I read this quote a few months ago,
Being Rootless, has given me a sense of Freedom
It’s now on my phone lock screen, to remind myself that I live free.
“Where Are You From?”, is definitely a TCK Trap, it leaves them speechless. We are always unsure if we should say our passport country, the country we’re living in or the country our parents are from (especially if Mom and Dad are from different countries) or the country we spent most of our life in. It may seem like a simple problem to most but it really started bothering me.
I lived the majority of my life out of Malaysia, however I came back to my passport country when I began my O-levels. The first time back since kindergarten, and suddenly I was slammed in the face with a 100 more relatives than I was used to, on top of that apparently according to the MOE (Ministry of Education) I was now required to take Malay as a language. Last time I saw these family members or spoke Malay was when I was 4, except from the occasional time my parents would try to speak in Malay so I wont understand.
However, I dealt with all those problems, I mean hey were TCKs right- adapting comes easier to us than most.
The real problem came just last year, I started studying in the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, and naturally began having quite a few Malaysian friends. Now if you can imagine, I have only ever been to American and British International schools, I don’t really sound like a typical Malaysian- even lacking the signature ‘Lah’, that they throw around like confetti.
Every time I meet someone, the first question they asked me was the infamous “Where Are You From?”, I just decided to stick with Malaysia- passport country so its the simplest answer, right? Wrong. I immediately get asked ‘Where am I actually from?’ and unless I explain ‘Oh, I moved around most my life’ they wouldn’t be satisfied. At first it was pretty interesting to me that people could tell I wasn’t completely a normal Malaysian. Then it started to bug me, because when I actually did live in any other country the natural thing to answer has always been Malaysia, then eventually when you’re closer to them you tell them your story. As a kid I always considered myself Malaysian, a grounding mechanism- not allowing myself to question all the possibilities.
Suddenly they started calling me a Coconut (Brown on the Outside and White on the inside a colloquial term meaning being brown on the outside but western in terms of the speech and manner) and asking to see ID proof to prove that I was actually Malaysian. Thats when I started getting annoyed, then they also said I wasn’t Indian enough (Im a Malaysian Indian- meaning ethnically I am Indian, about a third of the Malaysian population are ethnically Indian). Even though my mother is an Indian Passport holder, I speak Tamil fluently, and write (a little bit) and frequently go there to visit my grandparents. It enraged me, how could they consistently unroot me- take away what I thought was the ground and make me fall into uncertainty. They of course never thought much about what they were doing, because to them there is no significance in a “Where Are You From?”.
I spent a lot of time in that uncertainty, found new people and after a lot of deliberation, I realised I am who I want to be. I am a Malaysian born, Indian race human, who has lived in Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, North India, and Malaysia. I may be rootless, but it also lets me talk to the arabs in my class, as well as those people who are from the place I was born in, or that place I lived in for 2 years. It gives me so many stories and even more conversation starters. I understand even more people, I become a bridge to many different people, I embrace my mysteriousness and welcome my differences. I was from the world, with as much culture from places I’ve never been as the places I’ve inhabited.
Accepting my Global Identity, has given me Freedom.