For the past four weeks, I have been in Singapore, interning in a law firm. It officially ended last Friday and of course, my intern mates and I headed out for a celebratory dinner. At the end, we all parted ways according to our various modes of transport (cab, MRT, etc).
Walking along Boat Quay with three friends, I admired the lights and the river and the streets. I turned to my friends and asked, “Do y’all love your country?” The answers were:
Friend A: *Pause* No. I mean, yeah… yeah.
Friend B: It’s OK.
Friend C: Not really. It’s a good place to live in but – the moment it’s not, my loyalty will be somewhere else.
Then they asked me back, and my answer was the complete opposite. It made me think of how I felt about Malaysia and what prompted my immediate, passionate, unflinching answer.
On the MRT ride back, I was trying to remember all these thoughts so that I could write them down, which is the way I express myself the best. I felt like what I was thinking was something important, that I had to put into words, to remember, to keep, to share. Perhaps these thoughts were naïve or simple or foolish. But I had to tell them, whether or not anyone listened or read.
Despite the dissatisfaction and racism and injustice that occur in our country, we love it nonetheless. Although the arguments and issues that are focused on are petty and insignificant, we love it nonetheless. And that’s true love, isn’t it?
Even if Malaysia lets us down, even if it disappoints us, even if it falls short of everything it could possibly be, we still love it. Because what makes Malaysia is its people – not its leaders, not its policies.
Having lived and worked in the UK for the past two years and after working in Singapore, I’ve realised that Malaysians are different.
As my friend pointed out in our conversation, “Malaysians have more of an identity than us.” It’s true. We’re unique. We’re special. There is something distinct in the word, “Malaysian-ness”. It means something. It means friendliness, warmth, passion. We are supportive and we are united. No matter where Malaysians roam, no matter how far they are from home, that Malaysian-ness doesn’t go away.
I remember saying before I left, “You can take the girl out of Klang, but you can’t take Klang out of the girl.” Replace Klang with Malaysia, and that’s equally true.
So as Malaysia turns another year older, I ponder on my home country and my fellow citizens, and think of the many examples where we’ve shown our love for our homeland.
We are always so passionate for our country. We fight so hard for it. We care deeply. We love fiercely. When things go wrong, when things go right. We get mad. We get sad. We get angry. We protest. We cry. We rejoice. We laugh. We smile. We celebrate. Together. We do all of this together.
21 years on as a proud citizen, I choose to say that Malaysia has not failed me. The leaders have. The system has.
But Malaysia, which is its people, has not failed me.
It has given me much. It is a big part of who I am. And that is why I love my country. I love you, Malaysia. I absolutely love you. Selamat Hari Merdeka, and Happy Malaysia Day, you beautiful, beautiful land.