Of The Indian I Am Not

I heard Arundhathi Subramaniam’s poem, “To The Welsh Critic Who Does Not Find Me Identifiably Indian” and applaud this Bombay poet/arts journalist’s articulation of the dilemma facing poets who find themselves in the crosscurrents of culture and globalization.

I am also not ‘identifiably Indian’. In appearance, yes, but like many Malaysians who grow up in a complex multicultural, multireligious and multiracial society, I am trilingual and enjoy, in the United States at least, liberties of conscience that are unprecedented.

This is not the case in my country of origin, Malaysia where Malaysians of non Malay-Muslim descent are penned like animals within the constraints of a narrow religious, racial and linguistic mindset. I will not at this point rob myself of the joy of life (and poetry) by bowing my head to the politics of an unjust nation. Some of the inspiration for my poetry is drawn from there, like my heart. I continue to write, building bridges of freedom for myself and hopefully others, in search of that freedom of spirit.

I wrote an article, Giving Bigotry No Sanction“that was published in the Letters section of MalaysiaKini.com. This will inform and alert my readers to the realities of what the world knows as a ‘moderate’ Islamic nation. My American readers may begin to appreciate afresh the freedoms they possess and understand the futile complexities that nations purporting to espouse the tenets of any one religion over the other, take on. In the words of the first President of the United States, George Washington – “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.”

I used to feel alone and troubled. No longer. I have a companion in the Bible, a God who is larger than my troubles and a church/community of believers in whose faith I can rest. With regard to the article I wrote, that was politics. Now for the prayer behind it. Psalm 59. v.7,8 and 9.

“See what they spew from their mouths-
they spew swords from their lips,
and they say, “Who can hear us?”
But you, O Lord, laugh at them;
you scoff at all those nations.
O’my strength, I watch for you;
you O’God are my fortress, my loving God.”

And deliverance, my dear readers, is sheer poetry. I suggest you go and watch “The Nativity” movie this season. The relationship between Joseph and Mary, as husband and wife, is so purely explored and their journey…….could be ours, if only we could learn like the wise men to follow the star. To quote Mary, “We are all given the gift”. Today, I resolve to receive and possess mine.

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