One afternoon, I had finished running some errands in Bandar Park near OUG (Old Klang Road) when I saw a young Malay chap setting up his food stall. He was a small sized fellow and came in an old Proton Saga. His setup wasn't a very big deal - just a couple of plastic foldable tables and some plastic containers of food. The usual fare - nasi lemak, mee/meehoon goreng, various curries and kueh.
I had not seen him before...maybe because I don't go to that area very often. But the Bandar Park area is host to a number of roadside hawkers - there's a pisang goreng makcik, an ah pek selling sweet dessert soups, one annay selling kacang putih, etc. Pretty muhibbah offerings, seeing that the area is a predominantly Chinese commercial area (I would estimate 95%).
Anyway, it was about 4.30pm then, I was feeling a bit lazy to cook dinner. So I decided to "tapau" something from the young man. I left him to continue setting up his stall while I bought some delicious keropok lekor from the makcik's stall nearby. Then I crossed the road over to the ah pek's stall and bought some "leng chee kang". By the time I came back, the young man was ready for business.
As he was preparing my order, I struck up a conversation with him. The conversation (in Malay) went something like this:
Me: How long have you set up here?
Him: Not long, just a few months.
Me: I see...so where are you from?
Me (surprised): Kepong?! Why come all the way to set up stall here?
(Kepong is about 40-50km away from OUG.)
Him: Cari makan la...This location ok, what. Got business.
Then I got curious. The Malaysian Chinese community has this pervasive urban legend going round that the Malays have everyhting easier and they can get away with anything. Now I had grown up with this urban legend, but I've never been comfortable with it as it is too wide a generalisation, and it smacks of racism.
Do the Malays really get away with everything - including illegal hawker stalls? So I decided to test this theory by asking this young Malay chap:
Me: So...do you get into any trouble with DBKL just setting up stall like that?
Him: Ada... DBKL comes and kacau every few weeks.
(Well, there's the first cannon shot to the "Malays all have it easy" nonsense!!)
Me: So what do they do? (Translated: Do they really do anything to you - a Malay? What about Ketuanan Melayu and all that?)
Him: Adalah, they come and make a big show of it. Shouting and threatening, acting like they're so high and mighty. I'm just trying to make a living here. They confiscate everything then I have to go and "redeem" my items.
(redeem i.e. pay bribes to get their "barang-barang cari makan" back. That's exactly what all the other non-Malay illegal hawkers have to go through.)
Me: Want to cari makan also so difficult, huh? (Translated: I thought you as a Malay get it easier cos of the Ketuanan Melayu thing?)
Him: Yalah...what to do? (Translated: You're a bloody idiot if you believe that!)
I went home a little more educated that day, and a little more appreciative of my fellow Malaysians who just want to cari makan and have a peaceful life.