Decided to spend extra one and a half day in KL prior to my training, so I flew in KL the day before our national Independence Day. Little did I know that was exactly when rally Bersih 4.0 (a civil society movement) taken place. Sorry to my fellow Malaysians, I seldom follow national news. And most amusingly, the hostel I booked is located exactly at the heart of the movement. I thought to myself: ‘great!’ As expected, the train was crowded with the supporters dressed in yellow Bersih shirt and I had to push my way through the crowd to get to my hostel. Other than that everything seemed normal to me. But what annoyed me was that my usual eatery outlets were full with the supporters!! I could only imagine the inconveniences experienced by the tourists when they were stranded involuntary by the crowd. I took a few photos here and there, but I was in no way inspired by it. Refused to be associated as either the supporter or protester, I wore a green shirt to safeguard my personal safety in case anything went wrong (you never knew). When the night fell, I decided to stay indoor instead of going anywhere.
Now, here is where the interesting part begun. The hostel I checked in was my usual spot to crash whenever I was in KL. I had previously stayed in 8 bed mixed dorm (they messed up my booking so I had no choice after a late arrival but the room was surprisingly spacious, the only downside was the smelly socks kept in the room), 4 bed female dorm (my preference) and double room before, but this time around I only managed to grab a spot in the 6 bed mixed dorm. Guess what? I met an old friend. The Malaysian Chinese guy, whom I met one year ago while staying in the same mixed dorm in Kota Kinabalu (KK), is now working part-time in the hostel at the counter. I thought I heard him when I was there in June but I was in a hurry to leave that day so I didn’t go up to identify him. Turned out I was right. It was so much fun to see a familiar face again. That aside, the other 4 guests in the mixed dorm were all males – a Japanese, a Chinese from China, a Taiwanese and another Malaysian Chinese. I first talked to the Taiwanese guy. I thought he was a Malaysian who checked in the hostel to take part in the rally. Imagine my shock when he said he is a Taiwanese, tagging along with his Malaysian friends to fight for electoral reform and a clean and fair government. Andddd night before he was sleeping on the street. Once he knew I am a Malaysian and he saw me make no sign of leaving my cozy bed and gadgets, he asked why I was not participating. Was it no spirit of patriotism. I was speechless. Later that night, the Malaysian Chinese guy wanted to check out the Dataran Merdeka (the end point for the movement). I followed him, along with other supporters to arrive at Masjid Jamek where the crowd gathered before moving along to Dataran Merdeka. I saw the streets turn yellow and faces of eagerness albeit long days for most of them. I was not sure how I should feel about it. On one hand, I was impressed with their determination, I got to salute them to do their part while some of us either didn’t care or had no courage for change. On another hand, I thought they were just naive and questioned the effectiveness of such movement. We left soon after. Back to the hostel, four of us excluding the Japanese lounged at the common area. Before long, we engaged in heated discussion on the movement. The Taiwanese and the Malaysian Chinese were optimistic that such a rally was exactly needed to propel a democratic country to greater heights. Whereby, the Chinese and I were pessimists who questioned the magnitude of impact such movement could make, especially to shake the long-standing corrupted government. The Chinese argued that for any revolution to happen, it involved deaths of many including civilians. I shared the same sentiment, citing that Malaysians in general aren’t desperate enough for such drastic measures to happen because they are slaves to their debts and they wouldn’t go extra miles at the expense of their current comfort. People would go on with their normal lives once the rally was over. But we both agreed that the world and nation need more idealistic people like them.
For the first time, I finally found the male version of me who is self-centered and skeptical of everything. The similarity between our values and beliefs got even more apparent as the night progressed. At the same time, they were such a great contrast to the other two individuals and the disparity even extended to how we behave at workplace. The Malaysian Chinese (in his mid forties) was an engineer in managerial position until he decided to quit the profession to rest half year ago. Whereby, the Chinese guy (in his early thirties) is a salesman in managerial position for their national oil company. Well, he was keeping a huge chunks of the traveling and housing allowance given by company by staying in a backpacker hostel paying less than RM30 per night everytime during his business trip to KL. Lol. Both of them are friends, also long-term guests of the hostel. When the Chinese guy and I exchanged views, we lamented that no one could understand the pain we have to go through – that we have ambitions but no patience. We want success, we want results fast by cutting corners here and there. That our friends and relatives only see the positive sides – our cushy jobs with the national oil companies and decent pay etc. but never our frustrations for having to taking shit from higher ups and ground floor & having no guts to step out of comfort zone to take up other jobs because that could easily mean taking a pay cut. Although the Malaysian Chinese guy advised us to take one step at a time and put in 110% efforts and sincerity in everything we do based on his experience, we acknowledge the validity of his points, just that we simply aren’t committed enough to wait till the end of the day to reap the rewards of our 110% hard work. Aha, the generation gap. The Chinese guy then shared with me the differences between Chinese and Malaysian culture and the ways we do business. We agreed that there are so many things at work or in the country that are simply beyond our control, that it is best we keep our head down and merely focus on doing our part well hoping our income can increase, subsequently lead to better standards of living (the only thing we care now).
It was definitely one of the bizarre nights. Two different groups of individuals arguing on different set of value systems. I found someone who is exactly like me and shares my sentiments regarding so many things (i.e. how women still have it harder in climbing today’s career ladder). I guess I felt pretty lonely, to be on my own with all my views. Now I felt relief after talking them out, knowing that I wasn’t alone after all.
P/S: The next morning when I was asked why I was not joining the Independence Day parades at Dataran Merdeka, I struggled to give the best reason I could think of at the moment “love for the country is sometimes best kept in the heart, not necessarily to be demonstrated through actions”. The Chinese guy laughed upon hearing that. Too bad I had to check out exactly the same morning. I wish three of us could meet again whenever I am in KL next.