Saturday, November 8, 2008

Something about rojak~

[One of my articles posted in The Afterthought, the student newsletter of Macdonald campus, McGill University, under the pseudonym 'Hainan Boy', April 2004]

On that beautiful Sunday afternoon of March 28th, I was walking to the gym with 2 German friends. Basking in the bright rays, they started commenting on what are the greatest places to be under a warm, generous sun: “A nice beach…around 30C, the sea….about 20C…good breeze…Greece. Greece is definitely the place to go to.”
But it wasn’t Greece that crossed my mind. Each time they reveled in their Mediterranean memories, I only thought of one destination—Malaysia. Malaysia. Home, and I am going home. Yes, when the sun gets in my eyes, I miss Malaysia.

What is “rojak’? Well, I will reveal it bit by bit…now it’s sufficient to say it’s a noun. Alright, it’s a Malay word, which means it’s used by Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians. Note that when we Malaysians say that something is “…rojak lah~” it actually means…

I miss the warm, sometimes ruthless sun all Malaysians are so familiar with; I miss the cool, sometimes pouring rain all Malaysians played in. I miss standing on my balcony, in company of the clouds adorned in splashes of orange and yellow and the setting sun. I can stand on the same spot the next morning, and need only look east to greet the rising sun who is always younger than our last parting. Just in front of the balcony and slightly beyond my reach, my neighbour’s custard apple tree bends over our fence. Squirrels and yellow-oriels love that tree, while bats come as darkness falls.

…it actually means that it is mixed, a mixture of stuff. We Malaysians, especially the Malaysian-Chinese, speak multiple languages in casual conversations. Eaves-drop on any 2 people speaking, and you are bound to catch a ‘rojak’ of Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, English and Hokkien vocabulary depending on the background of the people involved. Many other dialects are integrated too. Too bad the younger generations seem to be losing this diversity. My father is fluent in 3 languages and 5 dialects, mine is limited to merely 3 languages (excluding ma francais mal) and 2 dialects. Shame on us.

There, below the balcony walks my Grandpa tending to his dear bonsais with the same loving hands that have cooked us rice for the past 15 years. He wears a straw hat which we bought for him to shield his bald head from the sun. Perhaps we should have attached a rope to it because it falls off each time he takes a nap on the swing under our rambutan tree. I will do that when I return home. It’s not nice to have Bowie, our pet dog leave his teeth marks all over the hat.
Here in Montreal when winter makes space for spring, the sun is friendly and the air fresh from rain and earth. I just love being out there; standing still as if time has stopped even as 3 assignments wait in my folder (hahaha…). Yet the most relaxing moment I ever had was on Redang Island off the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Warm sun, soft fine sand, clear blue waters and the ever soothing breeze caressed my skin while I snoozed in a hammock after a coral reef snorkeling trip. That was Redang Island, one of the many bewitching islands of Malaysia.

Rojak—a mixture of fried shrimps shells, squids, mangoes, pineapples, vegetables, cucumbers, mangkuang and boiled eggs topped with grinded peanuts and shrimp paste sauce (just call it rojak sauce). Rojak is a haven for creativity and thus varieties of rojak are scattered across Peninsular Malaysia, all tuned by local taste buds or culture. The rojaks sold by Malays, Chinese and Indians are unique! Bear in mind that there is more diversity to Malaysia than just biodiversity.

So if you are ever pondering on what to reward yourself, visit Malaysia! The cities are nice and convenient, but if I could bring you around, I would show you the tranquil villages, trek the wild jungles and watch sunsets set the fine sand beaches on fire while coral reefs are within swimming distance away. And of course I would buy you a rojak!

* (title in Malay) Try Rojak!


DJ Flea said...

waaa...can write my UWP essay ah?

MissNoMoney said...

such a wonderful post, well described the meaning of rojak and what it represents: our feeling and culture. Anyway no pictures meh??

masmuni said...

I'm totally agreed with Farah. I was captivated by this post. For a moment, I forgot that this post is meant for MASA.

Yao Hua, next time are you going to write your love life here? :P

kaarbuncle said...

wow do ppl use fried shrimp SHELLS to make rojak?
anyway, nice yh aka hainanboy! can make hainan chicken rice or not?