When I was at school, Merdeka meant no waking up early to go to school. No eating toast for breakfast. No tuition classes and no Quran lesson for the day. Instead we get a nice home cooked breakfast, the Merdeka parade on television and the family enjoying the day at home, together. Then, I always equated Merdeka to Hari Raya minus the rendang. I was happy with just that. Patriotism for a school kid was an alien and complicated concept to grasp. The spirit lingered till I was 17.
While studying A-Levels in Kuala Lumpur, Merdeka was all about rushing home to Kuantan to enjoy the holidays, with the usual – home cooked meals, parade and family. I was happy!
My Merdeka day celebration was different during my undergraduate years. A totally different experience filled with happy memories. Most Malaysian students regardless whether they were full fee paying or sponsored, would dressed our best in our traditional garb on that day. Yes, we felt like Tourism Malaysia walking advertisement promoting ‘Visit Malaysia’ campaign. Imagine the stares we received from other students and the questions our lecturers posed that we had to answer! Malaysia’s Next Top Models, indeed! Hehehe…
Malaysian families living/staying there would also participate in the fun by opening stalls on university grounds selling our very own Nasi Lemak and Teh Tarik for lunch.
They would organised makan-makan on the eve and some, on the day itself. Yes, being Malaysian means food will always be close! The Merdeka festivities usually lasted for a week! Not only that, Malaysian Students’ Association would annually organized the much anticipated event, ‘Merdeka Nite’ for the public. That was the highlight of our lives, then. We got to socialize with all Malaysians there; working or studying there. We got to watch cultural performances, eat the delicious food we missed, talk in our very own bahasa pasar, dance the joget, teach the joget steps to the Caucasians and sing Negaraku on top of our lungs. In summary, we did all the things we never did, in Malaysia. Things that we took for granted while living in Malaysia.
For that week we were a happy lot. We momentarily forgot all our worries – assignments, tutorials, examinations, rental, grades, graduation… That week was all about being Malaysian and having fun; good, clean Malaysian fun. At that point in time, to us being Malaysian was the glue that bound us together after being ‘sent away’ to study by our government or our parents.
We did it all that, not because we were forced to do so.
We did it because we wanted to.
We did it because we were (we still are!) Malaysians.
We did it because we were (we still are!) proud to be Malaysians.
We did it because being Malaysian means coming together, and celebrating all that is good and true.
We did it because being Malaysian means we continue to hope and pray for a peaceful and prosperous Malaysia!
Let’s take a step back and pause for a minute.
From now on…
Let’s put our differences aside; rejoice and enjoy our beauty.
Let’s do away with prejudices; and embrace our diversity.
Let’s mute all negative comments made to demoralize and break our spirit; and just smile.
Let’s forget the judgments we received and passed carelessly; and better ourselves.
Let’s change and improve our perceptions positively.
Let’s choose peace above everything else.
Let’s be colour blind, if need be.
Let’s be kind to one another.
Embrace all that is good and true.
For the love of our nation.
Happy Merdeka Day!
p/s: My Merdeka will always be like Hari Raya…