I have a quirk that I have not told anyone yet. Ever. So this is it’s big debut.
I always choke when I hear “Negaraku”, the national anthem. Really. It sounds so far-fetched, right? It’s true. I always stand up too. Not out of habit. It’s out of respect.
About 21 years ago I enrolled in this boarding school. One of the first things that we had to go through would be a “conditioning” about Malay superiority. Hold it right there. Don’t jump yet. This is not a political piece. I just want to share my experience. The facilitators would lock us all up in the hall, turned off the lights and told us stories about how Malays are marginalized, how this land is our land bla bla bla. Like many others that night, I cried.
A few years later, I was a little older and have read a bit more. I was also a bit more used to the “bully” mentality and by then was senior enough to be able to tell people to take a chill pill and leave me alone. During one of the English classes, the teacher posed a question – it is possible for a non-Malay to become a Prime Minister some day? Many jumped up and protested. Then she asked, why not? And I thought, yeah, why not?
In many instances thereafter, in many different situations, some subtle some outright-in-your-face, I have been tested. Sometimes they use guilt, at times threats. Whether it is along racial lines, or religious lines, or gender lines; the final question remains the same: which side are you on?
Fret not, this is not a political post. I’m not a patriotic person. Like Sakurai said, “Supposing that the world could be saved by one person giving their life in exchange, I would be the man who waits until someone else has volunteered.” You have no idea how much I identify with that sentence.
But yes I choke when I hear the national anthem.