This is about one or two weeks late, but I am paralysed at home waiting for death to come by - ironically this is one of the few opportunities I actually have time to reflect (since I cannot do most other things).
So the 50th Merdeka came and passed by. Apart from a huge celebration in office and a very deep/touching PETRONAS advert; it literally "came and passed by". Maybe it is a sign of age and with it the growing cynicism, maybe we grow less and less patriotic as we grow older?
Maybe not. Maybe the sloganeering and abuse of Merdeka spirit was too much to stomach that many of us simply do not want to have anything to do with it.
What is Merdeka to the laymen like you and me (OK I have no intention to be very philosophical, just want to waste my time waiting for my running nose to get better)?
I sat down, looked around and asked myself again – what is merdeka?
Isn’t merdeka all about liberation? About escaping from the constraints that chain us from doing what we want, achieving what we are capable of? Isn’t merdeka all about the stories of the great lengths and sacrifices that many had to go through to accomplish their own achievements; no matter how small they are in other people’s perspectives?
Merdeka is not only about the 5 prime ministers, Merdeka is not just about fighting Malayan Union and the initially superficial, pragmatic Alliance (that was later described as if it was the truest of alliance).
Merdeka is about each and every soul fighting each day to liberate themselves from the shackles of life. It is about their triumph, it is about their story.
It is from that perspective I make this Merdeka dedication – and only in the context of MCKK just to illustrate how Merdeka should have meant a lot more than the glorifying of the 5 eras of the Prime Ministership (some of whom nearly destroyed the very foundation this country was built on):
Tunggu surat posting.......
Bulan November 1987...selepas tamat pengajian sebagi pelatih MPSAH, aku mengisi masa terluang menolong orang tua aku dengan membantu mereka di kebun getah dan sawah padi...Kadang-kadang aku ke kompleks bebas cukai Bukit Kayu Hitam.......menolong adik aku menguruskan perniagaan keluarga menjual barangan kulit dan kasut . Sementara menunggu surat posting sebagai guru pelatih..Mula-mula dahulu aku mengisi borang untuk di tempatkan di Sabah. Maklumlah muda-muda elok juga merantau....tapi sejak kawan-kawan aku mula menerima surat tawaran mengajar......aku mula berdebar kerana masih belum dapat surat yang aku nantikan. Amal Disember 1987 aku terus ke MPSAH bagi mendapat kepastian.....sampai sahaja di pejabat aku cuba mendapat maklumat pertempatan guru-guru baru...malangnya............ada 5 orang pelatih "batch aku hanya dinyatakan "SBP". Aku ingin kepastian...lalu bertanya apa maksud SBP.........."Sekolah Berasrama penuh...." Aduh!!!!!....mana aku nak "landing" ni...lalu balik ke kampung dengan seribu satu pertanyaan.....SBP....SBP....di mana ye...?
Dalam fikiran aku....Aku pernah dengar Maktab Melayu Kuala Kangsar,.. Sains Selangor,,,SDAR...TKC....Jenan.....Sains Kedah...Seri Puteri....Tun Fatimah......Alam Shah..tapi mana satu......hmmmm.. Sains selangor kot......
satu pagi sedang aku berehat di bawah pohon manggis....aku nampak posmen menuju ke rumah aku.......dia tersenyum....aku dah syak mesti ada surat posting aku.....
lalu dia menyerahkan sepucuk surat warna coklat panjang...terus aku koyak depan posmen tu juga....." surat apa...?" Maktab Melayu Kuala kangsar...."aku terdiam sekejap... "mak jauhnya.....kat Perak la aku lepasni...." " apa dia...? Posmen tu tanya lagi... "saya mengajar di Perak.." "Tahniah la...." kata posmen tu dan terus beredar dan hilang....
"mak........kena jadi orang perak la lepas ni..." aku memandang mak aku dengan penuh kehairanan....." hmm..nak buat gena...hang kena pi lah...." balas mak aku.....
" dapat di mana...?" tanya pak aku ingin mendapat kepastian...
" dapat maktab melayu...." pendek saja aku balas...
malam tu aku mula tidur tapi tak dapat lelapkan mata memikirkan macam mana aku nak pi....dengan siapa aku nak pergi....mak ayah aku mana boleh cuti......kerja mereka mana ada cuti...tambah itu sahaja kerja mereka. kalau cuti makna tak ada pulus la.... ..
Pagi-pagi esok aku terus duduk depan ayah aku.....
" pak.....pinjam motor sat.....pak tak yah pi motong la.... " [menoreh] kecek aku [ pujuk dalam loghat kedah]
" hang nak pi mana..." dia pandang muka aku.
" nak pi umah pak ya junun "[cikgu SMSAH]
Bulan November . " Nak tanya dia dapat mana..." Motor Honda 70 tu aku bertolak ke Bukit Junun melalui jalan lama [ Guar Cempedak] masa tu mana ada lebuh raya lagi....setelah 3 jam dan sakit-sakit belakang.......sampailah aku di umah pakya...heh...heh...satu-satunya keluarga Melayu yang di kelilingi keluarga India tapi macam satu keluarga.sampai India situ dah kenal aku kerana di situlah aku buat macam umah aku....
