Michelle tagged me. Actually, that was a surprise. Nonetheless, I'd like to thank Michelle. So that makes me the fifth (counting backwards) to dedicate a post to our nation’s 50th Merdeka as part of Poetic Justice -- 50 Posts to Independence project that Nizam Bashir had initiated.
For a very long time I was proud of the fact that I was from Singapore, not that I was a Singaporean. Just that I was from Singapore.
After all, for a long time, Malaya and Singapore were two different locations, not two different countries.
Then, they took different paths and became two different countries.
That's when I realised that as Singapore-born my identity card was red not blue.
I was Singaporean, not Malaysian.
When I was in form three and was sitting for my LCE (lower certificate of education) at Assunta Secondary School in Petaling Jaya, I remember looking at everyone else's identity card on their desk. They were blue. Mine was red.
I felt different from them but not alien.
My heart would flutter everytime the invigilator made a double head turn to look at my red IC on my desk.
I don't know why I felt so.
I remember though that whenever I "balik kampung" to Singapore, I felt very proud that I was visiting from Kuala Lumpur.
My relatives would excitedly call out to everyone that "orang KL dah sampai" whenever we arrived for our visit.
They never said "orang Malaysia" or "orang PJ".
I know my aunts, uncles and cousins thought well of their "KL" relatives.
I got the sense that they were very proud of us.
One day after my LCE, my father took us to a government department in Petaling Jaya. We had our photographs taken and had to fill up some forms. I can't quite remember what else we had to do.
A week or two later, we went to the same department to collect what looked like an identity card. Only that it was not. It was a citizenship card.
In 1971, I became a Malaysian and I got my blue IC.
My sense of belonging to this country steadily took root.
How could it have been any other way?
The attachment grew stronger and stronger and Singapore gradually became a distant memory.
Singapore was my tanah tumpah darah but one that, as a nation, was drastically changing as surely as I was beginning to love this land where I grew up, schooled, learnt about friendship and about life.
I felt more and more detached from the land of my birth.
My father's arrest and detention under the Internal Security Act in 1976 turned me into an angry and bitter Malaysian. A disillusioned Malaysian.
I could not understand why the government would want to incarcerate my father.
What had he done to be detained without trial?
Faith and conviction helped me and my family deal with his incarceration.
Nevertheless, the sense of being betrayed remained for quite sometime so much so that accepting offers to migrate seemed logical.
After my father's release, we were, of course, elated.
There were teaching offers for him in Australia, the US and Canada.
My father's good friend, Leslie Hoffman asked him to leave Malaysia and stay in Australia.
Did we want to leave? Migrate, even?
The thought was tempting because we were uncertain of our future in Malaysia.
Would Malaysia turn against us again, we wondered?
But one must have rekindled and reinforced faith and conviction to search and then hold on to the beliefs and ideals which had dissipated the night my father was taken away.
My father threw out any notion of taking his family out of this country for Malaysia was our home, warts and all.
Malaysia is our home.
The warts are the clowns and jokers who have set us decades back and the nimcompoops who are shaming the country no end.
Nevertheless, you have to admit that we have come a long way - as a country and as a people.
I want to believe that we matter, not those wreckers.
I won't let anybody blow out the candle.
You and I make up this country. And the rest of the country comprise ordinary Malaysians like you and me.
And among them, I see heroes who have shown that we can triumph in face of adversity and great odds.
They are the ones who give me hope that all is not lost.
For a long time, I have been proud of being a Malaysian.
And can I remain so for a long time more?
So, Happy 50th birthday, Malaysia!
Here are the rest of the entries:
I am tagging Mat Salo of Borneo Blues. He'd give you a gem of a perspective. So, brother, you are number 4.