So I decided to write again after a long hiatus. And what better reason to do so than to commemorate our Merdeka (Independence) Day. Today, 31st August 2014 marks Malaysia’s 57th year of Independence from the British. It is Aidan’s first Merdeka day, so we let him play with the Jalur Gemilang (flag) before hanging it on our balcony as a mark of respect. I would like to dedicate this entry to our Father of Independence, the one and only Prince Politician, YTM Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah . Our baby Aidan Putra is Tunku’s First and Only great great grandson so this piece features a collection of quotes by The Tunku that I wish to weave into Aidan’s upbringing. I want to remind, shape and guide him to become an individual who will never forget what it means to be Malaysian, and to be himself, no matter where he might end up living in the world.
Religion and God is a topic that is of utmost importance to me. It comes before anything and anyone, and I wish for Aidan to uphold black and white views when it comes to religion, because frankly, that’s the simplest way. Islam is so easy to love and practice; yet humans make it difficult. I believe that Allah is benevolent and omniscient – He knows that people aren’t perfect and everybody commits sins. But what matters is the fact that a Muslim should never lose their faith and should always feel the need to repent each time they commit a sin and sincerely seek never to repeat it. Tunku did not make himself out to be a saint. He once said, “Yes, it is a sin in Islam to consume liquor, but it is a sin between me and God” and as uncomfortable as this might make many Malaysian Muslims, I feel he redeems himself with this next quote which carries more meaning,
“We all have our weaknesses. As long as you believe in God. And you pray…We must all pray”.
Praying to Allah cleanses the soul, strengthens the Imaan, provides clarity in times of darkness and adds to the bag of brownie points between you and God. This is something Aidan should never forget. The trouble comes when a person doesn’t even believe anymore and this applies not just to Muslims but to other faiths alike. And when that happens, they become a mere shell of a person. Constantly searching and never satisfied.
Secondly, Aidan must be able to speak Bahasa Malaysia. Even if he sounds as awkward as I do. Or even if he has a ridiculous accent whilst speaking it. Haha. I believe that our national language is the key behind unity and when I arrived in Malaysia 6 years ago after living in London for 20 years, I was shocked (and still am) to discover that so many Malaysians cannot converse in Malay. It’s ok to choose which language you prefer to communicate in (obviously mine is English), but to me, those who are not able to speak or (understand at least) Malay after being born and raised in Malaysia is simply unacceptable. The same would apply anywhere in the world. If a person was born and raised in the UK or France for example and could not speak English or French due to their lack of involvement and immersion into that country’s culture, it would not be accepted, so why should we allow it to happen in Malaysia? Tunku said,
“Basic principle means loyalty to Malaysia and adherence to a common language”.
He also foresaw the importance of English and I wish for Malaysians to become masters in both BM and English in the near future. Many Malaysians place the importance on learning Arabic for religious purposes or Chinese for business reasons, without mastering Malay and English first.
“The sooner everybody appreciates that we must have one language for the country, the better. They should also realise that the Malay Rulers have a big say in this matter…At the same time, we have to have English side by side for years to come”
Thirdly, respect is an important value to have. Tunku said,
“We have been able to maintain peace because we respect each other”
“An independent Malaya must have absolute harmony among her people, no matter what their race or creed may be, so long as they are the people of Malaya and loyal to the country.”
Sometimes, what I notice nowadays is, the tension in Malaysia is not even between the races but brought on by Malaysians in positions of influence (and I’m not talking about our politicians; but more about our independent journalists or keyboard warriors) who write things in the name of encouraging a healthy debate but in fact end up causing more discord and unrest whether they intended to or not. But that’s not to say that racial tension is not real. The other day I experienced it firsthand on an online baby pageant of all places! I had entered Aidan in a Johnsons & Johnsons baby contest. The results were announced a few days ago and caused quite a furor as there seemed to be a racial bias due to the lack of Malay babies shortlisted. I, like many others, voiced my observation on the contest’s FB page, to be met (unsurprisingly) by a barrage of racially defensive feedback. I just thought that since it was a babies’ contest, each contestant therefore had a right to win as much as the next, as there are no ugly babies in this world for pete’s sake. Based on the argument that one baby deserved to win as much as the other, since the contest was not judged on the number of ‘likes’ you get, the best way to shortlist the finalists would have been to fairly represent the ethnic percentages in Malaysia. But when it was skewed 80% towards the minority, I felt that it was a bit irresponsible on the part of Johnsons & Johnsons for inciting unnecessary racial tension.
“In this country where we have a multiracial society, we have got to try and build the goodwill and harmony and friendship among all but we can’t afford to allow emotion and sentiment to get the better of us.”
All Malaysians – individuals and corporations should make this their responsibility.
Lastly, I would want Aidan to live life happily. Tunku once said,
“I am the happiest prime minister in the world”
“My ambition is not Mighty Malaysia but Happy Malaysia”
which suggest that he placed an importance on being happy. My dad often reminisces of a ‘less complicated’ Malaya and my grandmother still shares stories that would make a great Petronas Raya ad, haha. But so many Malaysians now are caught up in their own opinions, ideals, prejudices and dissatisfaction which are stopping them from being happy. Sometimes I feel like asking these people, “Aren’t you tired of constantly questioning, analysing, pushing, prodding, writing, debating, dissecting, discussing and the list goes on, when all this time and effort could just be spent on being, well…happy?”. Not that I would discourage Aidan from asking questions and challenging the status quo- far from it, but I would like to raise Aidan to understand that life’s not always about making a point but rather it’s about making a point to be happy.
Malaysiaku. Di sini lahirnya sebuah cinta.