This is an interesting topic that Zoori has brought up in the last blog post.
Unlike our Western counterparts, the Malay naming system is usually First name + Bin (for males) or Binte (for females) + Father’s name. Indians have a similar naming system too. They’d have a First name + son of / daughter of + Father’s name.
Anyway, while I was working in Singapore, I was always addressed as Ms Marina. Once in a blue moon I’d be called Ms Noordin, but I’d be quick to point out that that’s my father’s name.
Once a Malay woman gets married, she has a choice of adopting her husband’s name or keep her own name but be called a Madam instead. My mum for example, she’s either a Mrs Noordin or Madam Sariah.
I know its a polite title. But the thing is, I’m not too fond the label, “Madam”. It makes a woman sound so much older and sterner and unpleasant. I keep thinking of a woman in army uniform commanding her troops to polish their boots, while they scream in unison, “Yes Madam!”
And now that I’m married, sometimes it feels odd when former students continue to call me Ms Marina. And yet, I just can’t bring myself to label myself as Madam Marina. How oppressing it sounds. How ominous it sounds. How … old …
Or I could adopt Cart’s last name. But it feels so awkward to me. Don’t get me wrong, Cart has a beautiful last name. And it does sounds quite elegant to be going around being called Signora Marina D’Andrea. And yet, at the same time, I feel kind of unpatriotic to my own Malay-ness by doing that. Maybe it is just me?
Lets put it this way. You are working and your boss lets you know that you have a new co-worker joining you and are informed that her name is Marina D’Andrea. And you think to yourself, “What a pretty name!” and start to imagine a blonde haired Caucasian woman with blue eyes who will be your future co-worker.
And then psyche yourself up so much and then finally … you find out that she’s a Malay … Eh?! What an anti climax! Wouldn’t it be wierd to you? Or is it just me thinking this way?
It sounds awkward enough with parents naming their kids with colourful names like Siti Rihanna Binte Abu. Or Muhammad Beckham bin Bakar.
Danial Alexander Shah Ahmad Mawi bin Abu. Why didn’t you reply when I called your name, sweetie? Because at home, daddy and mummy calls me boy!
I’m just not accustomed to it.