A place to call home
HOME, sweet home! The lush green landscape rises to greet me at my small window as the plane banks right to approach the runway at KLIA. Outside, I bask in the warm tropical air as I get into a taxi. What a relief it is as my wife and I return from cold, cold Hong Kong where we visited our newborn grandson.
Tonight, we will probably eat a bowl of laksa; tomorrow perhaps a nasi lemak, followed by teh tarik and roti canai under the tropical sky. How we love the lifestyle and food of this land we call home! I grew up spinning tops, flying kites and kicking a football with friends of different races in this beloved land.
My parents and grandparents endured the Japanese Occupation and resisted the Communist Insurgency. When I grew up, I served the nation for 30 years teaching in rural schools. I gave extra classes to weaker students without any payment. I taught not just academic lessons, but lessons about life and hard work, respect and tolerance.
Over the years, we tolerated many negative things as well – inefficiency, excuses. Many a time, the train we were expecting in 15 minutes failed to show up without an explanation, we accepted it, and tolerated another half hour of waiting.
In Hong Kong, I stepped onto the platform just in time to miss my train. Over the PA system, it was announced that the next train would arrive in two minutes. I smiled sceptically to myself.
To my utter amazement, the next train arrived sharp on the dot, all eight coaches of them!
There were 10 such train lines, serving no less than 85 stations. No wonder I never heard any complaints of traffic jam, as commuters could estimate their time to and from the home, office or favourite restaurant to the dot. Trains run late into the night with no problem. One felt safe walking alone even at night. Snatch thieves were unheard of.
Malls were spick and span, uniformed maintenance workers were well respected as people who helped to keep the place clean.
On my last trip, I was amazed to see a pretty lady, elegantly dressed in winter clothes, bending down to pick up a piece of tissue paper someone else had dropped, and disposing it in the bin.
Over TV, I heard public servants debate in gentlemanly fashion, brainstorming over education policies and plans for the city.
My mind couldn’t help but flash back to my own homeland. With sadness, I notice that the progress which had been much talked about and which I had eagerly awaited since the Day of Independence as a seven-year-old has been elusive. Yet, this is the only home I know, and where I expect to be buried one day.
I feel sorry for my son though. I can sense his uncertainty. Like me, he had grown up spinning tops and flying kites, and enjoying his teh tarik and nasi lemak.
But after six years in Hong Kong where he had tasted efficiency and progress, and where hard work is rewarded, it will be difficult for him to come back to live here.
My grandson is too young to know. I do not know whether he will ever spin a top or fly a kite. But I pray to God everyday that better minds will prevail, prejudice will be removed, racial harmony restored, to make this land beautiful again.
Then perhaps I will have that chance to teach my grandson how to spin a top before I grow too old.
The writer with his newborn grandson.