Friday, 10 August 2012

We've got our Gold, thank you very much.

It’s Olympic season, and it just seems to be the time to talk about national pride.

Malaysia is my home; indeed it is where my family tree took root almost a hundred years ago, and where we continue to live and grow to this day. That is enough reason for us to love it as our own, and to come home to it over and over again.

Saying that, my sense of national pride is fluid – its comes and goes (oh alright, let's be honest; it 'goes' more than it 'comes'!), swayed this way or the other, depending on either the latest national policy (it seems our soil is fertile enough for new policies to be born at breakneck speed), contact with socially unacceptable behaviour (hold the door open already, use your indicator already, throw it in the bin already, join the queue already, it’s a long list, yes), the English-Malay debate (someone just seems to be flipping a coin with that one), and the media’s (mis)representation of the rallies for clean elections (no parentheses should be required here – we are all too familiar with this one).

But there are some days, some days.

Badminton days, mostly.

I would like to say that the children of Malaysia are given badminton racquets along with their pacifiers, or that their cribs are laced with badminton nets – but that would be a bit of an exaggeration. A more honest comparison would be to say it is what rugby is to the Kiwis, baseball to the Americans, cricket to the Indians, and football to… well… a lot of the world these days! 

My brother and I, like most other children in our neighbourhood, spent almost every childhood evening smashing shuttles over the gate (our net equivalent) at our Mamma. As a family we huddle in front of the TV during the Thomas Cup, at the edge of our seats, in nail-biting tension. We exchange insults with our loving Indonesian helpers whenever our nations meet on the court. We continue to stay glued, as we battle our greatest others – Denmark, Indonesia, and of late, China. 

Through all the medals (or lack thereof), the annoying commentators, the pumping fists of victory, the awful shuttling,  the Anak-anak Sidek comics – we remain glued. SMASH! is just another word in our local tongue.

If you ask me about who plays, who wins, and the final scores, I will scrunch up my face and say: I have no idea. The passion is born and lives in the few minutes of a game, the exhilaration (or disappointment, as it may) may stick around for longer. 

You see, for me it is not about who, or when, or by how much. It is the flame of the moment; a moment of heartfelt Malaysianness. In that moment, we are no longer the Alis, Balas and Chongs of our primary school textbooks; we are Malaysians. And in that moment, it matters not whose fingers grip the racket; for our eyes are fixed on the flag that is printed on the player's shirt.

So it would be pretty accurate to say that my sense of national pride is heavily concentrated in a court measuring 20’ x 44’.

I am irrational in these moments. It is not about who the better player is, don’t be silly. Only one team deserves to win when we play: well, ours, of course. We may be brilliant, or utterly rubbish. This game is ours, you blasted (insert name of opposing team here).


Enter Lee Chong Wei. A hero in every Malaysian heart, but plagued with his own demons of late. The most painful (for him, anyway) being the final Olympic singles match just Sunday gone. 

Due to unavoidable circumstances (or poor planning, have your pick), I was travelling during the time of the match (how will I ever forgive myself), AND was additionally crippled with remaining battery power of 8% on my phone. My wonderful girlfriends kept me updated and the phone survived through the first set, which we won, and died shortly after. The agony I went through for the rest of the journey, I will not attempt to describe. I arrived home just in time to watch the other guy receive the gold medal.

Now I too had joined many other Malaysians and joked about a public holiday (which we would have expected had we won our first ever gold in the Olympics), and free ice-cream (which Baskin Robbins pledged to us). But that was all pre-match fun. The rules change once the first shuttle is delivered – the jokes end and the irrationality takes over. 

He had tears in his eyes when he lost the match, and this Malaysian nation of mine cried with him. I cannot speak for my entire country – I do not know what their tears represented. But this is true of my tears, and of the tears of my loved ones.

We didn't cry with him, over a lost medal. Rather we cried for him, as a Malaysian who felt that he had his nation's hopes on his shoulders; a nation he thought had let down.

It was this great dream of his, to have Negaraku echo through the walls of Wembley. It was this great dream of his, to bring a gold medal home to us. And when he didn't, he felt that he owed us an apology.

Well let me tell you this, mister. Take your apology back, we don’t want it. And this medal you speak of, well we don’t want that either. We will take the one you have brought home any day, because it comes with the one thing that seems to have unified this country much, much more than any form of 1Malaysia propaganda – you.

All we see is gold.
Watch this videoespecially from 3.42 onwards.

Bursting pride – that is what we feel towards you, Lee Chong Wei. Chest-expanding, rib-popping, heart-soaring, pride. This ignition of spirit is a philosopher’s stone of sorts - it takes the silver you hold, and turns it into gold.

I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed with a huge smile. Every post and comment (bar those from a few gits who have been shortlisted for ‘unfriending’ – I warned you of my irrationality) congratulated you and showered you with support. They say it was as if you played to a home crowd; and what greater salute is there when the Games take place so, so far away from home?

Welcome home, fellow Malaysian. I hope you have your ears open, for there is this cheer so loud, it drowns the voices of the 1 billion from further east, and it is for you.

You are our gold, LCW, and we need no other medal.



Harkiren Kaur said...

Here's to our latest hero, Pandelela Rinong! Sometimes you have to just make the jump and see what comes :)

Azizulhasni Awang, we're rooting for you too. Stay on track!

Autar Singh said...

They say feelings are difficult to share in words. However, you prove them all wrong with this piece. You have captured the feelings of all Malaysians in these brilliant words. Stay Blessed always and keep sharing...

Anonymous said...

Beautifully expressed, Harkiren! One of the news articles I was reading even went as far as to state that DLCW missing out on the gold was better than if he had won it because although a win would have sparked a different kind of jubilation, the loss in hindsight, saw us appreciating his never-say-die spirit and determination even more so ;) ~ TKM

Dalip Singh said...

And yes, I knew you'd make a comeback! You've one fan right here. Thank you phenji :D