Updated: Sep 14, 2018
The sound of thudding, accelerating heartbeats conjoined into one is amplified throughout the vicinity of the room. Someone is holding in a breath, afraid to break the suspense, in fear that if they did anything at all, the magical moment would cease to exist. Someone swallows a lump in their throat, hands accumulating a cold sweat. All is enveloped in a monotony of pin-drop silence, yet the tension is too much of an intangible presence in the room to be ignored, so much so that it is thick enough to slice through with a razor blade and make a sound.
The mamak is quiet, the eyes of the participants trained on the television with unwavering attention. The commentator says something; no one catches it. Their eyes do not go astray, and their hope does not extinguish its flame.
Then the delivered results determined our fate.
“And the winner is Lin Dan!”
For one millisecond of a moment, everything seems to intensify in volume. Our eyes still remain transfixed on the screen, yet the potency of disappointment is prominent. Disbelief, denial and shock sets up a fence, hindering our ability to accept the truth. However, within that concoction of negative emotions stands a mixture of contradicting pride and gratitude. It coils up the fence like poison ivy until soon enough everything is covered, painful emotions prior long forgotten.
My father snaps out of his reverie first.
“Well, he did his best,” says my father, who gets up from his seat promptly and begins to clean up the discarded nutshells on the table. My mother goes forward to offer assistance, while my younger sister cries out insensitively.
“Does that mean there won’t be any free Baskin Robbins?”
The sardonic humour in her words jolts everyone else out of their unresponsive stupor. People are standing up, the smiles on their faces so vibrant it stuns me. Our country had not won, yet here they are, being joyous and congratulating one another on a job well done? Our country was only a hair of a difference to victory, however still remained defeated in a long, hard-fought battle, so why are their faces plastered with actual, genuine grins of excitement? The mamak customers do not reduce their celebrations. They order more drinks, and the employees hastily get back to work. There is noise, while the uncles are engaging friends in spellbinding storytelling; there is noise, while the mamak workers are preparing its famous teh tarik; there is noise, shouting and beaming with pride in our hearts at our country’s accomplishments on this fateful night.
Then, the national anthem comes on from the television. Some man turns up the volume, so the familiar melody rings in our ears, this time more meaningful than ever before.
All at once, the stillness of everything shatters into absolute pandemonium. Simultaneously, as if it had been planned beforehand, everyone starts to stand up, arms rigid on their sides and heads held high, singing the first lines of the anthem with so much vigour it reverberates in my bones. The voices are all different, coming in all different ranges. Some are not in pitch, and some are out of tempo. But one thing that brings everything together is the unison of pride, love and happiness we all harbour towards the country that provided us shelter; an identity; a home.
And at that point, I understand.
It didn’t matter whether or not we had managed to take that trophy and title home. Sure, it was a big deal, but nothing was as big a deal as Malaysians being united as one, regardless of gender, race, and social status. We are all here today, hoping for something we did not get. Nonetheless, it does not make the loss bitter. The fascinating sportsmanship and endless support shown by Malaysians on that day was something I would always remember and keep in my heart, to know that even if I flew far, far away from here, I’d always miss my origins. I’d miss the pasar malam. I’d miss the multilingual, cultural richness of it all. I’d miss the food, which was such a huge part of me growing up.
Yet, the reasons for people to leave are not exactly illogical, either. Every country has its flaws and a hole in their system. For one, the education system of the country is highly dependent on the old-fashioned teaching mechanisms, which is to hand over the information to students on a silver spoon. There are step-to-step guides and tutorials, long hour lectures and a lack of creativity in exam questions. New papers of succeeding years are normally rehashed or even copied entirely. This will eventually lead to a pupil’s inability to adapt their mindsets to a growing world that receives new information every day, and often will bring about the problem of students’ brains who fail to think outside the box like how ideal leaders should. They are getting too pampered that it breeds lazy individuals that only regurgitate information given to them, and their answers are often just an exact replica of the marking scheme. This is not an exaggeration; it is the reality we are already beginning to live in.
Due to this form of education, it is not surprising to see that Malaysian students are hardly equipped with any of the skill sets that employers seek. They are taught from a young age that you’re only smart if you get straight A’s on the report card, that co-curricular activities such as clubs and sports are only purely for interest. They do not contribute to your future. In truth, that assumption is not completely correct. This is because when the new generations grow up and step out into the working field, it is an entirely different ball game. Employers and big, successful companies are looking for candidates equipped with critical thinking skills, high adaptability, a horizon for creativity, and countless more. They are hardly focused on the straight A’s on our result slip. To them, it is what you can offer to the growth of the company that matters. However, this is not what the education system we have is teaching us for.
Therefore, those who can afford it travel overseas for a more comprehensive and well-rounded education, where students get to figure things out on their own. Yet, this is only a temporary solution, and a selfish one at that.
If we, as the next generation of leaders, are dissatisfied with the quality of education that we are being provided, isn’t it better to stay and try fixing what we think the education system lacks? For us; or for the next generation to come we would want what is best for them, and that means better education from primary school level. Hands-on learning, interactive lessons, and a more complete overview into the Information Technology section will definitely be a pragmatic approach to start with. The point here is, running away is never the answer to a problem, especially towards a problem with a global scale as this.
Regardless, no matter how flawed a country is, or how perfect everything seems to be, in the end, it is our country. That means that we accept the imperfections it has and still love it. That means if someone insults it or gives a condescending misconception, such as ‘crispy chicken rendang’, we defend the authenticity of our culture and food while educating others in the process.
It is our responsibility towards the nation to improve old techniques and mindsets. It is our duty to ensure that the country continues to be better until it has reached the pedestal of international respect and beyond.
At the end of the day, it will always remain as our Malaysia; our home.
This piece was contributed by:
Name: Yoong Hui Qing