“Merdeka” has come and it has gone and for the first time in my life, I actually felt some sort of patriotic feelings stir inside me, which I have to honestly admit feels pretty strange. The fact that our country has had 47 years of independence never really mattered much to me to be honest, after all I wasn’t born during those ‘olden days’.
I did not know what it was like to live in a country which was ruled by forces other than our own. I did not see what was going on in our country at that time. I did not see the silent tears that fell from many eyes. I did not see the sad faces or the blank looks or horror and shock, nor could I ever imagine the fear permeating every corner. I can not smell the death and destruction that followed nor can I taste the bitterness and sorrow that others must have felt. The only thing I can do is probably to try my best to picture it all, but I think I could never conjure up a clear or good enough scenario in my mind.
I used to hear stories from my grandmother and bits and pieces from my relatives or parents. Not many people wanted to talk about what had happened, and for me I really didn’t mind. It was after all, history for me and I never wanted to look back and reminiscence about all those ‘olden days’; days which I had no part in and didn’t want any part in really… I only wanted to look towards the future at what was to come.
Those days of my childish ignorance have long gone. I see the past as something important for me and I believe all of us as well. ‘Sejarah’ during my school days was one of the most feared subjects; actually it was one of the most boring ones. I could never memorize all the facts and dates and names which sounded so horribly similar. To me history was dead and I wanted no part of it.
I wouldn’t say that I am a great historian now, nor will I say that some brilliant light shone upon me and I picked up the long forgotten ‘Sejarah’ texts and devoured them hungrily. Instead, I realized this great pride and happiness for our country. I now see the wonderful things that our country has done and how we are all living together in harmony, in the spirit of ‘muhibbah’, free from wars and other natural disasters that we see on the television. I see all the good things that our country has to offer and my heart swells with pride.
I would say that it all started a few days before Merdeka when I spoke to a foreigner I was working with. He worked long hours and was given quite crappy pay I have to say. I on the hand worked half the hours he worked, received more pay than he did and complained about it more than he ever would. He told me stories about his country, the poverty, the wars, the unemployment and he commented that I was lucky that I lived in Malaysia. No one had ever said that to me before. I guess in many ways the things that he made so much sense to me and I was honestly shy and embarrassed after that. Why? When was the last time you were thankful you lived in Malaysia? Did you ever say that you were proud of everything that Malaysia has achieved and done? I would have to pause and rack my brains for a good enough answer.
So on the eve of Merdeka, for the first time in my life, I went to celebrate our country’s independence. I went with throngs of people to Ikano Power Centre to join in the celebrations and was there at 11.50pm anxiously waiting for the fireworks to begin. When it came I was awed at the beautiful lights that dazzled the nights sky, even the brilliant full moon was no match for the wonderful display of magic in store for us. People were just staring in awe and delight at the colours and patterns emblazing the velvet night sky. I was transfixed and I thought to myself, how lucky are we to be here to listen to the gigantic booms and seeing this wonderful sight unfold in front of our very eyes. How lucky we were that we were in a safe country and the only booms we heard were not the booming of bombs, but the sound of fireworks.
I said a prayer for our country as the glittering lights faded into nothingness in the night’s sky. I prayed that we would all never taste the bitterness of war ever again and that we would all join hands to work together for a better future. I prayed for wisdom for out leaders, and I prayed for understanding and love amongst all Malaysians. Call me sappy, but as I heard the all familiar chant of “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!” I felt the pinpricks of tears misting my eyes. I was happy to be in Malaysia and to be called a Malaysian.