I don’t know how else to put it. I love her.
It is not a nationalist’s love. I do not love Malaysia at the expense of other countries. Sure, I root for the football team, but I don’t call the Indonesian player bodoh or babi just because he tackled our player. I do not dance jigs after Malaysia won the penalty shootout just to piss off the other side. That’s not how I love Malaysia.
I am not a jingoistic person. I love Negaraku and the flag, but let’s be honest, I don’t fly the flag in my room (though our family fly two outside the house), and I don’t get all choked up while listening to Negaraku. Though symbols of Malaysia are beloved to me, that is not why I love her. Feeling towards nationalistic symbols is shallow. Other people’s have the same feeling towards their symbols, and that cancels each others out. That’s not the love I am talking about.
And I don’t love Malaysia in a Namewee-like, Undilah-like, Melayu-Cina-India-lain-lain melting pot, Yasmin Ahmad-films-like, “we are all one people” mishmash kind of way. I get amused when I see people try too hard. This is not the genuine Malaysia I know. It’s just feel-good nonsense.
I love Malaysian people without any pretense. We don’t have to pretend that we are all multi-culti creatures who speak all the major languages and understand all the jokes in Nasi Lemak 2.0, and go to school with Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and Malay friends, who visit each others’ houses during celebrations and hold hands and sing Rasa Sayang Eh Rasa Sayang Sayang Eh.
Of course, great if you are THAT Malaysian, but admit it, not everyone can intermarry or have uncles and aunts from different races.
Most of us have families of a single race, and that’s perfectly ok — that makes me no less Malaysian than that Siti Melissa Sivarajah-Wong over there who is quadrilingual and celebrates all the Federal Holidays.
My family is all Malay, 100%. I don’t really care about my ancestors, they could’ve come from Timbuktu for all I care. But they made home here, and that is what matters. I have no feeling for other lands.
I love the Malaysian geography and the Malaysian people. This is a genuine love, not in a jingoistic, bigoted way, but a love that stirs my heart. I know that other countries have more beautiful beaches, more majestic mountains, more picturesque plains, but I’d rather take my boring sawah padi and hulu sungai any day.
I am proud of her people. I would be lying if I say I do not have communal feelings at all. I identify strongly with Islam and I am proud to be a Malay. But I love other Malaysians too, with genuine love.
There are many self-hating Malays. I am not one of them. There is nothing to be ashamed of to be Malay. It hurts me to see young Malays calling the language “lame”. And badmouth the Malays just because it’s cool. Yes, of course, Malayness is not “cool”, just like Islam is not “cool”. It is not meant to be cool. It is meant to be real. We are not in a business to please people.
I speak Malay 100% of the time except when I have to speak English to communicate. I am not a language purist, let alone a language bigot. I don’t understand how people get so riled up by language. I just like the way the Malay language sounds. I have been speaking it since I first started talking. If that makes me less “competitive in the increasingly globalized world” (cliched phrase often used by know-it-alls who think other people are stupid), so be it. This is how I roll. My children will not be speaking English at home.
I speak Malay with native fluency. I think in Malay. It is a robust language, and you can express any feeling with it. Doesn’t mean I’m gung-ho about language, suka hati lah people want to use any language they like. Its just sounds.
I speak-a ingles okay lah. Tulis pon bolehla…wrote five english books already. But I will never achieve native fluency in it, and will never attain an English accent (which is useless anyway). Some people I know try too hard to speak Anglais with English accent or American accent, and it comes out ugly. Belacan does that to your tongue.
OK this is not a diatribe against westernized malayoo. SUkatilah korangnak jadi apa, I love you all anyway.
I love to travel the land. Traveling in the late afternoon, anywhere in the country (except KL), evokes in me a feeling of nostalgia with a bit of melancholy. Listening to azan maghrib while on the road is a feeling that doesn’t compare. I will probably feel the same magical feeling 40 years from now.
Even in KL, I feel a sort of kinship with the city and its populace. I lived in KL all my life (except for four years in Boston). My parents lived in Taman Melewar when I was born. This childhood home is just 5 minutes walking distance from my current home.
I love KL, in an understated way. I think KL is nice, it is a place where everyone can cari makan. I like everything that is associated with KL — good or bad. KL has its own character. I’ve been to some of the most beautiful cities in the world (last was Venice) but KL is where my heart is.
Of course there are bad things about Malaysia. I don’t have to say what they are, you all know what they are. Malaysia is not perfect.
Of course there are problems with the country. That is not the point.
Of course we can be better. Of course X, of course Y, of course Z…
That is not the point.
I love Malaysia. There is no place I’d rather live. Last time I’d ever entertained the thought of living abroad was in 2007. Now, I don’t want to stay anywhere else, even for one year. During my 2 month trip this summer, I missed Malaysia every single day. Next time I won’t be able to travel as long. I can only survive for 2 weeks at most before I feel that other places in the world are shit, except Malaysia.
It’s not the food. You can find good food all over the world. Malaysian food is good, but I survived on pasta and sandwiches for many months as a poor undergraduate in Boston.
It’s about family and friends. It’s about the familiar things you grew up with.
It’s about being a bit of Kampung. I never really lived in an actual kampung (I only knew KL all my life) but deep inside I am Kampung. I can never be a sophisticated urbanite. That is a fact.
But I’m not really a Kampung boy. I can’t survive without creature comforts — the last time I stayed at Kampung with my extended family was in 1991. I remember that it was terrible, and that I couldn’t wait to get back to my small house in KL. I was a spoiled city brat.
Malaysia is beautiful. We overlook her beauty because it is commonplace. Just like people in some countries kick fallen apples on the ground while Malaysian tourists would pay to pick apples from the trees.
Just look at her with unprejudiced eyes, and see the shorelines, the kampung and the sawah padi, the mountains, the rivers, the charming small town. This is a blessed land.
Some people let their hatred of whatever (of Mahathir, of UMNO, of Utusan, etc.) grows into hatred towards this country. Their propaganda of hatred is no better than their enemy’s. Malaysia is not one man, not one party, not one race. She is bigger than all that.
Sure, badmouth the country all you want, but don’t fret when people don’t take you seriously because your hatred has blinded you. Your rhetoric of unity and inclusiveness rings hollow.
(Not to make this political. This is not about politics at all. I love all Malaysians regardless.)
Our country is middle-of-the-road. We don’t have world-class writers and poets to be proud of, we don’t do cutting-edge science and innovation, we don’t make global blockbuster movies and don’t become global cultural icons, we don’t have this and that.
Truth be told, I don’t give a rat’s ass.
You do not be proud of something just because it is successful. You just be proud because it is. Just like a father is proud of his son for getting the 27th place in a class of 35.
Life is not about being stimulated and titillated (paraphrasing Cornel West). Life is about the humanity in all of us. We can’t have everyone here be world-class, competent, worldly globe-trotters who can speak seven languages. I just want fellow Malaysians to live, enjoy life, and die happy. I don’t care about making us “competitive” (a word that gets bandied about by know-it-alls who think other people are dumb).
This is our country. We till the land and reap the rewards. Eat, drink, be merry. There is something for everyone here. This is our land. This land is beautiful and blessed.
And the people are beautiful.
I have genuine love for Malaysia and Malaysians, and I say this sincerely.