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Lights of Diversity September 5, 2012

Posted by Nazneen Uddin in Luce, Malaysia.
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As I sit on the monorail train heading to work, I gaze at the landscape around me: a multitude of glistening skyscrapers embedded against lush greenery and village homes.  In a span of two minutes, I spot a set of minarets hiding behind a turquoise dome, a red rooftop with gold ornamentation from a Buddhist temple, a pyramid-shaped tower of gods arising from a Hindu temple, and a white cross hanging atop a Gothic style church.

Eid prayer at National Mosque

I am distracted by the young woman in front of me wearing a beautiful red sari, speaking to her friend in Tamil.  I turn to my left, and see a mother speaking to her son in Mandarin, while on my right, I hear a woman in a pink headscarf speaking Malay on the phone.  When I reach my stop, I pass by a hawker stand and smell the aroma of fresh Naan, fried Chinese noodles, and an array of colorful Malay sweets.

As I try to grasp the richness of the diverse cultures of Malaysia, I head to a women’s crisis shelter to give a talk on prenatal care. I am humbled by the stories the victims of domestic violence share. One woman narrated that she was alone at home with her five-year-old son when she started having  contractions. She delivered the baby with the help of her son.  The umbilical cord was not cut until three hours later when the ambulance finally arrived. Luckily, she and her baby survived with no impact to their health.

As I walk home, I pass by an endless line of green lights in honor of the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset refraining from any food or drink. Stalls stud the streets, selling everything from fresh coconut water to chicken soup for the daily Pasar Raya, or Ramadan market.  People are flocking towards the market carrying bags of food home for their families as sunset nears.

Food market during Ramadan

Chinese New Year lights

Six months prior, I remember the same street had red lanterns in honor of Chinese New Year.  In Malaysia, every religion has its holiday honored, and open house invitations are sent; regardless of your faith, you are invited to homes to eat, exchange gifts, and celebrate  together.  Various shaped lights in an array of colors illuminate the streets for each festival – be it Diwali, Christmas, or Eid.  I reflect on the enormous diversity in America, and how much more enriching it would be if we adopted a similar culture of honoring each other. There is always another celebration and set of lights to look forward to, and has made living in Kuala Lumpur an exciting experience of exponential growth.

Mall decor at Christmas

Mall decor at Diwali

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