In the wake of my grandmother's passing, I begin to reflect on a few things...
It has been three years since I had gone back to the land of my father's ancestors... Three years since I had kissed the fresh breeze of its morning sky... Three years since I had gone back to Kelantan.
I had always felt at home there, waking up in my grandmother's house, or even my aunt's house. Waking up to the lilting sounds of the Kelantanese dialect - a musical language, whose beauty is apparent to all, but whose true meaning can only be appreciated by one born of the tongue, or in my case one who is half-born to the tongue.
I remember there used to be a time when a sense of calm and happiness would engulf me as we crossed the borders into the Kelantanese lands... My affinity with the land and its people... My paternal tribe...
Yet at the same time, as much as I felt at home there, there was still a sense of alienness, that I was still not a part of the people, as much as I had wanted to be...I was alien for so long, because I did not truly speak the native Kelantanese dialect. I was told that it was 'tainted' by influences from the Terengganu dialect, or even some parts of the 'standard' dialect.
But I tried.
I worked hard on practicing it. Harder than I ever tried for any other dialect or language. I don't think even my father knew, because I would only speak the 'standard' dialect with him.
I worked hard because I did not want to feel alien, no matter how slight.
Finally, it was not until my early twenties did I really get a sense of how to really speak the language - that I could strike up a conversation with a local without them having to ask me where I was from.
I know for many it's a moot point. "So what?" they say, "Just speak your own language, your own dialect."
I laugh out loud every time I hear that... Just what is my language? my dialect? English? West country? London? Malay? Johorean? 'Standard'? Sabahan? Terengganu? Kelantan?
Language is a powerful force. It can determine one's right to be where they are... It can determine if one does indeed truly belong.
It determines one's Identity.