“Merdeka! !مرديكا Мәрдека!”
On the 31st of August, 1957, the glorious chants of this word echoed across the nation as the sun of the British Empire set upon the land of Malaya. It merged to become Malaysia in 1963 with the Bornean states of Sarawak and Sabah, and Singapore too (which left later and achieved its own independence). On this day, all states of the Malaysian peninsula are celebrating 68 years of freedom after more than two centuries of European colonial administration.
What does being Malaysian mean for me, an expatriate who spent most of his primary-school and teenage years abroad? I don’t know the exact meaning myself. There are too many things that set me apart from other Malaysians. Malaysia is not my home for most of the year. I would rather live as an expat than as a local in my own country. I detest speaking Malaysian-accented English, Malaysian tropical weather and the Malaysian education system. I am more fluent in (RP-accented) English than my own national language. I don’t add ‘lah’ at every other end of my sentence like most Malaysians do. Despite all of this, I am eternally bound to this country where I was born and raised, where all of my extended family members and a lot of my friends call home. It is a frequent marker of my identity wherever I travel etched on the cover of my passport. If I am asked “Where are you from?” I have no choice but to answer “Malaysia”, no matter how foreign it might seem to me… Continue reading