Being Chindian

Love is all colours / Image by Avolore


By Temily Tianmay Jaya Gopan

The birth of Baby Shay to Subang Jaya assemblywoman, Hannah Yeoh, has shed light on a minority population that has yet to receive significant attention. Shay’s father, and Yeoh’s husband, is Indian.

Most Malaysians are familiar with the local term ‘Chindian’, which describes children of Chinese and Indian parentage. As a Chindian myself, I feel particularly connected to the ongoing controversy surrounding the baby’s race and can’t help but notice that the Chindian narrative regarding this matter has not been considered.

When I told my 10-year-old sister about the debate sparked by Baby Shay’s Chindian roots, she told me that her own teacher had insisted that she was Indian even though she clearly told her she was Ch-indian.

“I am not Indian. I am different from the other Indians at school even though my paper says Indian. I look Malay but I’m not. But I am also not Chinese. So I can only be Chindian”, she said.

She knows first-hand how it feels to be shoved into a category which means nothing to her.

As a child, I too got into trouble for raising my hand for both the Indian and Chinese categories. But I always felt like I had to say I was both. Otherwise, I would feel guilty because it seemed like my Chinese heritage was being left out of everything and that would not be fair to my mom. Guilt is a heavy burden for a child to start carrying on the first day of school. As I grew up, I would sometimes tick the box that said “lain-lain”  because it seemed like a better description of who I was.

Read the whole article here, in the very special Dan Lain-Lain section of Komunitikini, now with tv!