Today marks 10 years together with Imran. To be honest, it doesn’t even feel like 10. Occasionally, I find myself looking at him and going, “do I really know you?”. I mean sure, I can complete his sentences, I know what he’s thinking 90% of the time, I memorize his habits and quirks, but there’s still so much to this person I’ve been with for a decade. Amidst all the familiarity and routine, it’s nice to know I have so much more to learn about this guy.
How We Met
Imran and I were both from the same Junior College. I just entered Victoria JC (VJ) as part of the Integrated Programme, and Imran just graduated and was already in the army serving his National Service. Mid-way through my first year, I appeared in an Open House video for the school, which was posted online, and Imran – being very stalker-like I must admit – asked friends who were still in VJ if they knew “that girl from the video”. Shortly enough, we connected via MSN and Friendster (oh those were the days!), and when he came to look for me while I was working part-time as a sales assistant at departmental store OG, that’s where it all began!
The Race and Religion Issue
As you guys would know, I’m Chinese, and Imran’s Malay. Many of you have wrote in and asked how I introduced a Malay-Muslim boyfriend into my family, and I’ve always found it difficult to answer because of several reasons. 1) My circumstances are completely different 2) I know I’m lucky to have parents who accept our inter-racial relationship. If you are reading this, please bear in mind that I am sharing from my own personal experience, and what I will share below should not be taken as the “ideal” advice when it comes to breaking such news to your family. I know some of you deal with very strict Chinese and/ or Christian parents who will not exactly condone dating someone of another faith and/ or race. I feel you because my maternal relatives are mostly Christian, and my paternal relatives are very Chinese-oriented. However, like I said before, I am very lucky and thankful to have parents who treasure Imran the way I do (I mean, my dad sides Imran most of the time whenever we have arguments, and I’m his daughter!). I never once thought about hiding my relationship from my parents: I know I told my mom straight up in the kitchen “I have a boyfriend, and he’s Malay” one week into our relationship. I was just not keen on lying to them, and it gets really tiring to lie. I would much rather be honest, have my parents get to know Imran on a personal level, and move on from there. Though my relatives have never voiced their opinions liberally, I knew they weren’t exactly approving of the relationship. We did feel a little bit slighted, but as long as our parents approve and are supportive, who else is to care? I also credit my bossy “I’m going to do things my MY way” personality for paving the way for our relationship, which basically meant my parents were forced to accept whoever I was dating.
The first initial years of our relationship were also an eye-opening experience into the Malay culture. From learning how to salam (a Malay way of greeting elders) his mother when I first met her, picking up a basic understanding of Bahasa Melayu, to learning how to cook Nasi Ayam and picking fabric for our Hari Raya baju (which honestly, is the most difficult task), I’ve been involved in many family activities and decisions. I have never once felt like a stranger in his family, and am always welcomed to their home, where I am affectionately called “Kakak” (“Elder Sister” in Malay). My only complaint, is that I’m fed way too much. When Hari Raya Puasa came within our first year together, I celebrated with Imran and his family, dressed in my very own traditional outfit Imran’s mom picked me for. I remember visiting 8 houses that day and feeling so drained out by the end. I find myself enjoying, or celebrating, Hari Raya Puasa more than Chinese New Year every year – I don’t have much family in Singapore (most of them are from Malaysia), so Chinese New Year is a really quiet affair that consists of visiting one house on Chu Yi (Day 1 of the Lunar Calendar). Getting to know such a big family from Imran’s side is refreshingly nice for me. Of course, it took me some time to get accustomed to Imran’s culture: I made “mistakes” during my first few years that left some of Imran’s relatives the least to say, stunned. From eating with one leg up on the chair at home like the unruly Chinese girl that I am, to changing out of my traditional Malay baju into FBTs to help clean up after Imran’s brother’s wedding, I must have seemed like this really wild Chinese girl. I’ve cleaned up well since then, I promise!
Getting Through Conflict and Tough Times
While we are still very much in love (a friend recently commented, “how is it that you guys look so in love after 10 years?!”), I would like to point out that like every other couple out there, we do get into our little squabbles. Perhaps some of it due to my stubbornness: I have to have things done a certain way, I expect perfection, and I hardly take “No” for an answer. I am also very non-confrontational, which means I would rather bottle it up and let it fester, rather than “talk about my feelings” or what’s causing me distress. Imran is the exact opposite; he likes to trash things out and deal with the argument in a logical manner (very Laywer-esque I always say). I’ve gotten better at conveying my feelings over the years, and I think it’s important to always try to listen and attempt to understand, the other person’s point of view. We also make an effort to make things work: No matter how intense our arguments can get, we have never once said “If you’re not happy, let’s break up”. I think it’s really toxic to think about breaking up when the going gets tough. If it’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to stick to each other when shit happens. We went through the death of my beloved dog Buffy, and my parents’ divorce within the first two years of being together, and though the latter was honestly the toughest of times for me, we hustled on. I look back and think, “Damn, we really have gone through so much together”, and if I could pick a song that I could dedicate to Imran, it would be Snow Patrol’s “Signal Fire”. The song goes “in the confusion/ and the aftermath/ you are my Signal Fire”, and truly, he has been my pillar of strength and support. To delve into it more symbolically, you light a signal fire whenever you need rescuing, or someone to bring you back home safely, and that someone for me, is Imran.
Giving and Sacrifice
I shall end off this blog post with two takeaways I would like to share from our relationship. The first, believe in each other. The second, “Give”. Since Imran’s law school and debating days, I have supported his ambitions and pursuits – they come first, sometimes more than mine. If he needed to study for exams, or train for debate tournaments, our “couple time” will be dedicated to them (I celebrated my 20th birthday watching Imran at a debate tournament). If he needed to go overseas for debating tournaments, we would save up and made sure he got to go to those opportunities. Even when it came to me, pursuing a career in blogging may not have been the most ideal-sounding, especially not since Imran’s peers are mostly dentists/ doctors/ lawyers. Still, Imran believed in me and supported this career. He never once said “no” to a trip I had to go to, and always gives advice on opportunities he feels I should or should not take. He always puts me and my career on a pedestal, and for that, I am truly appreciative.
So yes, we have 10 happy years together, and many more to go. I could go on and on, but I’ll leave that to our 20th Anniversary! 😛 Happy Anniversary my love!
Imran and I had a special anniversary shoot with our lovely friend Jenny Sun. This series was shot in Singapore, and Jenny – who is based in both Malaysia and Australia – flew down from Kuala Lumpur to celebrate this milestone with us. We are forever grateful to her – her generosity, vivaciousness and sincerity are values I admire in her, and I know of no better person to let into your life to capture your most intimate moments. Thank you Jenny dear.