Racial harmony is a very serious issue in Singapore. Something we cannot take for granted, I love the peace we have, I love my multi racial friends. Indians are the funniest (they laugh and joke about themselves as compared to the Chinese where face value aka pride is very important) ; Malays are the most generous and helpful. Chinese….I’m not quite sure how to define the Chinese. While they're definitely good Chinese people around, just like how you'll speak of other races, the known traits of Chinese are kiasu (afraid of losing) and kiasee (afraid of dying). This may sound negative descriptions but they equates to ambition and conscientious.
I can’t quite remember what adults scare me with when I’m young. I know for a fact, things like “Police come catch you” or “Kah Kah (cockroach) bite you ah.” or “Apunehneh come catch you.” are always on the lips of grandmothers to children. It usually falls upon death ears (children are not dumb), and the last one in particular sounds racist. I doubt the ignorant Chinese grandmother really wants to incite a racial riot, however I find it really amusing and I wonder how it all came about.
Apunehneh is not an English word. Someone created the term, probably making fun of how similar it sounds to the Tamil language. Young kids are naturally afraid of the dark, and Indians are dark, so are cockroaches.
Out of curiosity, I asked my Indian colleague if the Chinese scare their children with Apunehneh, what do the Indians scare their children with? The Yellow one with Funny eyes maybe?
She told me “The Garang Guni Man”.
Coincidentally or not, Garang Gunis are Chinese.
In our modern educated era, we do not use scare tactics on naughty children. Racism can kill lives, we need to demonstrate tolerance, take remarks in stride, have a open heart and mind to live in harmony.