Wednesday, August 31, 2011


merdeka( merdéka) 

bebas (drpd penjajahan, kurungan, naungan, dll), lepas ( drpd tebusan, tuntutan), berdiri sendiri, tidak bergantung pd yg lain: 

Malaysia ialah sebuah negara yg ~ dan berdaulat.

William closes the dark green Kamus Dewan, taking care to wipe off the Milo stains on page 883, rubbing sweaty fingers on mercun, meriah, meriam and merdu.

He closes his eyes in mock reverence, a smile dawning upon his face as he lets the meaning of the word seep into his twelve year old mind. After a few moments, he understands.

His country- free from the evil British colonialists! After hundreds of years of being under their oppressive rule, Malaysia was free! He smiled, a spring in his step as he contemplated how lucky he was to be free. 

Grabbing his tiny Jalur Gemilang, he skips all the way to the living room, where his parents are watching TV, reading the Moon or the Sun or whatever astronomical object it was, drinking kopi O, and talking to each other. William never could understand how they could do so many things at a time, and then accuse him of not being focused enough. At least he did one thing at a time.

Today's headlines on the Star, Double the Joy! A happy family celebrating Raya and laughing along. William peeked over his father's shoulder: he was reading something boring about neglecting other ... what was that word again... communities. "Daddy, what does that mean?"

Daddy turns around, tortoise shell glasses barely resting on his nose. "Well it means that certain minorities, like the Chinese and Indians and Dayaks and Orang Asli are being ignored. How do I say this... Mmm.... Take for example you and your older brother. Imagine if I treated your brother better, like giving him more candy, being OK with him failing exams, giving him extra pocket money and time to play computer games."

"But that's not fair!"

" Aha, that's where you're wrong. I could say that it's perfectly fair because your brother came first! And if you complain, I'll tell you to go back to whichever family you came from, even if that 'family' isn't really your real family. And that, my dear, is more or less what is happening."

William shook his head in horror. How could such a terrible thing happen? With all the solemnity that a twelve year old could muster, he heaved a great sigh. Daddy just laughed, and ruffled William's hair. 

But the sadness of a twelve year old is an impermanent thing. Pretty soon, the boy was zooming off in his bike, Jalur Gemilang in tow. He was on a quest of great importance: to bungkus roti canai from the nearby mamak stall.

On his way, he admired the sea of flags on display. Everyone is so patriotic, why doesn't Uncle Bernard love Malaysia too Why doesn't he want to come back? - whispered his little heart. He wondered about all the cousins who had gone overseas and never come back. Julian, who was a chemical engineer; Mary, a physics professor in Brown University; Hannah, his favourite cousin who used to play on the PS2 with him, a doctor working in Brisbane. All nice, loving, caring people, who somehow, said that they would not come back because there was no freedom in Malaysia. But William's little heart whispered again- How could this be? Aren't the evil British gone?

Absent mindedness never serves a bicycle rider well. Sure enough, William's bike hit a curb, and fell over- landing at the feet of the mamak stall waiter. Burly hands grabbed him, put him upright. " Boy, you jaga sikit la. Danger tau. Aiyoooo.... mana ibu bapa you?" William recovered himself, shook his head, and took out a five ringgit note.

"Empat roti canai, abang. Dan satu Mentos."
The abang looked at his hand expectantly. 
" Tak cukup la boy. Sekarang ni barang apa-apa pun mahal. Lagi satu ringgit."

Wow, things were getting pretty expensive. One twenty for roti canai. Even in the extremely short life experience of William, he could still remember a time when roti canai cost eighty cents. Ah well. 

After completing his transaction, and chewing on his mentos, William started the trip back home. He was taking a shortcut, through his "secret route". It was favourite path because he could pretend he was going through a scary trek through a land of evil things. A number of sights along the way helped this fantasy of his.

First, there were the trees. Long, over-arching great old behemoths of nature that would shade the road. But today, as he travelled through, the trees were gone. Chopped down by DBKL most probably. The image of the sliced off tree stumps reminded him of an image of the Bakun dam he had seen. The photo was a collage of a destroyed rainforest; a crying Orang Asli woman; and a government officer cutting a red ribbon officiating the whole event. The image stuck in his mind because the Orang Asli's expression, a cold, teary stare of indignation, invoked in him a sort of comradeship- he had that look on whenever his brother forcefully took away his toys from him, and refused to give them back, even though they were rightfully his.

Then there was the church. The church wasn't a really a scary building by itself. But the black marks along the wall, and the burnt out rubble around it was pretty spooky. The church had been the target of an arson attempt a while ago, a Molotov cocktail had been thrown in. All that for a single word. William shook his head, wondering how on earth could mature, big grown up, God fearing people get so worked up to the point of fiery crime over a single word. 

The church brought up questions in William's head. His parents had been talking about some sort of church raid lately, something about Muslims in a church. William had interrupted them, asking: Mommy, why can't Malays go into churches? Why is it bad for a Christian to donate and help Muslims? Can't we help each other? Can't they choose what's best for them?"

The reply: " Go back to your room William. You don't understand, this is an adult issue. Go to sleep, it's getting late."

Finally, he passed the scariest part of the route: an abandoned warehouse. Apparently the owners were arrested for being communist. William had no idea what a communist was, except that they were supposed to be really bad and they blew up train tracks for breakfast. There were bits of torn yellow cloth around, remnants from the T-shirts they once were a part of. A while back, Uncle Ravi had been picked up by the police for questioning. Daddy said it was because Uncle Ravi had worn the same yellow Bersih T-shirt, and gone to participate in the rally. "Is Uncle Ravi a bad man, Daddy? Did he commit a crime Is that why the police caught him?"

Daddy put on this zoned out look on his face, same as when he talked about grandfather who had passed away years ago, and solemnly said: "No, William. We are the ones who are criminals for watching and doing nothing while our country went down the drain."

"Never mind, Will. You'll understand one day."

William finished his journey, and parked his bicycle. "I'm home!" His parents greeted him with a smile, and into the dining room they went, laughing, eating, drinking- and William's tiny heart whispered again: Wow, it sure is good to be free. Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

Happy Merdeka Malaysia. Enjoy your freedom this Independence Day.



  1. The bit about the orang asli struck a chord with me — I've lived deep in the forest with the Penans before and can really, really identify with their problems. Some of them (if I remember correctly) live on RM10 a month. I suppose lots of times the authorities make policies at the highest level without seeing with their own eyes what happens at ground level. And when they focus too much on the politics and economics of it all, they lose track of the human side. Or maybe they just don't care.

    But I really look forward to the day when our orang asli brothers and sisters will be regarded as Malaysian as the Malays, Chinese and Indians.

    Happy Merdeka!

  2. Hm, the analogy about giving the older brother more things because he came first struck ME. I never thought of it that way. Interesting way of portraying that, and very apt! :)

    Simple but thought-provoking story. I wonder if twelve-year-olds really see the world in that way. If they do, we should all have the mind of a twelve-year-old eh? :D