Hamid’s Iranian-Malaysian cousin, Samira, speaks fluent Bahasa Malaysia, English, and Farsi – along with that language’s colloquialisms and slang, despite having never set foot in Iran.

However, a friend with the same Iranian-Malaysian mixed heritage, Tengku Shapur, doesn’t speak a word of Farsi and describes himself as “fully Malaysian”.

From these two examples, Hamid figures that assimilation works differently in different families, depending on how mixed-culture kids are raised.

Another interesting point Hamid makes is how some Iranians are also beginning to integrate with another migrant group in the country, the Koreans. Hamid knows of a Korean-Iranian couple who met in Malaysia, and they are about to tie the knot in South Korea. He also tells me of an Iranian grocery shop owner in Ampang who is married to a Korean; and are expecting an Iranian-Korean baby soon who will be brought up in Malaysia.

He attributes this pattern to the fact that Ampang houses large groups of both communities, as well as they both share cultural similarities such as filial piety and respect for elders.

With family members scattered all around the world and being part of a sprawling Iranian diaspora, Hamid’s perspectives of what constitutes his and other’s identities are not so narrow.

I asked Hamid what his not-so-narrow view of me is. How he sees me is not so much Chinese and not just Malaysian, but as a tiny person from Klang, living in KL, who has promised to bring him for seafood in Pandamaran one too many times. He sees me as one of the two ‘Graces’ in class, the one who attempted to bribe other students with cookies during campus elections.

Hamid’s stories create hope that it’s possible to formulate our own identities. They can be as complex as an algebraical identity matrix, or a simple Soduku puzzle. They could include every cultural influence we’ve ever had, our family histories, and personal stories, or just the very bare bones.

Our options don’t have to be boringly limited to black or white. We can have shades of grey. I guess what I’m getting out of this is that it is not necessary for us to mirror what we’re dictated to reflect; we are capable of channelling prisms too. Refraction is bound to happen if we allow ourselves just the slightest of adjustments in perception.

Whether they’re steadfastly holding on to their identity as Persians, or weaving on to the textures of our landscape, Hamid believes that the majority of the Iranian families that have moved here will stick around for a while, if not permanently.

And while it’s great that they are able to experience the freedoms and opportunities that Hamid so relishes, there is a definite need to connect to their roots.

“Some of us can’t go home,” he says, “But wherever we are, if we’re united, practicing our culture, we’re still in Persia.”

*Apa itu ta’arof? Nantikan episod selanjutnya pada 22hb Aug (Isnin) nanti!

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