Home Free

24Jul06

as published in Virtual Malaysia Magazine [July / August 2006]

Feet firmly on the ground and reaching up for endless the sky -Majidah Hashim investigates the essence of Merdeka from the hearts of those who have always called themselves ‘Malaysians.’

When I was a little girl, my grandfather would take me to the Botanical Gardens in Penang on particularly bright evenings. There, I would run almost the entire length of the gardens with him. My family would prepare a picnic as they watched us from the garden’s shady trees, waiting for this exuberant child to return with tales of her victorious race. Looking back, I haven’t a slightest clue where all that compulsive energy came from. Nevertheless, I remember the sun shining against the hues of nature and the wind in my face, and the excited heartbeats of a carefree child.

Growing up in the 80s meant three very important things – A naturally impeccable sense of music, a beaming pride over the Internet revolution, and an artful outlook of what makes the Malaysian culture. By the time midnight struck upon the new millennium, a brave new generation rises upon mainstream Malaysia – A generation emerging from the decay of colonisation and social suppression. A generation sparked with visions of a very modern Malaysia.

A generation who have always called themselves ‘Malaysians.’
The generation who never had to fight against oppressive invaders or hide behind suppressive curfews. Instead, we saw national cars fill multi-tiered highways. We watched skyscrapers soar in booming metropolis. The Menara Kuala Lumpur and the Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport moved from simply being one man’s ambitious dreams to world-renowned national icons. We saw the national economy plunge in an Asia-wide crash, only to bounce up again, to the envy of regional neighbours and admiration of world financial players.

This is my Malaysia.

Tales of oppression, curfews and restrain is nevertheless, only something this generation learnt of on the knees of our grandparents or in history classrooms. And yet, that is all of what Merdeka really is about. It is about access to education and technology – to learn from the past and more importantly, equip our young with knowledge to move into the future, not as flocks of people, but as a whole independent nation. Mausoleums and stone inscriptions in beautifully manicured gardens are all that is left of bloodshed sites, least we ever forget. Our forefathers should know they fought the good fight and that we remember them with fondest.

Malaysia today wears her scars proudly – a red badge of courage signifying how far we have come from experiences of war and how it has never hindered our spirit for adventure. Our enemies are our friends now. A black and white film of Tunku Abdul Rahman at the Merdeka Stadium never fails to play on local television channels every time Aug 31st approaches, along with march passes and parade processions, fantastic star-studded concerts and wonderful firework displays. That is what Merdeka is all about. It is the freedom to sing patriotic songs and music that makes us happy. It is about the ability to make our celebration as merry as we want it to be and to flaunt it as glamorously as we want to.

This Merdeka, we will again remember what our great forefathers have done for us. We will celebrate – not just freedom from oppressors – but freedom to explore the infinite possibilities of a future fuelled by access to education, to medicine, to technology, to communications. Freedom to victoriously move forward.

The spirit of Merdeka then becomes not just a once-a-month affair, but a celebration infused in our everyday lives. Take a row of sidewalk stalls in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Mismatched stools. Foldable tables. Two steaming glasses of teh tarik – half an inch of froth balanced perfectly on each one. A comb of bananas. Five pyramid packs of nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaves on a chipped plastic plate. Three pieces of vadai and a lone piece of karipap in a transparent plastic container. The wonderful aroma of belacan as a wok fries up a mix of rice, chopped vegetables and shrimp paste. Next to the sweaty taukey, a laughing mamak hovers over a flat grill, flipping a collection of plain roti canai, roti telur and roti bom. On his right, a magnificent pot of dhal, seasoned by the fumes of the busy KL traffic – the best dhal in the high-rise metropolitan area.

Laughter.

A diversity of races blend seamlessly into the delicious setting. On our tables, glorious food, traditional and fusion. In our wardrobes, a fabulous range of fashion teeming with the essence of China, India, Arab and the Western continents. A chirpy chatter of a synthesis of languages. All around us, high-rise mammoths of Malaysia, soaring to the skies.Never has there been before this, a generation of Malaysians who truly believed that they can do anything. Anything. This is a generation of Malaysia who realise that our potentials are endless. Whether it is scaling the Everest, enduring the unforgiving Artic, sailing around the world, making it big in Hong Kong or racing the hottest circuit in the world.

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