I was born and raised in Singapore and am an Indian Muslim of Tamil Nadu descent. I moved to London for university after finishing my army duties. A few years ago, my family moved to Perth, Australia.
My paternal grandfather worked in Saigon as an engineer in the 1940s. After his untimely death, my father worked in Dammam to support his sisters back in Chennai. My maternal grandfather moved to British colonial Singapore for similar reasons in the 1950s delivering newspapers to army barracks and ran a humble provision shop. A few years after my father’s arranged marriage, he began his life in Singapore and worked as a salesman. Even though I spend 80% of the year in London and most of my memories are from Singapore, I feel most at home in the tiny world my nuclear family has built in Perth where the Biryani never fails to satisfy. I’ve felt like a cultural outsider many times. As an Indian Tamil Muslim in Singapore you’re a minority in every denomination (most Singaporeans being Chinese, most Muslims being Malay and most Tamils being Hindu). You adapt to integrate and it’s refreshing to be in this melting pot but the occasional subtle ignorance still won’t be encouraging. A similar sentiment prevails when I visit my relatives back in Chennai.
Even within the community, I sometimes feel that my outlook on certain cultural norms and behaviour are not the same. It was here in London that I further realised the heterogeneity of Muslims – the contrast amongst Singaporean Muslims is not as stark. In my experience, there is a sense of judgement that exists amongst us on both ends of the spectrum and how we practice. Each of us has our own spiritual journey seeking our full potential. I have learnt and grown so much from my interactions with people with completely different outlooks on things and I only thank them for they have challenged me to re-evaluate my philosophies further strengthening them. Ultimately, as a ‘hybrid’ you have the privilege to shape who you are. You can draw from practices and beliefs that appeal to you from each culture and with insight you understand the not so pretty side of things that you can leave behind.