21 December 2009

Renewing and making new ties

My family's first year-end school holidays in Ipoh is flying by. It is going by so much faster than I expected.

It has been a wonderful time of renewing ties - both friendship and family.

Old friends had come to visit and stay with us. Our kids were introduced to each other and enjoyed playing together. The house was filled with happy shrieks and adult chatter.

Then there were catch-ups over Ipoh white coffee - at the old style coffee shops, not those expensive franchised cafes - with ex colleagues and former classmates who were either passing through Ipoh or here to visit relatives.

And just over the weekend, the wedding of my first cousin's daughter - that is, my first cousin once removed - presented another wonderful opportunity for the entire extended family to come together to celebrate the event. There were grand aunts and grand uncles, aunts and uncles, siblings, first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins.....

The wedding was a first of its kind for our large family, as the nuptial saw my Chinese first-cousin-once-removed wed a Malay husband. They had been dating for 8 years. What's the big deal, some of you might say? Well, I guess in this day and age, inter-racial marriages have become more common. But that does not mean, it makes them any easier.

There are the huge differences in cultural practices as well as religious beliefs to contend with. With respect to these practices, for my first-cousin-once-removed, that would mean a conversion to Islam, adopting "Abdullah" behind her name, eliminating certain foods from her diet, perhaps even a change in the way she dresses. Her new husband is fortunate that he need not change any of the lifestyle habits he has known all his life. Still, the choice is theirs and they married for love, aspiring to spend their lives together and raise their own family.

The wedding dinner was a "halal" Chinese banquet - respecting the Muslim faith - and the fathers of the groom and bride, respectively, presented their eloquent speeches. I must congratulate my cousin on his speech regarding his daughter's inter-racial marriage, which I roughly quote: "We share more in common than we do differences. We are all Malaysians. Let's make 1Malaysia a success." A noble giving-away speech.

I wish my first-cousin-once-removed all the happiness and success in her marriage.

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