April 3, 2008 12:36:40 am
The issue of ethnic Indians protesting against discrimination in Malaysia burns occasionally on the periphery of Asia’s political scape. But trust a Punjabi with tandoori chicken on her mind and more of it on her plate, to upturn some of these notions in a little story about globalisation.
Anita Raj Kaur, who playing badminton for Malaysia won her first match today at the Indian Open, claims she has been able to convert her Malay coach Tey Seubock to a chicken curry-naan diet twice a week. She maintains she is a “Punju first,” and a Malaysian or Indian later.
Not that the 22-year-old is in denial of the tension. She simply doesn’t mix issues — with her reasonably well-off background she can afford not to. Born in Malaysia, with distant relatives in Chandigarh, this daughter of a badminton enthusiast — like her three other sisters — took up the sport eight years ago. Her elder sister Ravinder has represented Malaysia before, and Anita traveled to India earlier for tournaments in Jaipur and Lucknow.
“It’s quite an achievement for Indian girls to get anywhere big in sport in Malaysia — right now, there’s just me and another marathoner. But that’s because ethnic Indians tend to focus a lot on academics. Lots of Indian lawyers around,” she says.
“Nicol David is half-Indian, her father (Desmond David) is a Malaysian-Indian engineer,” she says about the world number one squash player who is also half-Chinese. “But not many others. You can count them on your fingers. It’s a responsibility being a Malaysian-Indian sportswoman,” she adds.
Kaur is ranked 94th in the world and fourth in Malaysia. Another badminton player of Indian origin Stefanie Shalini trains in Kuala Lumpur but didn’t make the trip to India.
But coach Tey, who professes his liking for naan-curry cuisine, sees nothing special in an Indian making it through the Malaysian system. “For you people, she is Indian. For us, it’s nothing special. We have Malays and Chinese and Indians in our society,” he says, “but we’d be happy to have an ethnic Indian player who can progress to the next level. Till now, they haven’t really been very impressive so no one’s come up big time.”
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