PETALING JAYA: The conversations in Abdul Nazar Naina Mohamed’s household can be interesting, but the way that they play out can be quite amazing to hear.
A question asked in Tamil may be answered in Mandarin. Sometimes, the chatter is peppered with Malay and a smattering of English.
The ease with which the retiree’s four children switch from one language to the next is no surprise to Nazar, a Tamil Muslim who speaks Mandarin. He takes pride in his children’s fluency in the language.
That is because he insisted on sending all of them to a Chinese medium school.
“I can speak Mandarin because I studied in a Chinese school. That is the reason why I wanted all my children to study in one as well,” the 62-year-old who used to work in the tourism industry told FMT.
And while Nazar’s wife, Hasnah Paruwadi Abdullah, 49, may feel left out in some of the conversations, she is proud to have raised a family of multi-linguists.
“I enjoy hearing them speak Mandarin,” Paruwadi, the only one who does not speak the language, told FMT.
“With Tamil, English and Malay also spoken, we are truly Satu Malaysia,” she said, alluding to a national slogan used by a previous administration.
Hasnah’s youngest son, Nazarudeen, 23, said he continued conversing in Mandarin despite switching to a national school when he was eight.
His older sister, Maimunah, 27, said speaking Mandarin comes naturally to them.
“When we’re outside, I talk to my father and siblings in Mandarin. It’s not that we want to show off, it just happens naturally,” she said, adding cheekily that she and her siblings also find the language useful when gossiping about their mother in her presence.
As it turns out, Nazar’s children aren’t just fluent in Mandarin, as two of them are also part of a lion dance troupe.
Mariam, 28, has been an instrumentalist with the Khuan Loke Dragon & Lion Dance Association for 14 years and plays the cymbals, gong and drums.
She joined shortly after eldest brother Nursultan, 29, was roped into the troupe by a friend. He initially played the same instruments before moving on to star as the “lion head” the following year.
Mariam said she developed a passion for performing from watching her brother train at night.
“I was drawn to the lion dance because I loved the sound of the drum. Whenever I play the drums, I feel so relaxed, it relieves my stress,” she said.
Over the years, Mariam has received brickbats for participating in the lion dance, being a Muslim. She says many people are of the mistaken belief that the performance is rooted in the religious practices of the Chinese community.
Fortunately, Mariam’s family is solidly behind her.
“My mother and father have both been supportive and happy for me.
As non-Chinese in the troupe we tend to stand out, but the team has accepted us. They’re like a second family to me and always have my back, even outside of lion dancing,” she said.