When the ordinary became extraordinary

Scuba gal
The Malaysian Insider
Jul 12, 2011

JULY 12 — I’m as ordinary as it gets. I live in a decent-sized condo, in a fairly popular middle-upper class neighbourhood. I married my husband in my early 30s. I’ve got a decent job in a well-regarded private corporation, where I’m middle management.

No children just yet but we’re trying for the average number of two. On the weekends, we do what most Malaysians in our circumstances might do — head to the cinema, have a meal at one of KL’s many malls, catch up with family and friends.

Recently, I had to answer a little profile write-up for work. When asked “what’s your biggest achievement?”, I could think of nothing I’d done so far that qualified. Yes, I’m that ordinary.

This ordinary Malaysian grew up in a normal household. My father was a university lecturer, my mother a secondary school teacher. We weren’t poor, nor were we rich.

Luckily for me, my parents watched their money and saved enough to send me to a good university in the US. They were also fairly staunch Opposition supporters and I grew up apathetic about our government.

I came back after several years away to take care of a sick father. He passed on, I ended up staying. Though I disliked how there was increasing affirmative action for the majority race, it didn’t affect me enough to leave. I got a pretty good job, and my life was comfortable. I made sure I kept myself minimally informed of politics and the development of our country because it made no difference to me and would only upset my even keel.

Several years ago, just before the 2008 political tsunami, things began to change. I felt more and more upset as I saw my younger sister — top scorer, award-winning athlete, board of prefects, captain of her house — being passed over again and again for any sort of educational aid, because we weren’t the right race. And it got worse. Church burnings, the cow head incident, being told that as a Christian I couldn’t use the word “Allah.”

I got more and more angry. And I wanted to talk about it. But I was told by all the powers that be that it wasn’t in our culture to voice dissent or question any “sensitive” issue. In this multi-cultural nation, it’s amazing that we can claim there’s a single type of culture – aren’t our differences in culture and way of life precisely what we sell to the tourists?

But I was still angry, so I’d complain, although only to family members or friends who I knew for a fact had the same opinions as me. Like many Malaysians, I complained about everything – the rise in crime, the lowering education standards, the racist statements of some quarters in government, the inability of the Opposition leaders to see eye-to-eye. I complained all the time. But I didn’t do anything about it. Just like most people. After all, what could I do? It would be too much effort anyway.

And then Bersih 2.0 came along, and I suddenly felt this need to take action. I knew this was the moment to do more than just complain. So I decided I wanted to be a part of it. Was I worried? Heck, yeah! Even up to the morning of July 9th, a part of me was hoping the rally would be cancelled or that my mum would be worried enough by our government’s intimidation tactics to ask me not to go.

Neither happened. With a small group of friends (two Eurasians, one Chinese, two Indians, a Muslim East Malaysian – yes, we were “1 Malaysia”!), we braved the police at our first LRT stop at Taman Bahagia, then at KL Sentral, and at the entrance to Stadium Merdeka, at Dataran Maybank, and finally at Pudu. We faced a stand-off where we were fired at in the compound of Tung Shin hospital (yes, our Health Minister and top cop are both blatant liars). We were trapped by FRU trucks on both ends of the street but finally found a side alley to escape to.

I was terrified throughout the ordeal, knowing and seeing first-hand how our police cared little for the safety of the peaceful, innocent supporters. But it was worth it. Because for the first time in my life, I felt like a real Malaysian. For the first time in my life, I felt united with my fellow citizens regardless of race, religion, age, gender or where we came from. For the first time in my life, I felt I was part of something bigger.

For the first time in my life, I could finally answer the question of what my biggest achievement was: it was to be united with tens of thousands of men and women, in spite of our physical differences, because we held a common belief.

Was it a life-changing experience? It certainly was. Will it be enough to bring about the changes in elections and in the way things are run that we want? I can’t say for sure. But I do know that this ordinary Malaysian is humbled by the many other ordinary Malaysians who believe in something better. And who will stand up for our rights no matter the potential price, but always in a peaceful manner.

I’ve never been prouder to be simply Malaysian.

  1. #1 by for my country1 on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 - 9:10 pm

    Yes! this is for the future of everyone who wanted a truly democratic malaysia.

  2. #2 by tanjong8 on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 - 9:22 pm

    When top level guys look down, they see only shitheads;

    When ordinary guys look up, they see only assholes.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 - 10:07 pm

    Extraordinary becomes ordinary

    If Najib is still reluctant to commit to reform, I am afraid the extraordinary event of street protests will soon become ordinary.

  4. #4 by bruno on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 - 10:38 pm

    Way to go Scuba girl.

    Yes,the HM LTL is a liar.He is a traitor not only to his race.He is a traitor to all Malaysians.How could a man sink so low that he has no pride and dignity left.To come out to lie through his nostrils to defend war criminals.War criminals are people who attacked hospitals and the hapless.

    Under the Geneva Convention it clearly states that warring factions should not and never attacked hospitals.Attacking hospitals is a war crime irresespective of whether it is peacetime or wartime.No excuses given.For a lowdown scum like LTL to publicly lied to protect this heinous crime he should be tried together with them when the time comes.

  5. #5 by vsp on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 - 11:16 pm

    Bersih 2.0 has aroused and unlocked the yen for a clean and fair election. The fuse has already been ignited and the fire of willingness to soldier on with the struggle will be very difficult to extinguish. The silent majority has awaken up to the reality that passivity is not the option anymore. Bersih 2.0 has demonstrated the true quality of 1Malaysia which the regime has found so difficult to instill in the people. The regime has miscalculated and with its usual bluster and self-denial Bersih 3.0 is inevitable. No threats or naked force are ever going to put the genie back inside the bottle.

  6. #6 by passerby on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 - 12:40 am

    What you did was right and courageous and you have inspired every right thinking Malaysian.

    Those were not the police. They are thugs who will not hesitate to use criminal force to beat any Malaysian. The government is run by thieves and corrupt people. All Malaysian must unite to vote them out in the next election.

  7. #7 by baochingtian on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 - 9:13 am

    Thank you Scuba gal for sharing your invaluable experience to all readers. I’m sure that will spur some of us further to be braver in our attempts to achieve what we desired.

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