I was introduced to Nava through work. While working in Houston I was sent her resume to see if I would be interested in having her work with my team. Fast forward several months I’m in Malaysia and I meet this amazing young woman. I wish everyone could meet Nava. She’s funny and interested in everything. She would love to travel to America someday, and I’d love to show her my country.
Nava is part of a minority in Malaysia, she is Malaya Indian. To be full Malaya means the government supports your every whim (pretty much). Full Malaya, you cause an accident, the other guy pays. You want to go to school; the government pays (full Malaya get 80% of the scholarships), you speak Malaya and a little English. This is something that really irritates the other 2 cultures. To be born Malaya Chinese means you possibly own one of the many businesses and you receive minimal support from the government. You qualify for 19% of the scholarships available. One of my work friends is Jen is Malaya Chinese, she can speak and write Chinese, Malaya, and English. She hopes the tide will turn and when she has children it will be a bit more equal. Jen has been extremely helpful in my adjustment, and I really appreciate her. Life is much harder if you are born Malaya Indian (this is a fact). 1% of the scholarships are all you can expect and almost no help. Malaya Indians speak the dialect of their tribe, and speak and write Malaya, and English. If you’re Indian you will face a difficult choice at some point, do you want to stay in your home country or move elsewhere and try to improve your quality of life?
Nava lives with her in-laws, which is typical, and they happen to live around the corner from me. When her sister-in -law got married Nava invited HR Brad, Welder Dave and me to be part of the bride ceremony. It was important to her so we went. The food (all vegan) was delicious and the family was very nice, the evening was a lot of fun for all of us.
A couple weeks later Nava’s sister got married. Nava gave Brad, Dave and I invitations so we attended the wedding. Very interesting experience, this is the first wedding where we sat on the floor, it was a traditional Hindu wedding. We didn’t stay long after the wedding, it was hot and we had a long drive home.
The Tuesday after the wedding Nava invited us to her parent’s home for dinner on Saturday evening, so they could thank us for attending the wedding. How nice is that, definitely a first for me.
Friday night we asked Din (van driver) to take us by her folk’s house so we would know how to find it. We drove around for a long time and never found it, we wondered if we had the wrong address. The next day I asked Nava about it, she said they lived behind the coffee shop, I said, that’s number 224, an orange house. She said yes, my parents live next door, I said but that’s the wrong number, she said, no, we don’t have a number on our house………..REALLY, and you expected us to find it???? Ok, so now we know where to go Saturday night, the house with no number. Welcome to life in Mountasia!
Saturday night, Brad’s two kids were visiting from the states, so he brought them to experience a real Indian meal and family. The house was small and very inviting. Earlier in the day Nava asked me if a table cloth was required for our meal. I told her no, we were good with a bowl or plate, and flatware. She said if we used flatware it will ruin the taste of the food. Since it’s an authentic meal Indian food we’re expected to eat with our hands. Oh my, OK, I guess this will work. I clipped my nails before going because I didn’t want food under my nails. Once seated at the table I noticed a spoon and fork on our plates, I looked at the mom and smiled and said thank you, she smiled too, then I noticed only 6 chairs. Brad, Jack, Marisa, Dave, Me…one seat left. Who gets the chair, by my count there are 6 more adults. I asked and Nava quietly said, ‘we have no more chairs’. I felt a little awkward being a guest and sitting alone.
Nava’s husband joined us and the new brother in law pulled up a spare chair. We had a great time laughing about the differences in our culture. Krishna (new groom) is very concerned about chemicals in western food and the hormones in meat. We talked cars, Proton is made in Malaysia and if it hits you chances are you’ll damage it, think coke can on wheels. The men are put out the Malaysia will not make a quality car, and imports are very expensive. We talked about the wedding and what the different rituals meant and finally I asked, how did you two meet? Welder Dave assumed (out loud) that they were matched, I was hoping it was a love connection. And I wasn’t disappointed. Krisha is best friends with Nava’s husband’s brother. Nava marries into the family and her sister hangs out with her, and meets Krisha. He kind of likes her, and then they meet again in KL while attending the University, a love connection is made, and the rest is history. I just grinned like a fool, I’m a sucker for love.
Dinner ended and we talked ourselves out. Brad had to get going, tomorrow was a travel day for him and the kids, and I was exhausted. As we were leaving someone produced a camera and asked if we would pose, mamma wanted to stand next to me, which was sweet. She kept standing taller, finally I looked at her, smiled and said ‘you’re short, tippy toeing isn’t going to make you tall’. I think she understood, she laughed and stood real close to me, she held my hand. As we walked outside to put our shoes on mamma walked up to me and grabbed me in a real bear hug. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say she touched my soul. I hugged her back and we connected. If we could speak the same language we would be friends. I really like her, she is a good person, and she raised a really great daughter that I’m very pleased to call my friend.
Moving to the other side of the world had been hard, I miss my girlfriends back home. But I’m finding that no matter where you go in the world there are ladies (some young, some older) who are willing to be your friends. These new ladies are my friends, and they are helping me and I hope I’m helping them in some small way while living this new adventure, in Mountasia.