there are many people who live fulfilling lives being atheist. What i am trying to put forward may seem somewhat challenging and alien to the religious lot, but i narrated what really happens amongst Malaysians or at least Penangites, sometimes or to be honest many times what really goes on in life is not as guided as we think it should be. I do not seek understanding, i seek to understand for that is under my control. I cant expect you to understand me, but what i can do is try my very best to understand you. I do however agree on the challenges of postmodernism. Postmodernism is exactly the core element of this piece. Grand narratives no longer hold any water for the world is becoming massively complicated.

  11. Music has no religion, but man does need a religion. Life need to have guidance and for guidance you need certainty and standard practice. While belief is very personal, conduct will have effect on public perception. While we might appreciate the teaching and practice of other religion, we have to cling steadfastly to what we belief. Anyway you would want to be understood by others and not to be taken lightly. Isn't it.

    This is the challange of postmodernism …

  12. You are a pathetic excuse for a human/punjabi. Your whole article had a week – I feel sorry for myself – LOSER tone.

    Somebody please write an Inspiring piece…………

  13. i agree with ruqayya. not having any racism is good. but, its somehow need to consider religion too whreby it has lots and lots of stuff need to be touches on hukum hakam. respecting other's religion is not a key license to get involved in something that against religion. that's my opinion.

  14. well…my name is ruqayya and im not racist too..hehehe..i wud suggest u 2 join PKR la..parti 'party'..mcm2ada..hehehe..btw,something u have 2 remmber my future lawyer..agama dan kaum tu 2 prkara yg bebeza tau…kecuali dlm pkara2 akidah,konsep 'meraikan' dan 'menghormati' mmg mrupakan nadi dlm dakwah islamiyah….>_<

  15. Oh Lings, you have always been a sweetheart. I’m really sorry for your pain. But i can see you channeling all that negativity into something positive, that’s great and i am sure your ex would be very proud of you. Keep up the good work! Love you bro! and thank you for the generous compliments, i’m so kembang! hehe.

  16. Wao, it was like a bollywood blockbuster. I wonder who is that lucky girl Lingswaran is in love with. I am sorry it didn’t turnout well. Maybe she didn’t feel as strongly about you, because today i think race should not be a hurdle to love, especially in our 1Malaysia. Wish you all the best and looking forward for more of your writing. Sorry for the comment mess up bro.

  17. i'm all in for the move. it is just ridiculous to have all these nonsense on racial differences in the first place. we are all having same colour of blood but i think PERKASA's ibrahim is blue in colour, that's why he is special.

    human, despite skin or faith, are all looking for better place to live in. a place of peace and content. we comply with government law in terms of policy, tax etc thus in return we hope that govt will take good care of us. still, year by year, we are not able to see any improvement at all. 1Malaysia? where got 1Malaysia since people keep on being label by their ethnic?

    does human turn to be less-human just because their name don't have bin/binti on IC? thus, they need to be treated differently and comply to another set of rules that obviously robbing their rights on this land? those cheah, muthu, john or sally out there is all born here even their parents also were born here. but, why they are not receiving fair and just treatment all this while? where is this 1Malaysia spirit when it comes to affordable education and transparent tender?

    let bygone be bygone one shall say. yet, hatred is everywhere, disguised in numerous policy to keep on widening the racial gap. in the end, public will succumb to lose while those on top milking money from us. the race that they seem to protect is just a mere tools. they will be the one suffering the most. yet, huge portion of them is not clear on the consequences. do you sincerely believe that govt will help to ease your burden? then why does scholarship were given WITHOUT considering financial background?

    p/s : lingswaran, u remind me of my best friend, sukhdev..

  18. Hahahaha… you should set your ringtone sound to the max… to ease everyone to hear it.. hahaha..

    By the way… the future of this nation rely on the non-racist youngster. Let make a move..

  19. ingin aku tegaskan, masalah utama dalam agama apabila dihidupkan melalui institusi.. aku teringat satu pepatah semasa di indonesia ‘ melalui gereja agama disebarkan, dan institusi ini juga mengorupkan agama”…maka hilang lagi nilai kekudusan, hanya tinggal tangan2 kuasa yg menentukan apa seharusnya kita percaya..

  20. Lingswaran,

    Touching. Real. The kind that I love to read and see in life. Thanks for sharing. By the way, if you really the love the girl and she you..then try to work on the parents!

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