Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy 56th Malaysia

My Cambodian neighbour has been flying the Malaysian flag for a few years now. They’ve been living a few doors away for nearly 10 years and they’re constantly the only ones who fly a flag.

My family occasionally puts up a flag at home around Merdeka. When we used to drive a Kancil, every August we would doll up the car with flags as the flag would fit perfectly on the bonnet of the car. I always have a few sizes of the flag at home which I fly or carry along with me as I travel or to football games. Yes I sometimes travel with a Malaysian flag, especially on a long trip away from home. Nothing beats the feeling of waving your countries flag during a football match, and singing the national anthem.

Back to my Cambodian neighbour, few months back I noticed his flag was starting to show wear and so I dug up my own flags, and gave him a flag. Now I rarely talk to my neighbours, we just have a hi and polite smile relationship. But I think I made his day that day when I gave him the flag.

On Election Day, I hung up a Malaysian flag at home coz I was so annoyed to see so many people waving political flags and not even one Malaysian flag. There is no way I would fly a political flag by my own account unless I’m involved in some promotional work. The only flag I would ever fly is the Malaysian flag.  And so I voted and headed home to hang up my flag which has been flying over house since then.

Tomorrow is the 56th Merdeka or Independence Day for Malaysia and in two weeks time we will celebration the formation of Malaysia.

I have been attending and photographing the annual parade nearly every year since 2007. I think I missed 2010 and 2011 as I was shooting weddings back to back on both years. In 2002, I got to achieve one my dreams – to take part in the annual national parade something I had missed out while in school. That was one of the most cherished and exciting day in my life. My parents were glued to the tv, trying to see if they could see me on screen. That’s how big a thing Merdeka is to my family. You see my mom and her brothers had been there when they lowered the union jack flag as well as the next day when my uncles took part in the first ever National Day parade as my grandfather who was a cop stood in duty as one of Tunku’s personal bodyguard.

I’m a fifth generation Malaysian, a point I mention a lot as I am damn proud to be one and our family has been calling KL home since the mid 18 century.

So I never understand when people say I don’t feel “the Merdeka” spirit this year and funnily this phenomenon is not isolated to Malaysians. I hear this from people in other countries to.

A country’s Independence Day is the celebration in memory of breaking free from your former rulers. Every year we celebrate that day to remind and cherish the sacrifice our people made to gain independence.

We all have things that we don’t like about our country and many who do not like or agree to the government in rule but how does that change how you feel about the day your country gained independence?
A country should be seen as an entity different from the party that is ruling it. One should always be proud of flying your country’s flag or singing your national anthem regardless of who represents the government. These are symbols of your country not the ruling party so why aren’t we taking ownership of them?

Of course if you have no hate nor love for your country this shouldn’t mean a thing to you.

You know why I love to attend the national day parade?

For every year I see a sense of pride and thousands of beaming faces so proud to celebrate our independence. No they weren’t paid to be there nor were they there just to see our soldiers march past. The feeling of standing there and singing Negaraku with my fellow Malaysians is a feeling that I cannot describe. Even writing about that moment gives me goose bumps. I love singing Negaraku with a large crowd – which is why it feels so electrifying at a football game. Perhaps I'll record one tomorrow of how it feels on Merdeka morning.

While I’m so not into the recent national anthem singing before movies ruling – anywhere else and I’ll proudly stand up and sing along whole heartedly.

So you don’t want to be there with people from the ruling party that you detest?

Cool, why don’t you gather your friends and have an independence day party instead and sing the Negaraku while raising our Jalur Gemilang?

There are so many things that can and should be changed and we should work towards that but that shouldn’t deter us remembering and celebrating our independence from our former rulers.

So to all my fellow Malaysians – Selamat Hari Merdeka and Happy 56th Malaysia ;)

Love you lots my old country.

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