49 years ago today, a bunch of our forefathers stood on Merdeka square (or stadium) and declared that Malaysia will no longer have the Queen’s head on our money. We became a free nation to ourselves. We’ve been colonised for so long by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, the Japanese for a while, then the British again and on August 31st 1957 on a bright Saturday morning, we declared ourselves free from all that. Our independence finalised, we would be masters of our own nation even if we all screw it up somehow which we do these days, but what growing nation doesn’t?
Of course on that Saturday morning, hundreds of people turned up, huddled in a crowded mass to witness the moment when our soon to be first Prime Minister would yell out the words that spelled our independence “Merdeka!” which means freedom in the Malay language. Would I have been living then, I would definitely have gone to watch that historic moment, because for our country, that was a moment that would be akin to JFK’s assasination or the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was epic and isn’t something that you would want to miss. So in this dramatic reconstruction, I give you where would I be during those time stopping moments:
Yeah, knowing me, I would completely forget to set the alarm on my clock and sleep right through it anyway. Of course, knowing me, I actually have a valid excuse. I’m not much of a patriot but I do know where home really is and while my expectations of my own country isn’t up to what I have experienced as someone who spent part of his childhood trying to understand why societies differ, it doesn’t mean I don’t hope the best for a country still struggling to find it’s own identity.
Of course, things aren’t perfect and I don’t think they will be for a very long time but that doesn’t give me the right to bitch about a country I haven’t done much to help improve either. Every country is built and made not by the people who lead it, but the people who live (and die) for it. I admit, I haven’t been living much for Malaysia, much less feeling like dying for it so if there are any faults that make Malaysia what it is, part of the responsibility is mine to take, just as it is the responsibility of every citizen, big or small, to make our country what it is.
Malaysia to me will always be the place where I grew up in. It is the place that made me who I am regardless of the good and bad. To me, it will always be about the people, the food, the society, the food, the culture and the food. Things that don’t really define a country for what it is or what it hopes to achieve, but it defines a person for what they will become other than being slightly overweight.
Malaysia is a country in which people have fought, lived and died for to make it our country. Maybe our National day isn’t about remembering the day when we had it all to ourselves. Maybe for me, National day is about honouring the individuals who did whatever they could not for themselves, but for something greater than individual pride. Something that they could leave as a legacy not for themselves, but for others as well. Something we could call home even if we don’t treat it like one.
Maybe one day, more than enough of us could be half as dedicated to our nation, much less nobler principles as what our forefathers have struggled for. Maybe that day would take as long as it would take for me to wake up without an alarm clock. But there is always the hope of it and maybe then, we could be proud to call Malaysia our home and then bitch about it loudly because at least by then, we know we lifted more than just the “teh tarik” we’re drinking on a warm Malaysian night.
We did something about it.
So happy Merdeka Day Malaysia. Happy Merdeka Day indeed.