When I was three years old, my father moved his family to a Chinese residential area in Fettes Park, Penang. We were the only Malay family living there. There were children who refused to play with me and there were those who refused to play without me. At a young age, I learned that there are no bad races, just bad people.
At home we were a Malay family. Outside, I grew up like any other Chinese boy. I was an odd sight - a skinny Malay kid chattering in Hokkien. Just five minutes’ walk towards the market was the Malay kampung where I spent time with Malay friends and agama lessons.
Our immediate neighbours were Eurasians. They welcomed me and my siblings into their homes, allowing us to learn about their beliefs and the English language.
Then one day there was a new Indian kid at school. He became my close friend and my immersion into the Indian culture began. On one occasion, my friend’s father reprimanded his mother for serving me chicken that had not been slaughtered according to Islamic tradition. I was a young, insignificant boy, and yet this man respected my faith enough to ensure that I practice it even in his home.
I grew up believing that no matter the colour of your skin or the language that you speak, there are universal values we all share, values that unite us. This is the direct results of my early socialization.
But today the majority of our children are growing up in housing, in schooling and playtime apart from each other.
And we complain they are not united?