I am a really proud Malaysian.
Honestly, I never always used to be like that. I had a turbulent young adulthood with a very tiny sense of patriotism.
I had no idea how it felt like to be a patriot and the hours of Pendidikan Moral and Sejarah back at school never really helped much even though I aced both subjects in SPM.
It was only when I left for the UK that I began to understand what being a Malaysian really meant.
There I was heading to UCL, the 3rd oldest university in the UK (after Oxford and Cambridge) off to study Economics at a faculty full of students from all over the world. I made friends with British, Americans, Russians, Israelis, Japanese... they came from all over the world to represent their respective countries in that faculty. I on the other hand, came along with 4 Malaysians to represent Malaysia.
It is only when you sit in a room full of people from all over the world that your national identity suddenly comes closer to heart.
People would ask me where I was from and whenever I said "Malaysia", nobody ever said "Where's that?"
They all nodded their heads and often said something like
"Oh I love your twin towers!!! That has got to be the most beautiful building on the planet!".
It is at moments like this that I began to feel proud of where I came from.
Then there were the friends I hung out with.
There were the two nice Singaporean girls there that I met in my first year. The first Hong Kong girl I met in my lecture that I almost fell for. And even the first Japanese I met when I was there, his name is Koichi. Yes, my reaction in the picture came right after I said.
"HOLY SHIT YOU'RE A JAPANESE!!! I'VE HEARD SO MUCH ABOUT YOU!!!"
Then there was the group of Asians that I hung out with. Some of us were from China, some from Singapore, some from Hong Kong, and one of my very best friends Hasan, from the middle-east.
But being 10,000 KM away from home, sometimes it feels good to be around a group of Malaysians... to talk or even curse like a Malaysian.
People that will understand you when you say "Oi!!! Pundek!!!"
And for that I had a friend or two like Michelle who went to London with me all the way from Penang. Or Alina Rashid, one of my best friends back at UCL. And a group of friends that followed me to London right after we finished our A-levels here at Help Institute.
I remember this very moment when the group of us Malaysians stood in this picture in Leicester Square. It was only a few months since we all touched down in London and we were walking around Leicester Square.
One of us hustled and said
"THIS IS THE FAMOUS LEICESTER SQUARE!!! LETS TAKE A PIC HERE TO MARK OUR ARRIVAL!!!"
And take a picture we did.
I spent 3 years in London with these friends of mine. 3 years sounds like a long time but it sure felt very short. Before I knew it, the time came for us to start making plans about what to do after graduation.
Many of my friends were adamant about finding a job and staying in the UK.
But my mind was clear from the start. I wanted to go home.
Even my friends back home were shocked when I told them that. "Why? Why do you want to come back here? Life there is so much better, better standard of living, cold weather, equal rights.. you name it!".
I admitted that the dear country that brought us up was not perfect.
But that just made me want to go back even more to somehow, make a change. It didn't matter if I would be earning in Ringgit instead of pounds. It didn't matter.
What mattered was that I went overseas to find myself... and now that I had found myself it was time to go home.
I did come home and along with Ming, we started Nuffnang which is something Malaysian that has caught the eyes of even those on other side of the world.
I really am proud to be Malaysian... I am. So when one of my business associates-cum-friend Chan, the CEO of Exabytes told me about his company's Merdeka initiatives I offered myself to help, which is why you see a little Merdeka logo at the bottom right of my blog. Sure, the nice Chan gave another incentive for people to support the cause by giving away prizes like a Sony Ericsson Phone or a Logitech Wireless Mouse & Keyboard.
But as for me... being Malaysian is enough to support any initiative like that.
Dear Malaysia... it feels good to be home.