"woi...!!!!! hang dapat mana....? aku johorlah .....jauh nak mampuih...!." dia senyum pendek...
" aku...? aku dapat maktab melayu..., kat perak " aku bagi tau dia.
"sekolah asrama la.....mesti budak pandai-pandai...."
(Memoir by Cikgu Malek, from MC Teachers Association website)
Many of us forget that just like us the students who were thrilled on our first day in the school, most of the new teachers felt the same way. Anyone who has to spend some time around the monstrous buildings would have felt some kind of intimidation along the way.
Cikgu Malek would have gone down as one of the teachers in the 90s and 00s who are the closest to the students. When I made a casual visit to koleq in 2003 after being away for a long time in the UK, he instantaneously arranged for a speech during the dinner (which went disastrously as they underestimated my capacity at giving speeches! It went on for ages that some of the more senior students must have been planning to throw rotten bananas at me). He spent ages sharing the concerns and developments in college with us.
People like Cikgu Malek and the likes of him (some of whom are still in MCKK) give everything that they have for MCKK and the bunch of kids who pass through the gates each year. They conquered their worst fear of having to teach students they know are a lot cleverer than them; they defeated whatever inferiority they have or inherited from their background to give the best education to MCKK students.
In the process, he liberated himself – Cikgu Malek went on from his Sijil Perguruan to do a degree, then a Master; just like Smash and Jaqman went all the way to do PhD – and he liberated us; his students. We grow old together although the relationship evolves from that of teacher-student to teacher-friend.
The teachers like Cikgu Malek, all the teachers in MCKK past and present; and all the teachers around the country – are the true liberators. They liberate us from the shackles of life; they showed us what we are capable of. They had trust in us; they defied the norm to make way for us when they were convinced we could go far. They gave everything for us and when we have flown away far above, they take a back seat; only admiring us from afar.
I dedicate this 50th Merdeka to Cikgu Malek, Smash, Cikgu Umi, Sherry, Samhong, Cikgu Badri, Miss Liew, Tan Gim Hoe, Ustaz Latib, Cikgu Nuraini, Mr Anand, Cikgu Yatie, Cikgu Nolita and a long list of the MCKK teachers past and present without whom we wouldn’t have been where we are, for they are the true liberators.
Not everyone who went to MCKK is from a well off family. Most people in the 90s and above come from a low middle class; if not pure working class family.
Sending the sons to a place like MCKK, with all the expectation and complex of being a premier institution (and with it the tag of elitism and upper class) is a big step that many parents from the working class had to make.
It certainly was a big decision for mine. There was no guarantee that I could survive and thrive when competing with the so-called brightest of brightest with silver spoon in their mouth. But I really wanted to go and they relented after the first few days (and despite their worries which persisted for the first two years) – and the rest is history, as they say.
It is these breed of parents; who were willing to gamble so to speak despite their worry and inadequacy; and afterwards worked hard to close any sense of gap or inadequacy their sons had; that made MCKK what it is today.
Worse still; it is usually these breed of families who are subjected to the worst of our society and systems when it comes to corruption and discrimination.
So in reality they have to battle it out at two fronts – fighting their worry of what may happen to their sons far away; and fighting the corrupt system to make a better living to support their sons.
But many did come out triumphant and reap the benefits later on.
And for that, I dedicate this 50th Merdeka to my parents and all the parents of MCKK students past and present who believe in your children’s talent and ability to make a difference; who battle our corrupt system every day so that your children and grandchildren would have a better life.
MCKK brings together people of different creed, different socio economic status and different starting line in life.
While it is not so difficult for those from the good background to excel, it was a huge leap (even a leap of faith) for those who do not come from such backgrounds.
But I have witnessed so many from my own generation who made that leap of faith purely from their own determination to prove themselves and do better in life. And most of the time they do better than others, even those who had had a head start in life – because once MCKK brings out the best of them in terms of their energy, determination and focus; they never looked back.
In essence they too liberated themselves and they liberated their family and people around them. Sometimes people like us become unfairly harsh on spoilt brats or people from upper class background at work because we expected them to do better; having set the standard for ourselves who once were from the working class.
So I also dedicate this 50th Merdeka to Fazurin and many others who had shown sheer determination, great courage and outstanding resilience to walk out of MCKK and embrace the globalised world well armed than most others; to be where you are today. You are a living proof that the MCKK experiment, if done correctly, can be a success.
The final dedication is dedicated to Kawaii_Desu for the pure resilience, efficiency and persistence without whom this blog would have been a lot more dull!
So there you have it our Merdeka dedication. Merdeka should be about each and every one of us reflecting on the struggle and translating it for ourselves; because each one of us is in need of liberation.
Merdeka is about the faceless patriots who battle it out every day on the streets, in the class room, at the construction site to make Malaysia what it is today; despite the huge odds and corrupt system against them. Many of us, many of our teachers, many of our parents are that faceless patriots – so don’t ever let them take this Merdeka from us!