Sunday, September 8, 2013

Singing Negaraku does NOT mean you are pro/anti government you morons!

Different Spin 6th September 2013 


My early childhood was spent in the United Kingdom and because my parents had very limited resources, we could only depend on the occasional news about “home” from the luckier Malaysian student friends of mum and dad, who could go home during the summer and winter break.

 For me, it was not the news from home that piqued my interest (I wasn’t too keen on politics then), but the goodies my aunt would bring back from the kampung. From exotic sweets and biscuits, to kadazan delicacies and pickles! My favorite would be the fruits. I especially loved the Rambutans and because we lived with two other Malaysian families, we were limited to 3-4 fruits each. I swore that upon going back to Malaysia, I would have my own rambutan tree in my backyard, so I could eat this native fruit with no limitations.

In 1988, we flew back to Malaysia. We were all so excited! Most of my Malaysian friends had returned and we were one of the last families of that batch to fly home. My parents had made arrangements for us to study in a Convent school in Sabah. I did some background research to the local schools in Malaysia. What fascinated me most was singing the national anthem everyday during the school assembly - we didn’t have that in London, at least not in the school I went to, so I was curiously anxious.

I memorized the lyrics to our national anthem at the age of 10. Most kids would have learnt it in Kindergarten – but better late than never, right? I understood the meaning to it a few weeks later. The following year, I was able to construct Bahasa Malaysia (BM) words into proper sentences, without a heavy cockney accent. I was adamant on learning to speak my national language quickly. On my first day of school in Malaysia, I stood tall and proud, singing the Negaraku loud and clear. I was glad to finally be home.

Fast forward to this day, I still stand tall and proud singing the national anthem with all my gust. I was pleased to hear that our Negaraku would be played in cinema halls right before the screening of the movie in lieu of the 56th Merdeka Day Celebrations. It always stirs a sense of pride and excitement through my bones when our national anthem is played during the start of sporting or formal events. Perhaps they could extend this ‘playing of the Negaraku’ even after the stipulated time?

My gungho enthusiasm was shot down by my friends. “People don’t like lah… waste time … movie trailers already take so much time. Now we have to stand up and sing. For what?”

I was taken aback and sad by the response. Remaining positive, I was determined not to be swayed by their disinterest.

On the first day the Negaraku was scheduled to be played, my husband and I excitedly went to catch a movie. When the hall lights dimmed, a 90-second clip tribute to the heroes of Lahad Datu was played. I commend actress Dira Abu Zahar’s acting as the wife of one of the deceased heroes. She nailed the character well. Tears kept flowing down. What followed after were the usual commercials and movie trailers followed by another clip titled Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku reminding us of the unsung heroes who risk their lives to restore peace . Finally, we see a sign asking us to rise for the Negaraku and the familiar tune of our national anthem is heard. I jumped on my toes, straightened my body and sung my heart out.

 A couple in front of me (who remained seated) turns to stare at me. I stared back and tried to “speak to them with my eyes” asking them to stand up. They didn’t budge. After the movie, I told my husband I was going to ‘interview’ them. He knew me better and forbade me from speaking to them. They definitely were locals. I was annoyed.

 On National Day, the hubby and I went back to the cinema, this time with our two daughters. The evening before, I had practiced with my girls how to stand straight and sing the Negaraku. 5 year-old Isobel was very excited! Again it was the same drill as the lights of the hall were dimmed. Although I had watched the clips, I still teared up. Then it was time for our anthem. We sat at the back and from where I stood, I was really dismayed to see a few folks seated, some munching on their popcorn, a few were taking pictures of themselves and a group at the corner sniggering while the song was being played. I felt this was just plain rude.

Once the movie was over, I quickly walked down to the few I could catch up with. This time the husband could not stop me. I casually asked where they were from and started asking them what they thought about our anthem being played in our movie halls. I was surprised by their feedback. The one that really got to me was how “he wanted to remain apolitical and neutral”, and that’s is why he remained seated.

We need to (re)instill the love of our country in the hearts of our citizens, especially our youths who seem to think that being patriotic is a political inclination to a particular party. It is not. Respecting and loving our national anthem and flag is our act of patriotism to our country. Let us take back the ownership of the symbols of our nationhood.

Negara kita.

Selamat Hari Malaysia Malaysians. The writer believes that patriotism should start from home. Her rambutan tree thrives well in her family home in Sabah and her two girls enjoy the fruits of her labour as well. Follow her rants on instagram: daphneiking