On the 60th anniversary of my homeland’s independence, I find myself recollecting fond memories of my childhood in the Malaysia of my birth. In particular, I recall with great affection, an affliction I acquired from birth, simply by being born Malaysian. It is an affliction I hope I haven’t lost over the years. You see, being born Malaysian made me colour blind and I have remained colour blind all the way through my life but more so till the age of 17, when I had to leave for higher studies abroad.
I was not colour blind to the hues of nature, but to the various shades of people around me. I had no appreciation or understanding of the differences that one’s race can bring about. To me, being Chinese, Indian, Malay or anything else was merely a detail, like perhaps one’s place of birth.
There was never the need to distinguish another individual based upon the colour of his skin. In fact, the only references to the different races I remember are from the warm-hearted jest and camaraderie we shared on the hockey field. In my recollection, even that was always without a hint of malice, or bigotry of any kind. This is the Malaysia that I recollect, cherish, and continue to treasure in my mind.
My nationality was my race. I was and am a Malaysian. I recall my heart being filled with pride when as a head prefect in my primary school I stood up to salute the flag every morning and to sing the national anthem.
When Mokhtar Dahari scored a goal on the soccer field, when Dr Mani Jegatheesan won the 100-meter race, or when Poon Fook Loke took a short corner, I celebrated. The names would change, the sport would change, but they were all my people.
This affliction was common in my generation and I continue to carry this affliction proudly across the world. It made me that much stronger as a person. I love and continue to love my country with a fierce pride. I grew up in a nation that lived in harmony. A nation that proved that we could all be one regardless of race, creed, colour, culture or religion.
Today, I continue to hope for the Malaysia that I was born in to reemerge. In the words of our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman — For I was born in this land and here is where I hope to return to the earth.
Malaysia is my name. The Jalur Gemilang is my badge. And the national anthem is my song. Happy 60th, Malaysia.
Dato Sri Vijay Eswaran