Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Proud to be Malaysian

A friend of mine asked a very thought provoking question the other day. We, along with a few other buddies, were having one of our regular teh tarik sessions on a lazy Friday evening and as always, the topic du jour was the current political and social ills in this country. Almost everyone had their own personal grouse and observations and it seems no one had anything positive to say about this place that we call home. Then, out of nowhere, came this question.

"Are you then not proud to be a Malaysian?"

All of us became quiet for a while (cue the cricket's chirp) and more than a few minutes passed before someone decided to change the subject and talk about handphone ringtones. Anyway, thet question lingered in the back of my mind and as I was driving to work this morning, I started to make a mental list of the things that DO make me proud to be a Malaysian.

Jaclyn Victor
Malaysia is not well known for her artistic talents as evidenced by the lack of her international presence be it in music, theatre, film or art. That doesn't mean that we don't have the talent, it's just that we do not have the established machinery in place to develop or market them. Take Jaclyn Victor, our first Malaysian Idol. This girl can really sing, and as one of the judges would attest to, "has perfect pitch and flawless delivery". One only has to listen to her superb no-holds-barred performance at the grand finale of MI to know that she definitely has what it takes to sing into our hearts and touch our souls. And the best part of it all was that she garnered the majority of votes from every sector of the Malaysian public, crossing gender and racial boundaries; proof that all of us are able to look beyond the colour of our skin and pull together to support an obvious talent that has made and will continue to make Malaysia proud.

They say that Christmas comes but once a year. That is true of course even here in Malaysia, but given the multicultural make-up of the population, different people celebrate different religious and traditional festivals at various times of the year. And in true muhibbah spirit everybody, regardless of race, religion or creed celebrates along as well. So, it seems that "Christmas" in Malaysia comes not once, not twice but many many times in a year. And once in a while, due the shorter Muslim calendar, Hari Raya Aidilfitri drifts across the year in a 25 year cycle. Inevitably, the Muslim festivity would coincide with other celebrations like Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year at one point or another.. And when that happens, two things occur: Major traffic jams on the highways and new festival terms are coined: KongsiRaya, DeepaRaya, WesakRaya etc. Someone made a joke the other day that had Halloween been observed here, we'd have HalloRaya as well.

Free Internet
An American friend of mine recently commented that for a small nation, we seem to have a lot of dissonnance in cyberspace. It seems everybody with an internet connection wants to voice out their opinion on the "e-soapbox"; and the sentiment is often anti-government and counter culture in nature. While this development may be disturbing to some, I view it as a necessary part of our nation's growing pains, for only in a truly democratic country can a citizen speak his mind without fear of censorship and personal repercussion. And logically, it would be better to have an outlet to release our dissatifactions and criticisms than to be forced to keep it all in, like a pressure cooker without a safety release valve.

Thai food may be aromatically potent, while French cuisine is widely acknowledged to be exquisite; but no other country comes close to the sheer variety of dishes that Malaysia has to offer. The unique blend of the three main ethnic groups of Malay, Indian and Chinese has resulted in a heady melting pot of dishes found only here and nowhere else. Nasi Lemak, Char Kuay Teow, Roti Canai, Beryani Kambing, Sate Celup, Assam Laksa, Banana Leaf Rice, Cendol Durian, ABC, Bakuteh, Ramlee Burger, Tosai Rawa... the list just goes on and on and on....

Apa Khabar, Hello, Ni Hao, Vanakkkam
Once, during my Uni days, a group of us attended an Asia Pacific student's congress which was held in Bali, Indonesia. Although our Indonesian hosts did a fantastic job making us feel very much welcome, there was however one little problem of communication. As this was an international gathering, students from various countries around the Asia Pacific region attended, and spoke close to a dozen different languages. Our poor southern neighbours struggled to understand what everybody was trying to say to them. We, the Malaysians delegates, by nature of being multilingual, became the de facto translators, helping to explain, in English (or Mandarin, Cantonese and even Japanese) to the other foreign participants and then translating the questions that they asked back into Malay (which is quite similar to Bahasa Indonesia) so that the host members could understand. Everyone in attendance was evry impressed that we could speak so many different tongues effortlessly. I was never more proud to be called a Malaysian than at that moment.

The first and still the most successful no-frills airline in Asia is now a model of Malaysian ingenuity and tenacity. It has really opened up skies and plays a major role of boosting the tourism industry of not just Malaysia but the entire South East Asia. How else can one take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok for a mere US$10 ? Airsia's tagline is "Now everyone can fly". How true.

There is a common understanding among scubadivers the world over. Don't do Sipadan... until you've done the rest. For once you've dived into the enticing waters of this diver's heaven and experience the multitude of uniquely rich marine life, nothing else will come close. Ever.

Neither shaken nor stirred
Malaysia is blessed with terra that's literally firma and glorious weather all year round. Despite being situated in the middle of the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire, this country sits on a geologically stable plate, with nary a tremor nor lava flow to disrupt our daily lives. And we get so much sun that we walk around with a perpetual tan that causes the average westerner to go green with envy (or orange like a lobster).

Nicol David, Daniel Bego, Shahlin Zulkifli, Lee Chong Wei
We may not have won an Olympic gold, but Malaysia has produced many a sportman and sportswoman of international calibre. Be it squash, badminton, athletics, or bowling, we can be proud to say that our athletes have excelled and won the admiration of their peers. Malaysia Boleh!

And last but definitely not least...
Mamak Stall Teh Tarik
Where else in this world can a group of friends decide at 11.00pm to congregate at their usual drinking hole and, over glasses of aromatic sweet teh tarik, talk and joke about anything under the sun (or moon) till the wee hours of the morning? Enuff said.


Shah said...

To quote part of my comment on Crew's Brew's blog, my favourite thing about Malaysia is that:

"We in Malaysia have been blessed with the opportunity to join in on the festivities of the various religions in our country. Where else in the world can you find such a unique culture of sharing and giving ALL YEAR ROUND."

I remember as a kid growing up in Penang looking forward to visiting friends and neighbours' homes during Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Christmas and Deepavali and tasting all the different foods from the different cultures. And as kids, of course the favourite part was collecting the Duit Raya @ Ang Pows@ pocket money during all the different festivities.

Amazonman said...

My favourite childhood memory is actually following my parents to a Malay wedding kenduri where I can eat all the Nasi Minyak and drink all the Sirap Bandung that my stomach can take. And I can proudly say that my 'manual' eating skill is still very much intact. hahaha

Asther said...

Wah... so patriotic