The first thing a Chinese cabbie asked me, after I stated my destination, was:
“Eh you Cina ker Melayu?”
That, in Malay, was to ask if I was Chinese or Malay. I said Chinese, yes, why? He said he wasn’t really sure. I was relieved, though, as I couldn’t really speak Chinese anyway. And so I asked why he asked. “Nowadays very hard to tell lah…”
Since it wasn’t the first time a cabbie had asked me, I asked him why. I knew that there was one Malay lookalike who worked in Nando’s, one lookalike in APIIT, one lookalike good-looking lecturer in Lim Kok Wing (this, I was most proud of) and of course the famous Keanu Reeves. (Okay stop sniggering now.)
He said it was… my dressing.
Damn. All this while, I thought I had a sharper-than-regular-Chinese, thin Malay-ish face. He said NOOO my face was completely Chinese; it was my clothes. I dressed like a Malay. Well I didn’t have dyed blonde hair or bellbottom jeans.
I didn’t take it as an insult; I thought it was interesting. However, I felt dumb for barking round the wrong tree.
He then went on into political rhetoric (doesn’t every taxi driver?) about how, if certain laws were abolished, that in the future, we’d never have to ask if we were Chinese or Malay. We’d just be… Malaysian.
Anyway, what he said was by no means conclusive – I’ve been asked “are you Chinese Chinese?” In that sense, it meant if I had pure Chinese genes. That, I had, but my grandmother was from Indonesia, concluding my friend’s theory that I was Indonesian Chinese.
Well, at least nobody has asked me if I was gay or straight.