John liked the song very much.
He hummed it daily, and during one of our outings, he taught the song to us.
It was a song by Anneke Gronloh called “Oh Malaysia”, which went like this:
On the shore beyond the tropical sea
You will stand to welcome me
On the shore beneath the sky so blue
All my dreams at last would come true.
Malaysia. My country.
Transformed from Malaya to Malaysia. Between 1957 to 1963, two letters were added—SI.
In Esperanto, si means self. Yes, certainly, this was proof that the colonial days were over and we had truly found ourselves, our country—Malaysia.
I sang the song which John taught me. But I never felt welcomed.
The land beyond the tropical sea was not suitable for me. A new land beckoned me.
So I swam across the sea to the new land and was welcomed by the people there.
I had good food. I had a chauffeur. I had an expat work permit. I had a fully furnished apartment with a servant to take care of my daily chores.
Life was filled with colour and the smell of flowers.
But I missed the laksa, the roti canai, the prawn mee, the chincalok, the kueh… too many items to be listed down.
So I packed my bags one day and bid farewell to the friends that I made during my stay.
“You are welcome back anytime; we are here to receive you with open arms.”
“No, I won’t. I love you all but my country is the sweetest place to live. Come and visit me in the land of potpourri – Malaysia truly Asia.”
With full of hope, I set foot again on the land beyond the tropical sea. I forgot all the pains of the past that had visited upon me as a second class citizen.
I went to the office of the kerajaan.
“Sorry, you have not passed the Malay language so we can’t employ you despite your high qualifications.”
“Sorry, your degrees are not recognised by the Public Service Department.”
“But, doesn’t your department recognise my university?”
“Yes, but your faculty is not recognised.”
Days turned into months and months turned into years.
I had to hunt for jobs from one state to another. I felt like a nonfunctional robot, searching for a place to call home.
Home—yes, where is my home?
“Pack your bags and leave,” said a voice in my head.
Many times I’d sing the song:
I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again
I hate to say goodbye.
This is my motherland, my country. I should not leave the people behind. There are so many Malaysians who share the same fate.
“Leave—life is not good here.” the voice said again.
Yes, life is not good here. But I’ll say it out loud and clear to everyone. I have the VOTE to change the fate of my brothers and sisters with different skin colours.
Give me another chance to say I LOVE YOU to my country Malaysia. Leaving is not the best way to say I love you.
I love you Malaysia, my country. Are you ready to love me as your child?
My suitcase is ready.