Prompt: What Does Malaysia Mean to You?
I’m an international student but Malaysia has always been home to me. Whenever I go back to Indonesia, I feel more like a guest than a citizen. When I think of Malaysia, I think rich culture, amazing food, and timeless history. I think of a merge between the old and the young, and passionate cities that don’t die. I think of the green rainforests with iridescent rivers, and the cool sounds of nature. I think of the overlapping languages and dialects, and cultures that have joined as one. I think of a beautiful country I’ve yet to dig deep into.
Mandarin and Tamil gossip overheard in the mall elevator, translated by friends.
Ants marching chaotic lines, in the surau, behind my desk, across the mamak table, connecting the scenes in my day.
Laughter; life is never perfect, but the opportunity for fun still exists. Isn’t that enough?
Ang pau, sometimes green, sometimes red, always welcome.
Young children, shrill and barefooted, kicking around an empty bottle in any dusty corner they can find.
Singing. Constantly. Everywhere. For any occasion. In all languages.
Idiots who drive like lunatics, drink too much sugar, release trash out of their windows and most idiotic of all; show trust in strangers.
Art covering school walls, old buildings, existing in the different shades between everyone who walks down the street and smiles at each other over the words “terima kasih”.
Malaysia is Milo Peng in the morning
And Roti Canai with sambal for breakfast
It is Lemak for lunch
And Fried Rice for dinner
Malaysia is mamak stall conversations till late night
It is watching our favorite Datuk play with our hearts in our hands
It is the smile you greet strangers on the street with
It is calling everyone Aunty and Uncle
Malaysia is also…
Promises that are not kept
Conversations that we don’t dare have
Diversity which is not truly accepted
Natives who’ve been forgotten
Systems that are broken
Sufferings that are silent
Malaysia is me and Malaysia is you
It is the revolutionary rebel
The history maker
The reborn country with a new voice
A young voice, fresh and fearless
Malaysia is a mesh of individuality and each life should matter
Malaysia is what you and I will make it to be
Malaysia is WE
Malaysia is home. It’s where I was born and raised. It’s as simple as: my family, friends, relatives and acquaintances being on this soil, binding me to this country. My identity simply is: Malaysian. My life simply is: that nasi lemak bungkus for my morning breakfast and the Chinese bak kut teh dinner on a rainy night. The nyonya kuih for tea time with friends or the Indian banana leaf meal at that ungodly hour.
The variety in food and culture makes living in this country an experience hard to replicate. I have no friends who say they are happier abroad, everyone misses Malaysia when they leave.
I have rejected my opportunity to study abroad because I can not live away from Malaysia . That is how much I love the country, that is how much Malaysia is a home for me.
One thing that’s common for most of us Malaysians is that it’s hard for us to feel patriotic towards our homeland when day in day out, we are fed with news about corruption, uncivil acts against the people, scandals and more. To a point where such news is only met with disgruntled nonchalance by the people: “Again ah?”. To the point where it’s no longer surprising, but expected. It’s virtually pointless to sugarcoat the fact that there’s still much progress that can (and should) be done, and refraining from pointing out those faults will only promote ignorance among ourselves. But alas, nothing is perfect, and nothing can be perfect in this flawed world. Yet, when the 31st of August rolls around year after year, we are reminded. We are reminded by the school children singing patriotic songs at the top of their lungs; the Jalur Gemilang(s) on the street, waving from cars, plastered across a building, dotting your vision; the retired uncles huddled in groups over cups of Kopi O at the kopitiam, reminiscing about the old days, reminding themselves about the history that has brought us all here. We are all reminded about what makes this country so special and dear to our hearts, and we see Malaysians letting their inherent love for our country show. We realize that sometimes, it’s not so bad. After all, it is home. And nothing beats home, flaws and all.
Malaysia is stepping into a Grab car and chatting or just, being comfortably silent. The informal salutations at the mamak built not on familiarity on a personal level, but on a national level. It’s the youth dreaming about studying overseas.
It’s also stepping into a Grab car heavy on that anti-Jew life, reflected a little too obviously on the stickers tainting the window. It’s unsolicited catcalls at the mamak, or anywhere really. It’s being pressured into studying your ass off, even in a field you’re unenthusiastic about.
It’s about knowing we’re a country encompassed by one word: potential.
But most importantly, it’s that Asian country every artist seems to miss on their world tour.
What is Malaysia? To me, it is simply my home. Nothing more, nothing less. It may be a little harsh, but at the very least, it’s not torn apart by war. Most people don’t die on the streets. You can have a good life here, provided you have the coin.
It’s just a shame that it’s getting tougher and tougher to earn the coin.
Malaysia to me is home. I know that’s a very generic and quite obvious answer but it really is. I know that many years from now if I get the chance to travel the world and settle down in a different country, Malaysia would still accept me with loving arms when I come back. Malaysia is where I am free to make friends with anybody and everybody. Nothing sets us apart, not even our skin colour or religious beliefs. I love all my friends regardless of our differences and that’s why Malaysia is like a home because we love everybody and everybody is family. I mean, we call everyone Aunty, Pak Cik, Kak even if we’re not related. That’s home.
On one hand, there’s a lot to be frustrated about. Every month produces a new infuriating headline, like our treatment of refugees, or child brides, or shrinking rainforests, to name a few. And sure, I feel a pang of envy whenever I see an Instagram post of some acquaintance in England posing in front of a neat row of quaint brick-walled shops when all we have is a rat-infested Bubble Tea Central, but… for all my discontentment, I can’t – and don’t want to – imagine growing up anywhere else.
I’m charmed by our little idiosyncrasies – the way we lepak, and manglish, and scramble onto food trend bandwagons. For all my complaining of the heat, I’d miss the sun-washed evenings that melt us all into slow, languid creatures. I love the sound of monsoon rain beating down against zinc roof tiles, as if our seas are being overturned on us. I think our unique amalgamation of culture and heritage is like, top 10 anime crossover material. Most of all, this land holds all my experiences, my memories and my loved ones – my identity is inextricably woven into it.
We have our flaws, but time and time again, we’ve proven to be a passionate, vocal bunch who are willing to come together to fix things. I’m glad I get to come along for the ride.
The story is a paradox! Sometimes I wonder how something so bitter can be so sweet!
On the 15th of August I landed in Malaysia, and like a seed I was sown into the fertile soils of the land. I felt alone, cold and vulnerable. The soil was a dark place and resembled a morgue.
The days were filled with fear, pain and tears, and my little heart sank down in mourning while my tongue fought to spit out a hallelujah, for I knew there was hope, and I knew the name of the man who gave it.
Lo and behold! I was right, there was hope, suddenly I could see the sun again. My stem shot out of the surface of the ground like Jack’s beanstalk. When I could see clearly I saw this man standing right beside me. He said He had and always will be next to me. He told me there was a purpose for the pain. It was to grow me.
My journey here in Malaysia has been one of absolute growth and transformation, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I am grateful for all the tears shed. For what couldn’t kill me has definitely made me stronger!