From out of Tunku’s shadow, she flies

Last year, during the same Merdeka period, an article in The Star gripped the nation and turned viral on the internet. One specific portion was copied onto blogs, emailed and floated in local internet forums as thousands praised its simple level-headed message. More recently, we caught up with the author, SHARYN LISA SHUFIYAN, to discover the person behind the article.

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia

NOT so very long ago, exasperated and outraged, she threw a punch at a security guard inside a mall. Socked him hard on the shoulder. Made him look small – “he needed that” – and put him in his place as a fellow human being.

“We were selling chocolates at a stall, my friend and I,” says Sharyn Lisa Shufiyan. “Just earning honest pocket money – we’d do that all the time during college breaks. My friend has a little disability, which that particular guard at the mall noticed and started teasing her about it. He was incessant. She was hurt, made overly conscious of her ‘blemish’, which really isn’t one.

“We ignored him at first, until she couldn’t take it anymore and stormed off to make a report. I tried talking to him, numerous times, told him to back off. But here’s the sad bit – no-one was listening to a ‘lowly’ salesgirl even if you’re a ‘lowly’ security guard yourself. And gender discrimination is apparent. The guard said to me, ‘Mak kau tak ajar budi ke?’ (Your mom didn’t teach you manners?) to which I snapped back, ‘Because of my mom I’m like this!’ adds the 25-year-old former student of Convent Bukit Nanas.

“That moment, I decided ‘Enough’. I got mad, balled my fist, and threw one at the guard. Push me too far and I can be biadab too, especially if you mess with people I care about.”

You listen to the story, you study the figure telling it, and there’s a mild disconnect. Sharyn is Let-It-Be gentle, compassionate and thoughtful. You may say she’s peramah, definitely not someone who eats men for breakfast. Not unless they ask for it.

But the Tunku would’ve grinned broadly, wouldn’t he? This was, after all, his great grand-daughter giving a remedial lesson on Respect 101.

Sharyn Shufiyan is honoured to share the same bloodline as Tunku Abdul Rahman, Bapa Merdeka and the nation’s first Prime Minister, but she doesn’t wear that on her sleeve.

“It’s an honour, yes, but in the end, so what? Honour and respect is something you earn as an individual. We don’t inherit those. I certainly don’t want to. I want to earn my stripes,” she says.