Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tasha's Day - 16 September 2011

Merdeka and Malaysia Day Celebration - Two Happy Participants,  Tasha (right) and friend.

My Dear Tasha,

Your mama asked me to look out for you on TV on Friday 16 September.  But there were so many happy looking Malaysian schoolkids hopping about, I just could not make you out.  It was ONE big mass of kids enjoying themselves that day, that Merdeka and Malaysia Day.

So I wrote to your mama asking  how you fared that day.  This was her answer.

My dear Mak Ngah,

Am glad that she is having fun during her school days.  Am not really sure that she understands the meaning of Merdeka in the sense that we want her to.  But I'm pretty sure she understands the meaning of hardship, sacrifice and teamwork  in preparing for that big day.  She now knows that nothing comes easy.  Their training started on the 3rd week of Ramadhan and most of the time she carried on with school in the afternoon.

One day, Tasha, you will understand  the significance of Merdeka and why you did what you did on 16 September 2011.

When tok ngah was just a little older than you ( that would be during the dinosaur period, in your eyes!), our school, Crescent Girls' School was selected to take part in a Mass Drill to celebrate Singapore's National Day in 1959.

We were taken by bus to  Jalan Besar Stadium for practice.  We all had to wear white shirts and white shorts.  I must say we girls had a lot of fun during practice and rehearsals.  But tok ngah also recalled  the many quarrels we had with the boys from Victoria School.  The booing and the yellings did not stop until we got back on the bus.

But these words I shall never forget.  EEK, ERR, SAN, SER, - OOK, LIU, CHIK, PARK,  meaning one, two, three, four - five, six, seven, eight.  The Mass Drill Instructor stood on a raised platform and taught us the various motions of the drill in Mandarin!!  We were stunned when we first heard this. Why Mandarin?  But ours is not to ask why.  And the rhythm of numbers 1 to 8 in Mandarin would echo in the school canteen and classroom whenever we felt like it.

On 3 June 1959 Singapore was given self-governing status,  Sir William Goode became the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara ( not  Governor as before) and Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister.  During the  general election of 1959 to elect 51 Representatives for the first fully elected Legislative Assembly, Mr Lee's PAP  won 43 seats.  Mr Lee's PAP won the majority in a coalition with the Communists to get rid of the British colonialists  (tok Iain's people).

The last sentence in the above paragraph partly explained our query.  Chinese schools and Chinese schoolboys were very active in the Communist movement then and Mass performances like  Mass Drill were part of their  'extra-curricular' activities.

However this partnership was short-lived when Barisan Sosialis was formed in 1961.  It was also in this year (a coincidence?) when talks began about a merger of Singapore with the Federation of  Malaya,  as part of Malaysia.

On 16 September (recognise the date?) 1963,  Malaysia , made up of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, was formed.

Then on 9 August 1965, Singapore was separated from Malaysia and became an independent nation.

Not long after that, the PAP Singapore Government slowly but surely dismantled  the Chinese language schools, as well as the  Malay and Tamil language schools  to create a one-system multi-racial school based on English.  However, even the mighty PAP Government could not ignore the  voice (or demands?) of the 70+% Chinese majority.  It was not just EEK,  ERR, SAN, SER, OOK, LIU, CHIK, PARK.

In the 1980s ( I can't be precise here), we woke up to this.

What do you do?  If you're Malay or Indian or Eurasian ?

Then the Emperor put on another set of clothes - sometime about 5-6 years ago?

Above is the image of another new concept for Singapore :  EASTERN ROOTS,  WESTERN WINDS.

My dear Tasha, you must be wondering what on earth is tok ngah rabbitting about?

I shall quote what your mama wrote.  "Am not really sure she understands the meaning of Merdeka in the sense that we want her to."

When you grow up - really, really grow up - your world and well-being will depend on how you relate  Merdeka with responsibility and hard work for all Malaysians. The study of History, untainted and factual will be as essential as Accountancy and IT. To chart your future, you have to know the past.

The issues of race and language have always blighted Malaysia's polity and  will always be manipulated  by opportunists and troublemakers in this country - maybe, but hopefully not, until you reach my age!

 Tasha's Day on 16 September 2011 should be the way for every day in Malaysia and not just for Merdeka and Malaysia Day.

Salam and Loads of Love,
tok ngah.


nadya.s said...

Salaam Madam,
your explanation on merdeka and significant of 16th sept was fun to read n give me better understanding to me too, so THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

anak si-hamid said...

Salam and thank you nadya.s

It really pleases me to know you enjoyed and learned something from this posting.

When you have your own children one day, pass on the message and meaning of Merdeka.

ph said...

Tasha is one lucky girl to have a Tok Ngah who's able to explain what's Merdeka.

i do not think many out there are as lucky as her.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you ph,

Tasha probably thinks she's got a weirdo tok ngah - who likes to write but who used the bus ticket from the year before to travel to Batu Pahat - remember?

Wan Sharif said...

Singapore can be a passionate about Mandarin and Chinese.. in Malaysia we cannot talk passionately about Malay lest we will be called racist although all other Malaysian can.. ;((

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Wan Sharif,

It's the same old double standard isn't it?

Sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.

anak si-hamid said...

I clicked PUBLISH for this comment but it failed to appear. I managed to retrieve it from the amin COMMENTS box.

Here it is.

Dear Mdm Hamid, I relished reading your anecdotal accounts of an era that is clearly slipping away from us all ... I am an admn of Geylang Serai, kampungku in facebook and wud appreciate if you can 'loan' me some of your 'sepia toned vignettes' that I can share with my kampung folks of like minds ... ma'asalaama ... Zul Aziz

By pandanwangie on 'Baju Kurung (CsH) - The Ramblings of a Malay Malcontent.' 9/23/11

anak si-hamid said...


Firstly a correction. In the above comment, it should be 'main' and not 'amin' (my mistake).

Dear Zul Aziz/pandanwangie,

Thank you for your complimentary comment and especially for asking about the 'vignettes'.
However I am not clear whether you are referring only to the photos in the 'Baju Kurung' posting or to the others in my AnaksiHamid Blog. Also I'm a bit confused about how you intend to use them.

I hope you will understand that these 'sepia-toned vignettes' represent my personal history and memory as well as that of my family's. They have travelled well from Pasir Panjang and Boon Lay in Singapore (via Johor Bharu) to Leicester in England and then back to my father's hometown in Kuala Lumpur.

They have been lovingly photographed by my late father in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and just as lovingly preserved by my late mother.

I would prefer to conserve the dignity of these and other personal images found in AnaksiHamid's Blog within a private domain - although I am aware that this is beyond my control.

I am so sorry I cannot accommodate your request and wish you luck in your venture.

Anonymous said...

where did you get all those posters ??