09.05.2018 was a monumental day for many Malaysians, our voices were heard, and change took place. Like everyone, I was overwhelmed too, it was very emotional for me. It felt like there was hope, hope that this beloved country of ours can be saved, saved by the people.
One sentiment that came out strong during this period, was that we are all Malaysians first. I never once liked ticking the box that asked what's my "bangsa”. I am and always will be, Bangsa Malaysia.
In the spirit of Malaysia Baru (new Malaysia), I wanted to give back. I posted on Instagram that I wanted to photograph three mixed race couples with interesting stories. I received numerous entries but these three stories resonated most with the wife and I.
Omar & Noriah
They met at work. He wooed her, and she fell for him. But 41 years later, he still doesn't agree that he wooed her. He used to throw paper planes at her on a daily basis, just to annoy and get her attention (there was no FB poke back then). One day she got transferred to Terengganu. Missing his paper plane buddy, Omar used to travel to Terengganu every weekend just to see Noriah. That's how love blossomed and they decided to get married.
Surprisingly, they didn't get any objections from their family but it came from their superior at work. Opposed to their matrimony, he separated the newly weds by transferring them to two different states. They chose their love, and didn’t adhere to the transfer order, and got suspended for 7 years.
Doing odd jobs while raising a young family wasn’t easy. But they had each other and they believed in each other. Omar sued his employers and after 7 years of suffering, he won the case and got re-instated. These two paved way for future mixed race couples, they showed love trumps all, literally!
Joel & Celeste
They met at church when they were 7! And to date, he still remembers her smile. Joel said "My family had just moved to Kajang 22 years ago and we felt like fishes out of water when this young girl suddenly ran to us at the church entrance and said hello. She had the prettiest smile and she has never lost that amazing smile that can brighten anyone's day. I would’ve never imagined that I would marry the first person I met in Kajang.
They started dating young, and received intense parental objections from both their parents. They kept their relationship hushed in the hopes some day, their parents would accept their love. Fast forward to adulthood, they were still very much in love and ready to take the plunge.
However, Celeste's parents were still against the idea of Joel and Celeste. Hence, this young couple had to make a very tough decision. To end it or not. Family or their love.
Celeste chose Joel’s love and they got married at 24. Their first year as husband and wife, they lived with the barest minimum. They lived in an apartment with almost no furniture. After work, the only entertainment was each other’s company, cooking simple meals together, talking to each other until the wee hours of the night (because they didn't have the extra money to spend on leisure and Joel was studying to earn an additional certification for their future). Joel believes this is how they built the foundation of their marriage.
A year into their marriage, their families reconnected and were able to reconcile their differences, and Joel was finally accepted into Celeste's family. They even hosted another grand wedding, and this time Celeste's dad walked her down the aisle.
And now, they even have a beautiful baby girl, Emma.
Zool & Meena
Funny thing is these two didn't have an interesting story in their submission, but instead approached me to help them. Zool has been trying to win Meena's parents and her Paati (granma) for some time now. They have been dating for 4 years and were hoping that these photos of them could somehow help their family see that there's more to a person than his/her race/religion. It’s a long shot and I’m not sure if these photos will help, but I do believe the success stories of Omar/Noriah & Joel/Celeste could help these two.
In fact, I hope it helps the rest of us Malaysians look beyond race and religion. #MalaysiaBaru
Selamat Hari Malaysia, Malaysia.