Today is the 31st of August 2008, Malaysia celebrates 51 years of Independence.
I was a little astonished today reading and scrutinizing every media advertisement printed. Most of it read, "Selamat Hari Merdeka". I remember those days when I was in primary school, I was taught that 'Merdeka' took place on the grounds of the Sultan Abdul Samad clock tower with the 'laungan Merdeka' seven times by our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Al- Haj. I was taught that 'Merdeka' was achieved from the British and thereafter we were to celebrate 'Hari Kebangsaan' - as we were now delivered from the colonisation and integration will now take place for Malaysia. I was still little during the May 13 riots. It happened because the majority still wanted a control over the minority. Little did we remember,when we were at the battlefield of independence from the British, there were no majority nor minority. Every race were out there for a reason - 'Merdeka'.
I still remember her vividly :) Her name was Fida Ismail and her brother Yassin. Call it puppy love if you will, it was pure innocence then. We were at primary school, a 'sekolah kebangsaan' for the matter called Sultan Alam Shah in Section 11, Petaling Jaya. She was the head prefect and we 'saw' each other and became friends. I began to understand why she was different. She ate different meals than I did, she spoke English like I did and she was not afraid to be my friend. I remember learning to eat with my hands, I remember learning 'alif, bah, tah, sa' in Jawi that would not make me less Chinese. Fida on the other hand was curious about what 'chee ciong fan' was and attempted later finding out that it was as 'halal' as it could be. We were coloured blind and we were exposed to each others' culture.
I believe that the younger generation now is not as opened to the different races as during my growing up years. Although sometimes it feels like as a nation we have regressed where race relations are concerned. With my children, I feel it is important to expose them to other cultures.They both can eat with their hands especially when we visit the banana leaf stall, they make it a habit to respond in Bahasa Malaysia when I so decide to speak to them in the National language at home, they know songs of Siti Nurhaliza and of course they will still delight in their Bah Kut Teh when we feel 'porkie'.
To progress beyond just 51 years, we need to expose our younger generation to different cultures, languages and religions in schools. We should stop assuming things about 'other' races to curb the unhealthy fear among the people.
I like to believe that it is what I do now for my children that would enable them to see beyond their race. The future Malaysian society should be one 'Bangsa Malaysia' where race will be irrelevant. When that time comes, we will not be afraid or sensitive about what is right to say and what is not - we should be able to say anything in the open because it will only be healthy for our nation.
I received a SMS this morning which read, "We are now 51, but the pains remain, the first 50 were aches of growing up, the next 50 the strain of responsibility. Pray that we survive this" Quote and unquote. Whichever political party or agenda, I am for one who will preach one 'Bangsa Malaysia', I am for one who will believe in meritocracy rather than an allocated quota and I am for one who will determine that my children will have a place to live and prosper when they sing 'Tanah tumpahnya darahku'.
We have indeed 'Merdeka'-ed 51 years ago; now let us grow up, foster a better understanding amongst all races and progress along with the real objectives of nation building. I am sure Misbun Sidek and Lee Chong Wei can testify to that at the recently concluded Olympics. When the 'Jalur Gemilang' was hoisted, I would like to think that Lee Chong Wei was proud that he is Malaysian rather than being 'Chinese' at his ancestoral 'homeland'.
To me, it will always be 'Selamat Hari Kebangsaan'. That was what I was taught and I have always been a creature of habits. I am cascading that down to my children too as 'Merdeka' happened 51 years ago and now it is time to foster a unity that was better than before.
'Selamat Hari Kebangsaan' to all :)