Merdeka reminds me of my late father.
Born on June 6, 1942 in a small village called Chittlenchery in Kerala, India he was first an Indian citizen. His mother and father, both Indian citizens who had migrated to Malaya, had decided to go back to their ancestral home after World War 2 broke out. So Venugopal, fondly known as Kochappan entered the world 6,700 kms away from his soon to be home, Malaya.
After the war ended, his father PD Nair decided to move back to Malaya and thus, upon arriving from India, he ensured that his son got the citizenship in their adopted home. I have often felt that even though my Dad, or Acha as I call him, was born in India, he was the most “Malaysian” person I’ve known up to date.
A civil servant himself, he used to have no qualms about speaking in Bahasa Malaysia. In fact, he would prefer to speak in Malay when talking to most people. He always encouraged my sister and I to speak in the national language and would buy us Malay newspapers to read, so that we would increase our vocabulary.
He was always proud of the fact that he was one of the thousands of Malaysians at Padang Pahlawan, Melaka when when Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed the country’s independence. He remembered that euphoria of the feeling, then at the age of 14. The atmosphere was so charged, that my father fainted in excitement.
Fast forward to 20 years later, my father’s exiitement about Merdeka was still evident for my sister and I. On our many trips to Singapore and on the way back, the minute we reach Johor Bahru, he would put his fist up in the air and declare “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!”. Later, when I started working and wasn’t on the same trip, he would send smses with the same declaration. It always made me smile.
When he was ill after he had a stroke in 2010, it took him a while to say his favourite word. When he did say it, it was a special moment for all of us. Although that was his last Merdeka with us, every year since since then, Malaysia’s independence day is a day, that is personally special.
If he was here today, there’s no doubt that he would be upset with the state of affairs in his beloved Malaysia. We’ve had a challenging few months, heck a challenging year even! From MH370 and MH17, the 1MDB debacle, the declining ringgit, among others have been quite a lot to endure. Sometimes I marvel at the power of social media and how we, as Malaysians have both embraced technology with vigour, only at times to abuse it.
After 58 years of independece, the race card continues to be used and misused. Throw away the labels, I say. Let’s be happy that we’re different. Do not put others in a box based on the race, religion or culture.
A wise man once sang:
If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
While we await for big changes to happen in the country, I think it is important that we make sure that we do our part to make our home, our neighbourhood and country a better place to live in. I’m sure if my dad was here, his advice would be continue to have faith, hold on tight during the difficult times and seek happiness in the small miracles we experience here in Malaysia. The poeple, our relationships and of course, our wonderful food.
Happy 58th Merdeka Malaysia!