Sunday, October 25, 2009

Diwali 2009

One distinctive about Malaysia is that the festivals of four major religions are celebrated and respected in a national attempt to promote and live in harmony.
On 10 October, Diwali (Deepavali in Malay) was celebrated by Malaysian Hindus (mostly Indian) and some students at my college were given permission to lay out a Kolam, or Rangoli, in the entrance foyer of the college's main building. The difference between the two, I guess, is that a kolam is made using coloured rice, while a rangoli uses coloured powders. Unlike past years, our college did not take time off (since it was on a Saturday) but normally at least one day of vacation is given.

The Indians make up a very small percentage of Malaysia's population (less than 10%), but they are disproportionately represented in the numbers of lawyers, doctors, teachers, and book-sellers. Most Indians in Malaysia are Tamil, either from Tamil Nadu in India or from Sri Lanka. They serve the best food -better than Chinese, Malay, or Thai- and are typically quite adept at languages, most being fairly fluent in Tamil, English and Malay.

With a couple of Tamil colleagues assisting, I have learned exactly five words in Tamil. The Tamil students are always impressed when I greet them in their native language, but of course I should learn more words. At this time, however, I am still working on my Malay.

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