Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Happy 53rd Birthday, Malaysia!


Every Monday morning, the staff in my department will share each other’s directions for the week.

It was slightly different yesterday. We were asked to also share what does merdeka (independance) means and what memories we have of merdeka past. A few colleagues told of how they went to a merdeka celebration either back in their home towns on at the Dataran Merdeka. A couple of colleagues admitted that they havent even register as voters too and that they will make time to do so. Some were just glad that it would be another holiday in the calendar.

Each year, merdeka celebration will bring back memories of me performing with the big district band that my dad had ensembled from all of the district schools he taught at. I started performing as a drum major when I was in Standard 5 and kept on at it year in and year out until I was in Form 3. It was so much fun. We would arrive very early at the town padang (field) to get ready for the big celebration. The male band members wore grey shirt and white shorts and the girls wore white skirt. To complete the look, they wore this grey beret. I, on the other hand, being the drum major, was wearing an all white ensemble from top to bottom – white cap, white jacket, white skirt and matching boots. And oh! A white baton….

Thats my dad standing so proud with his anak-anak didik. I was proud to be a part of his pride – his work and achievements.

My dad is no longer around. He passed away a few years ago. Although some of the mental images have somewhat faded with time, but they are still here with me.

The second sharing I had with my colleagues was about how some Malaysians think how green the grass is on the other side. I was one of them too not too long ago. Never did I realize how lucky I was until I married George. We used to gather with the other expatriates and what I heard were nothing but praises for Malaysia. Here they can afford a maid or two, a driver, a nice home with great tropical surroundings complete with the weekend gardener, or two. Their kids go to good school. They shop at high places and pay cheap prices. Imagine paying for around RM5K only for a couple of suits, shirts, pants and a few more stuff in Gucci outlet. And these are real stuff.

The major highways are first class. Driving on three lanes are common if you drive to the north bound or south bound. Rest & Relax (R&R) are common sights for every kilometers you drive. Almost every household have  Astro dish. Almost everyone has at least two mobile phones. Malaysia has 120% mobile phone usage penetration compared to other countries. Almost every household, even in rural areas have access to the basic necessities such as clean piped water and electricity. Postal service is efficient and cheap.

George came up with a real definition of a third world country. He says that a third world country can only look for a maid who comes from their own countries. Malaysians have maids from Indonesia, Philipines, Myanmar and Vietnam simply because no Malaysians want to be maids. Too much work, no freedom. They rather work elsewhere.

So. How merdeka are we Malaysians? Only YOU can answer that.

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