Turning 60 just a few days ago, Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah took to Facebook to celebrate her multiracial background and her parenting life lessons.

“When I turned 60 a few days ago, the gifts I received from my eldest son, Tunku Mahkota Johor, were photographs of his three children, complete with their little palm prints and footprints.

“These were wonderful reminders that I am now a grandmother of three! Alhamdulillah, I am blessed!”

Today, those photographs are displayed on her shelves, together with many others of the royal family.

One of the photographs is of Tunku Ismail as a baby.

“In this picture, the Tunku Mahkota is being held in the arms of my own maternal grandmother.

“She was a Peranakan Chinese. Her late brother was Tan Sri Chang Min Tat, a Malaysian Federal Court judge.

“Although she hardly visited us in Johor Baru, we would see her at my mother’s house every time we were in Ipoh to celebrate Hari Raya with my Perak family.”

Raja Zarith is convinced that children are actually — if left to their own pure and innocent thoughts, and their own understanding of the world — oblivious to racial differences.

She said it was parents, who consciously or unconsciously, made children aware of these differences.

“As a parent, I was determined to let my children know that my grandmother was Chinese, and to accept it in the same way that they know that their own paternal grandmother was English.

“I hoped that they would learn to be proud of the blood that flows through their veins, and to understand that it does not make them any less Malay.”

Raja Zarith reminisces about seeing her grandmother in her embroidered Nyonya kebayas and batik sarongs, with a handkerchief tucked into the silver belt that held up her sarong.

“When she became older, and her hands started being unsteady at pinning the brooches onto the kebayas, she stopped wearing them and wore buttoned-up kebaya-like tunics and sarongs instead.

“Sadly, she passed on when my children were still very young.

“But, I would always show them the photographs of her so that they will never ever forget about her.”

Seeing that photograph of her cradling Her Majesty’s eldest son, she wishes that she could tell her grandmother that he now has children of his own.

“I wish I can tell her that he still remembers her, and still thinks of her as his nenek.

“I wish I can tell her about some of his achievements, that despite the comfortable life he led at home here in Malaysia, he survived the gruelling training as an army cadet at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, India.

“I wish I can tell her that he was commissioned and continued to serve in the Indian Army as an officer of the 61st Cavalry regiment in Jaipur, India, for four years.

“I wish I can tell her that he is now back home in Malaysia, and that he has succeeded in creating a successful football club for the state.

“She had seen him kick those footballs around with his cousins.

“I wish I can tell her that I too cannot believe how far he has come in managing the football team.”

Raja Zarith said at the age of 60, she realises that there is still so much to learn.

“One thing I do know for sure, however, is that my Chinese grandmother was as Malaysian as I am myself. I know too that my children — even with their mixed blood heritage — are also as Malaysian as I am.

She concluded her journey down memory lane by hoping that Allah accepts her son’s wishes to perform the Haj next year.

“If Allah accepts him as His guest in the Holy Land, I will ask him to pray, not just for us, his parents, but for our family too.

“And, I will remind him not to forget his nenek.”

Source : NST

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