When I was a small kid I lived in a small village which is connected to the outside world by a boat service crossing the Perak River. There were a few cars used as taxis to ferry village folks to the nearest town. Most of the time, groceries were brought to the village by the few grocerers who in exchange for village agricultural products manage to ensure the village people have what it takes to survive another day. The village is a one race village.
Due to the history of the village which was involved in intense fighting with the communists pre-Merdeka Day, there were a lot of suspicious against one particular race. It was more for security reason than anything else, I would say. Of course when your father or relatives were injured or killed fighting of communists, who were made up of only one race, defending your country this kind of feeling is quite understandable. There was no other mean ofcommunication than transistor radio.
As I grew up I noticed a slight change in this perception. Slowly I began to see men and women of the other race cycling through the village to go to the other end. Lateron I discovered that these men and women were farmers tending to land plots rented from the village people. For some reasons, a few of the village people were close friends to those farmers. Perhaps they were already old to work on their farm lands hence allow the farmers to work while they collect some money from this venture. These farmers would just go about doing their business, working hard. They lived quite a distance away but they will be there early in the morning and always go back late evening just before sunset. Perhaps the last boat trip for the day. There was never any incident that can be related to racial problems.
That was the time my interest in knowing the other race strated to come to my mind. I tried to find a way to communicate with them but they were mostly reserved perhaps knowing full well the sentiments at the time. I even subscribed educational megazines which have spaces on learning their language. Anyway as a 10 year old, it was a tough interest!
Then there were programs for primary school students to create awareness and better understanding among the races in the district. I remeber when I was selected to attend a Scout Camping over a weekend in town. I befriended a scout from another school who happened to be of another race. I was trying to make him comfortable after he had a fall which resulted in cuts and bruises. We became friends until I left town for my secondary school education. I wonder what he is doing now. His father owned a shop in town and was doing quite well. My school mates and I visited his house which was at the back of his father's shop during one of the festive seasons. His shop is no longer where it used to be when I tried to look for him a god ten years later. There was another occasion when a group of us together with our teachers became the guests of 3 schools fullof the other race in the district. I was surprised with the way we were greated, treated and feted. I was really touched knowing that the students from these schools were also looking forward to hear about our village life, them being the town life.
At about the sametime my elder brother used to run a shop cum training school in town. Next to his shop was a textile shop run by the otherrace family. I used to go over to my brother's shop on Fridays to Sundays just to keep his company. During the day I used to play chess with one of the shopowner's son. He then invited me over to watch TV shows at night after he closed his shop and they had taken their dinner. Of course I would accept his invitation especially when there were good shows on TV!
So these were my experience in race relations at a very young age. That was in 1970's when the nation was just recovering from another milestone in its young life. It did not occur to me to be more careful than necessary, not just because they are not the same race as mine. Of course I saw more to this side when I spent five good years in a boarding school in a big town. Most of the teachers there were of the other races especially those teaching critical subjects. I never had any problem with them. In fact many of them I could consider as very good people - more than just good teachers! I am sure my outlook on life was shaped up by some of these events. They probably set the foundation for my principles. It was all trust and sincerity that mattered to me. In fact I must be thankful for this early education which would later on become a very good asset duing my days away from home studying overseas. My horizon was widened mixing with more people of diversed background in the classes and campus. I also managed to build better friendship with my fellow contrymen of different races.
At the end of the day, the law of the nature will rule supreme. You get what you give, in return. What goes around comes around. Finally, for every action there will be a reaction!
Let's work towards a better New Dawn!