Malaysian Indians love to stare at each other. In fact, it is a norm. It is nowhere near as bad as it is in India, but that doesn’t mitigate how unnerving the effects can be. The staring sometimes lasts too long, and turns into ogling, which usually results in some very uncomfortable consequences. Of course, not ALL Malaysian Indians are guilty of this, lets not get #notallmalaysianindians trending just yet. Here are a few reasons why we think Malaysian Indians stare at each other.

“Ooh, look! There’s another one of us!

In spite of being featured in every Merdeka (National Day) advertisement, ethnic Indians make up a bare 7% of the Malaysian population. So a popular contention to why we stare at each other is because there are so few of us. This is never seen in the ethnic majorities of the nation, ever. But Malaysian Indians remain in awe of each other. I mean, who can blame you for staring, our ancestors probably came to Malaya on the same ship!

“I think she is that Aunty’s daughter!”

Because there are so few of us pottering around the country, we all basically know each other. Or so we think. I once asked a lady, “Excuse me, why are you staring at me?” After she got over the shock of being called out (and choking on her drink in the process), she responded by saying that I looked like someone she knew. This is a nice way to cover line. But let’s face the facts, she was staring because that’s what she usually does, and has never been called out on it.

“It’s just what people do,”

This is probably the most pathetic excuse for bad behaviour in our country. How many times have you double parked, saying “It’s just for a while, lah”? Malaysians suffer from what is known as herd mentality. When we see a group of people doing something that is considered ‘normal’ such as staring, we don’t think twice before we do the same. Just because everyone else does it, doesn’t make it right!

“She’s brown too, but different,”

Credit: Samjuktha Basu

Another absurd notion that Indians seem to have ingrained in their DNA is, they expect every other brown person to look and behave the same. So if an Indian girl walks into a restaurant with a sleeve tattoo, the head turning is guaranteed. If an Indian guy walks in a mall wearing a veshti, the other races will play it cool, and even smile at him. But the Indian who walks past him will stare daggers at him, akin to a Tamil movie hero about to pull our his aruvaal from behind his neck. Everyone is different, just because they look Indian doesn’t mean they have to tick the mental checklist you have in mind.

“She’s pretty attractive,”

PSA: There is a difference between checking someone out and ogling. When you check someone out, you look at them for all of 3 seconds, and then resume what you were doing. The person probably knows that you’re looking at them because you find them attractive. If you really cannot tahan, you could walk up to them and introduce yourself politely and start a conversation, if they are willing to spend their time doing the same. Staring at someone for prolonged periods of time (more than 5 seconds) is RUDE and it is considered HARASSMENT. How would you feel if you had a pair of eyes on you the whole time, while you are having your meal? Also, there is a special place in hell for the low life imbeciles who decide to switch tables at a restaurant, just so they can gawk at someone who is trying to have a meal.

“Nobody told me that it is wrong to stare”

Ah, this is the crux of the staring issue. Parents have not taught their children that it is disrespectful to stare at someone. Secondly, children grow up imitating their parents. Hence, the next generation continues staring. So really, the solution to this problem begins at home.

“Just ignore it lah!”

Nope. Ignoring problems will only make them fester and become malignant. We know we cant change the world, but we may stop one person from doing it again. The staring has already escalated to ogling and harassment, ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. Stand up to the morons who continue to stare at you. Or better, stare right back at them until they cant help but to look away.

I was once in a restaurant with a female friend. A young man from the table behind me switched seats to the table beside us and stared at the two of us continuously, making us uncomfortable. What did we do, you may ask. We both turned towards him and stared into his eyes like a laser beam. He couldn’t maintain eye contact, and suddenly shifted his stare to his shoes. We continued staring. He felt so uncomfortable that he eventually left the restaurant. It may not be the best solution to the problem, but I hope it has deterred him from harassing other women.

Another trick is to look at the person staring in the eye, and say “Yes?”. The best solution would be to be the change we want to see, and to just STOP STARING!