This story by Vimal Esvaran was originally featured on Malaysian Indian Anthology and has been reproduced in Astro Ulagam.

Growing up Indian in a small town in Perak called Kamunting, I was blessed with a quaint life – mild-mannered neighbours, easy access to nature, and laidback schooling years. But it also came with a downside: there weren’t many others who looked like me.

Early on I figured, the best way to survive would be to fit in rather than stand out. So, in school I picked up Malay quickly and only hung out with those who spoke it well to have better access to everything life in a small town had to offer (or so I thought).

As an adult, that behaviour continued as well, picking acquaintances in strategic places. In retrospect, I now see the follies of my way – consciously benefiting from skin tone and my knack for languages – while ignoring the struggles of my peers in the Indian community.

This internalized racism is something that I’m still unpacking and as I peel it off layer by layer I realise how destructively deep-rooted it is, affecting me from the way I look at my own body to the factors I look for in a partner. It appears to be a long process, but an important one I must undertake.

Photo source: Malaysian Indian Anthology,