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Kampung Compass Points Letters In praise of colours
In praise of colours PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 23:32


Last week we published U-Jean's story on what spurred her to come up with the 'May 13 Interracial Hook-up Day'. Scores of Facebook users all over the country had by then agreed to meet up with friends of different ethnic groups, just to drive home the point. Over in Georgetown, Penang, DHANEN MAHES describes that evening on May 13


sabm-may13It is raining.

I’ve seen the same thing in many a film – dour rain on the anniversary of a somber event. I pull up my collar and stick both hands in my jeans pockets. As I walk down the street in the gray rain, I feel like the protagonist in a movie – in my black jacket, grim, head bowed, about to do something that will significantly affect the plot.

The screen fades. Maybe it cuts to another character. Maybe it flits to a different location – perhaps to a group of people at Dataran Merdeka, also braving the rain. They’re sitting in a circle on the field, like a picnic, food strewn across their laps and on the field, sipping orange juice. They’re talking and laughing...

We come back to the protagonist (which I like to think I am).

The world will pass you by while you wait out the rain; I choose not to wait out the rain.

I am soaked to the bone, standing at the entrance of a happy little café nestled in the heart of Upper Penang Road, squinting to see if there is a familiar face inside. There is. A friendly wave, and we’re together in the interior of the café. There is a table near the end where two pretty girls are sitting, sipping wine. If cameras could smell, you would be breathing in the smell of sweet wine, and cigars and the smell of wood and the musky smell of rain from the outside.

We hug. There are introductions - one of the girls I have met, the other I am not familiar. She has pretty blue eyes. My friend, with brown eyes and thick black glasses makes a joke. Her glasses are an antithesis to mine. She jokes that she is white with black glasses, and I am black with white ones. We chuckle.

We wait. We drink. We move outside, glasses in hand. Again we wait, and we drink. The girl with blue eyes blows smoke rings and smiles. We watch the people go by.


Upper Penang Road is one of the strongholds of Penang nightlife, but tonight her armies marched at half strength. Few tables are being tended and every now and then stragglers would pass by our watchpost. People from all parts of the world, wearing different manner of clothing and style. One gentleman has on a floral t-shirt embellished with a string of flowers around his neck. His plane to Hawaii was waylaid and he ended up here. There are others too, middle-aged couples holding hands on their first trip to an exotic land, young travelers looking for a good time and the Asian cupcakes. Then there's the people with a wild, lost look about them - who didn’t seem to know where they were going or what they were going to do about it.

A familiar face appears in the crowd. My sister walks up to us, grinning all the way from the sidewalk to our table.

There is a flash. I’m blinded for a second. Out from behind a corner shadow steps a good friend, like a magician stepping out of a magic box, long limbs first followed by a cheeky grin. “Cheese,” he says, as he takes a seat at the far end of the table. “All the better to take pictures from,” he says.

We are all seated, knights at the table, pondering our quest. The circle is incomplete. There are people who could not make it on account of the rain and other things. But still our cabal must do what it came to do. A heavy beer mug is banged on the wooden table and the circle is called to order. Our goal is simple – to find our Holy Grail.

Not the Holy Grail that is spoken of in legend. Not the cup that held the blood of a prophet, but a cup that holds the future of a nation. Our holy grail is a Malaysia that is colour blind.


Perhaps colour blind is not the correct description. Colours are beautiful things, they give shade and hue and warmth to an otherwise grey, dreary world. But at times, all we see is one colour. All we see are the colours most similar to ours, and not how each different colour is an essential element in the painting of life. So perhaps “colour blind” is not the correct phrase.


Non-Monochrome. That is more accurate. We choose to see people, not colours. We choose to see each person as an individual, and to embrace diversity.

Too often, we do only the opposite.

And this day, this date we had chosen is a constant reminder of what happens when we forget that there are people behind those colours. We do unspeakable things to those we perceive as others, somehow less human and unfeeling. We forget they are sisters, friends, lovers, mothers and brothers. We shut them out and we cut them down.

And so we have chosen today to forever remind us, not of the mistakes of the past, but hope of the future. Hope that if we only reach out beyond our comfort zones, there is a world of beautiful people waiting to embrace us. And we need not live in monochrome.

If this were a movie, maybe the director would cut away at this point.

Or perhaps the scene lingers a while longer right where it is. In our little circle at the café in Upper Penang Road, we talk. We smile. The rain stops, and the stars come out.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 10 June 2010 00:24

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