A story about family roots, kopi susu and a cannibal

The recent controversy over chendol's origins got me thinking about my heritage as a Singaporean of Javanese ancestry who identifies as a Malay

I no longer shrug when people ask why my race is stated as Javanese on my Singapore identity card. Most Singaporeans are used to the broad categories of Malay, or Chinese or Indian or Others. But in fact, for years now, Singaporean parents are allowed to specify the ethnicity of their child using more precise terms.

Instead, I say, "Oh, my forefathers hail from Purbalingga regency in Central Java and my neighbour (in the next village in Purbalingga) is Sumanto the famous cannibal." As their eyes widen, I gleefully add: "He dug up a dead woman's body, braised her in soya sauce, and ate her all up. He told me she was delicious."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2018, with the headline 'A story about family roots, kopi susu and a cannibal'. Print Edition | Subscribe