If I’m not mistaken, this was one of the great works, probably the first, of the late Yasmin Ahmad – undoubtedly a true Malaysian at heart. I saw it on television then and was so impressed and inspired…
…that I sat down and wrote this story to use as one of the reading passages in my English Language lessons so that I could share this same message with my students and etch these same sentiments in their hearts…
“Huh?” I awoke with a start.
I opened my eyes. It was papa, gently rocking me up from my deep slumber. “It’s time to get up, son,” he whispered gently in his soothing, loving voice. “We’re going to Kuala Lumpur. It’s a special day today.” In the dim light of the kerosene lamp that he held in one hand, I could see that he was smiling. I sat up, still feeling drowsy, and rubbed the sleep from my eyes while papa walked over to my younger brother’s bed.
The next thing I knew, we were staggering to the well, a stone’s throw away from our house. “Take your bath first, and then you must put on your best clothes. Put on the ones you had for Deepavali last year,” papa instructed. “It’s a special day today,” he reiterated. It was barely dawn yet and from the midst of the darkness that engulfed the rubber plantation, I could hear the sound of crickets and frogs croaking.
I inadvertently let a yawn escape and at that very moment, my father poured over us a pail of water that he had drawn from the well. I jumped up when the icy water came into contact with my bare skin. It was freezing but refreshing and we were wide awake after that. After brushing our teeth, we paraded back to our room and put on our best clothes as instructed, before we headed to the kitchen for our breakfast.
Soon we were on our way.
There I was, perched on the horizontal bar of my father’s bicycle holding on tightly to the handlebars, my younger brother seated comfortably on the saddle and hanging on to my shoulders while my papa walked alongside, pushing the rusty and rickety vehicle along. My mother, dressed in her dazzling red and gold sari which she reserved for special occasions such as this, trotted closely behind trying to keep up with us.
It was not very long before the break of dawn and Kuala Lumpur came into view with the golden rays of the morning sun seeping over the horizon beyond the skyline of the city. “A new day, a new nation, a new beginning,” papa proclaimed, beaming with pride.
The stadium was crowded with people scurrying around like a crawling army of ants, and it was after much difficulty that we were able to locate some vacant seats. Never before in my life had I seen such a large congregation assembled at one place. After some time, the pageantry commenced. Some important-looking people mounted the elevated platform in the field right in the middle of the stadium. The ceremony dragged on and I was about to doze off when suddenly everyone was standing up and shouting, echoing in unison after the man on the platform.
I turned to look at my father. He and my mother were on their feet too, raising their hands and letting out cries of “Merdeka! Merdeka!” I could see the tears in their eyes, but from the radiant smiles on their faces and those of everyone else around me, I knew for sure that they were tears of joy.
Being merely a child then, I could not understand what it was all about. Today, as I reminisce on that significant day in my life, I can feel the sheer ecstasy that must have surged in my parents at that point in time when our country was liberated from the clutches of colonialism, free to soar to new heights to become what it is today. Today I look around and see this beautiful country of ours – its peace and tranquillity, the harmony among the people and the progress that we have achieved over the years and I feel within me the same pride that must have glowed in them then, and I can truly say, without any reservations whatsoever, that I am proud to be Malaysian.
HAPPY NATIONAL DAY, everyone…
I’m not too sure whether it was Confucius who said, “If you have nothing nice to say, then it is time to remain silent.”
Harap maklum; sekian, terima kasih.