It’s that time of year again, the floors of our neighbourhood malls are bedazzled with colourful kolams, the friendly bank teller asks us if we want the peacock themed ang pau packets, and everyone complains that they need to take Monday off.
Deepavali, the festival of lights that is celebrated by a majority of Malaysian Indians is around the corner. Ours is a celebration different from the rest of the world, with the festival revolving around the Malaysian tradition of the Open House. The open house is fun, but not when the judgmental and entitled come visiting. We have compiled a list of things we suggest all Malaysian Indians avoid this Deepavali.
Commenting on someone’s weight
“Eh, you’ve gained/lost so much weight! What happened?”
A few PSAs before we get started on this. 1. Not everyone wants to lose weight. 2. Even if someone has been working hard to lose weight, it is not appropriate to comment on their body.
Can you believe that this is the FIRST thing we are driven say upon seeing each other? The problem with us Malaysians is that we love stating the obvious, even if it is weight that isn’t ours. The person you are speaking to probably knows that they have gained or lost weight. There is no need to rub it in their faces and demand an explanation on how they got there, because frankly, it isn’t any of your business. Oh and if you are ‘concerned about their health’, you should probably be also asking them other questions like “Are you getting enough sleep?” “Is your job incredibly stressful?” “When was your last medical check up?” Going by that logic, you need to start policing people smoking, drinking, doing drugs, eating junk food, etc.
Nobody can comment on Your body without your consent.
Even if the person was unhealthy, that doesn’t allow you to comment on their body. No matter what you have been taught by media and social media, A PERSON’S WEIGHT IS NOT INDICATIVE OF THEIR HEALTH. All bodies deserve respect, dignity and safety. Even the ones you don’t deem attractive.
Asking for ‘good news’
“Do you have someone special?”
“Are you getting married soon?”
“When are you having a baby?”
Annoyingly common within the Malaysian Indian spheres, these questions are the very reason some people choose to avoid gatherings entirely. These probing, personal questions grill innocently, and place immense pressure on a person to make life altering decisions. Really, one tradition we don’t need to perpetuate is pressuring people into doing things they’re not sure they want in the first place.
The thing is, for some people, good news is being single, or enjoying the companionship of their partner without a screaming infant nearby. You asking them for good news of the opposite outcome is just downright rude.
And for others, the lack of a partner or a child may be something so painful, something they are trying so hard to deal with, that it crushes them inside every time they are questioned about it. You never know what people are dealing with. SO DON’T PROBE.
Slut shaming & Prude shaming
Slut shaming: “I can see your cleavage, cover up lah!” “Why do you tie your saree to be so revealing?”
Prude shaming: “You need to show more skin, why are you all covered up?”
If you feel a pressing need to say something about the way a person is dressed, just say “You look nice!” And if you don’t think they look nice, then just zip it. There is a plethora of other things to talk about instead of how one looks in their outfit. This applies to their accessories, hairstyle, presence/absence of pottu, the works. Let people be.
Let them wear what they want, because honestly, nobody asked you for your opinion.
And if you really cannot take what someone is wearing, here’s what you need to do. LOOK AWAY.
Being the Food Police
“Are you seriously going to have a second round of that?”
“How much sugar are you going to eat?”
“I’m so bad for eating all these cookies!”
First of all, stop assigning food moral values. The bone marrow you just slurped isn’t bad and the nonexistent Deepavali salad isn’t good. It is merely food. Eat what you enjoy, in amounts that satiate you. Just as how you know your body the best, so does everyone else. The onus is NOT on you to tell people what and how much to eat.
Honestly, it is the one day in the year that is a celebration for most Malaysian Hindus. Do you really need to start monitoring what people eat? Stop being the self appointed food police officer and just let everyone enjoy themselves!
Snooping around to find out what people do for a living
“What do you work as?”
“So, how much are you earning now?”
Okay, anyone who asks you what your salary is needs to be pelted with the onion raita from the buffet table. Thankfully, Malaysian Indians don’t do that as much anymore. Instead, we just ask what do you for a living and how long you have been at it, and try to guess how much you earn.
As for “What do you work as?”, this is a tricky one. While it is a commonly asked question, and most people are okay with being asked what they do for a living, we need to understand a few things first. We live in 2018. A job today isn’t the be all and end all of a person. It is merely a job. It does not define a person.
Society is far too concerned with what people do to pay the bills.
People love to organize others into a social hierarchy, which is determined by their jobs and incomes. And yes, we are happy to have climbed up the rungs of society, out of the rubber estates to acquire professional jobs. A substantial number of Malaysian Indians now make up the holy trinity of doctors, lawyers and engineers. But what about those who are still trying?
It would be fantastic if as a society, we see past that social hierarchy. We need to start seeing the value in people for who they are, not what they do to pay the bills.
Giving people free advice on how to improve their appearance
‘Eh, why is your hair falling so early? Use this concoction of coconut oil, vendhayam and a lizard’s tail every night and it will grow back”
Deepavali is the time that people show greater interest in solving your problems than their own. These unsolicited nuggets of advice are often bestowed upon us by well meaning elders. They are usually just fighting to stay relevant to today’s society and cannot come up with a better way to prove themselves. It is a carnal need to portray that they can deal with your perceived difficulties better than you could ever be expected to.
“But I was just trying to help!” comes the hurt retort. You can help, when you are asked for help. Until then, why don’t we talk about something else?
If you are having trouble talking to someone after avoiding all of the above, you should probably broaden your view of the world, or perhaps just stick to talking about Tamil movies and Bigg Boss. Enjoy the Deepavali weekend!