Book: Floating on a Malayan Breeze

“One of the best, and certainly one of the most enjoyable, single-volume introductions to both countries’ politics, economies and societies, and to their delicate sibling relationship–part envy, part rivalry, part affection.”

Simon Long, “Banyan”, Asia columnist, The Economist

File under “great books you’ve never heard about.” Honest and frank throughout.

Tyler Cowen, in his blog Marginal Revolution

“This lively book is more than just an enjoyable travelogue: it is a series of thoughtful—sometimes provocative—observations on the history, culture, politics, religion and other aspects of our diverse lives in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.”

George Yeo, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore

(full reviews below)

Availability

The book is available in Kinokuniya and Times in Singapore; and in Borders and Kinokuniya in Malaysia. But please do call them to check stocks before you head down. It is also always available direct from the publisher, NUS Press.

You can also order the book on Amazon and other e-retailers. A kindle version is also available. For updates and information about the book launches and release dates, please subscribe to this blog–click on the link in the right-hand navigation bar ==>, below the list of posts. Or please do add me as a friend or subscribe to my updates on Facebook.

Our team

Sumana Rajarethnam, contributing editor, fellow cyclist and best friend; and Farah Cheah, superstar research assistant.

Synopsis

What happens after a country splits apart? Forty-seven years ago Singapore separated from Malaysia. Since then, the two countries have developed along their own paths. Malaysia has given preference to the majority Malay Muslims — the bumiputera, or sons of the soil. Singapore, meanwhile, has tried to build a meritocracy — ostensibly colour-blind, yet more encouraging perhaps to some Singaporeans than to others. How have these policies affected ordinary people? How do these two divergent nations now see each other and the world around them?

Seeking answers to these questions, two Singaporeans set off to cycle around Peninsular Malaysia, armed with a tent, two pairs of clothes and a daily budget of three US dollars each. They spent 30 days on the road, cycling through every Malaysian state, and chatting with hundreds of Malaysians. Not satisfied, they then went on to interview many more people in Malaysia and Singapore. What they found are two countries that have developed economically but are still struggling to find their souls.

Book Blog

Dear reader, I am going to use part of this blog to share my book writing and publishing experiences from the past eight years. It’s been quite a journey taking this from a crackpot concept–Sumana, my best friend, and I cycling around Malaysia for a month on US$3/day–to an actual book. Learned a lot, good and bad, about trying to be a writer in Singapore, so will try to remember and share as much as I can.

You can either access my book blog by clicking on the individual posts below, or by clicking on “Book Blog” here.

Book Blog posts

The early days, 2003-04

Judging a book by its cover

Update: Colour it is…

Preparing for our bicycle trip, May-June 2004

Post-bicycle trip, starting to write, Aug-Dec 2004

Book reviews

“An entertaining, insightful and profound depiction of two countries separated almost at birth, and apparently drifting apart ever since. In a mixture of tales from a cycling tour in 2004, contemporary interviews, sharp pen-portraits and acute analysis Mr Vadaketh shows both Singapore and Malaysia on the cusp of change. Viewed from outside as development success stories, both find their citizens questioning fundamental aspects of their political and economic systems. Mr Vadaketh deftly explains the roots of the present malaise. He has written one of the best, and certainly one of the most enjoyable, single-volume introductions to both countries’ politics, economies and societies, and to their delicate sibling relationship–part envy, part rivalry, part affection.”

Simon Long, “Banyan”, Asia columnist, The Economist

“I was drawn to the word ‘Malayan’ in the book’s title.  It is a term not often used today.  Many young Singaporeans would not know what it means or implies.  For Sudhir, a young Singaporean, to describe himself as Malayan piqued my curiosity because I also consider myself one.  His father’s origin in Malaysia cannot be the entire reason because there are many young Singaporeans with similar background who do not share this emotion.

The reason is deeper, indeed, the reason is what Sudhir’s book is all about.   This lively book is more than just an enjoyable travelogue: it is a series of thoughtful—sometimes provocative—observations on the history, culture, politics, religion and other aspects of our diverse lives in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.

In some ways, the political separation of Malaysia and Singapore is unnatural because we are one people.  At the risk of being misunderstood, we are ‘one people, two countries’.  Maybe one day, because of prolonged political separation, we will become two peoples but I doubt it because the mixing continues everyday.  When Malaysians and Singaporeans marry, we hardly consider each other as foreigner. Yes, our politics divide us, yesterday and today.  But history is a long time.  Globalisation affects us both equally.  ASEAN gives us a higher common identity.

When I was President of the Cambridge University Malaysia Singapore Association in the 70’s (it was Cambridge University Malayan Association at the time of Tunku and Lee Kuan Yew), pressure was placed on us by both governments to separate.  We refused because we felt deep inside us that something precious would be lost.  Later, when I was in government myself, I wondered whether that was a false youthful idealism.

Now, reading Sudhir’s book, and sensing the same emotional resonance in this young Singaporean, it seems more likely that our destinies remain intertwined.  It is the same Malayan breeze on which we float.”

George Yeo, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore

13 responses

  1. oh its wonderful to hear the term “malayan” from the lips of a young person! i never thought it possible given the political rhetoric in nation building. i have not read the book yet and i certainly will !

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  3. Hello, I really look forward to your book. As I am residing in Sabah, Malaysia, is there any way that I could purchase this book online and be shipped to my hometown?

  4. Hi Sudhir, congratulations on the book publication. Have just purchased a copy and look forward to reading it … have not conversed with you since Berkeley!

  5. Sudhir,

    I have finished reading your book. Interesting thoughts. I was wondering if we could have a chat over a drink one of these days. I am a Chinese Malaysian working in Singapore and am keen to exchange thoughts over the complex multi ethnic society that has developed in Malaya. It is difficult to find Singaporean friends who have the same inclination. Most Singaporeans I know avoid this topic altogether and it is interesting to hear a Singaporean’s perspective.

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