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MY motherland, for whom I spill my blood, where the people live, united and progressive. Those are the words to our national anthem, Negaraku.
As a nation, our history and future are determined by the choices we make and the values we hold. In 1511, we found ourselves at a crossroads. A corrupted few chose greed and power. A great many would pay the price of colonisation, suppression and discrimination for 446 years.
In 1946, we arrived at another crossroads. The brave chose to stand up against the oppressive colonisers. We achieved self-determination and independence 11 years later.
Today, as a nation we arrive at another one of our crossroads. We are filled with hope yet halted by cynicism. We are brave yet threatened by cowardice. We have potential yet our future seems unpromising. We are often taught that as a people, we come from all walks of life; we have different cultures and traditions; have different views and perspectives.
However, in reality, we are not that much different from one another.
My father was born and raised in a working class family in the east coast state of Kelantan. A few generations before, his great-grandfather made a decision to leave India and migrate east to the land of Hang Tuah and Rentap in search of opportunity and a better livelihood. Not for himself, but for his children and grandchildren.
The journey is oftentimes life-threatening, but when you have nothing to live for on land, the perilous seas seem tame.
My father’s father joined the army before the independence of Malaya believing that although he is the descendant of immigrants, he was born here and this too was his country. He would go on to serve at the peacekeeping mission in Congo and the embassy in Vietnam before returning home to defend his motherland against the threat of communism.
At home, his wife raised 6 children and my father being the youngest was conceived in 1970. Although his parents did not receive tertiary education, they had big dreams for their son. Through hard-work and perseverance my father would go on to study at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. There, he met my mother; an independent, confident and defiant woman from down south.
She grew up in a middle class family with both her parents working as teachers. However, at the age of 32, her mother had quit her job to sell kuih and devote her life to political activism. Her parents are great citizens who believe that everyone should be a part of something bigger than themselves. Neither of them had attended university either but they too had big dreams for their daughter.
My parents tied the knot and moved to metropolitan Kuala Lumpur. Hearts full of hope, heads full of dreams. Not only for themselves, but also for their two boys (another boy and the youngest, a girl, would complete the family later in the new century). However, those hopes and dreams were shattered when the Asian Financial Crisis hit.