When I returned to Malaysia after my Ph.D., people looked at me funnily and asked why I didn’t remain overseas. My answer to them was simple: my family is here.
For our 57th Hari Merdeka, Maxis and Digi have come up with ads that promote Malaysia as a family. When I watched them, one made me laugh out loud and the other moved me to tears. [Watch the ads at the end of this blogpost.]
The past few years have been very challenging for us here in Malaysia. I have tried to remain positive and hopeful despite the political battle cries, the droughts and haze that seemed not to have a solution, and most recently, planes that go missing or are bombed out of the sky. It hasn’t been easy to remain positive.
Most disturbing for me as a relationship therapist is the negative racial and religious news by which I am constantly barraged on social media, giving me the sense that Malaysians just hate each other. Strangely, I don’t actually experience this negativity and hatred out on the street. I get along fine with everyone in my social circles and on the streets. I get calls from clients and clinicians of all races and religions for service or professional collaboration. In fact, where I work (in Desa Sri Hartamas), I have build up a community of relationships with many of the businesses I frequent. I often “macha” with the parking lot attendants, with them saluting me when I greet them with my limited yet polished Tamil phrases.
People naysay that the economy in Malaysia is doomed because of its social policies. But my work continues to grow and so does the work of my associates and interns, to the point where we have added a new branch.
So, is Malaysia really that bad off? Or are we subjecting ourselves to some kind of negative social haze over this country that continues to give too much credence to a few fringe voices? Voices that seek to attack rather than to understand the other? Voices fuelled more by anger (masking fear) than by love and hope?
I don’t normally promote corporations, but Maxis and Digi have done well this Merdeka day. Their ads have reminded me that Malaysia has so much to offer socially that I do not see in developed countries. It is true. We are, indeed, family. A big, large one. I don’t experience the same feeling of family in the US, in Canada, in UK, in Japan… ok lah, maybe Singapore also got same family feeling.
As a family therapist, I heartily applaud these ads — sure, make some money out of them too, it’s good for the economy! A company that makes money and does good at the same time will always have my support.
What I am most deeply moved by is that Malaysians have responded really positively to these ads (see article in The Star). It shows that we resonate deeply as a society to this idea, this psyche: we are family.
So, to those who ask me why I came back to Malaysia? Despite the challenges, if the majority of Malaysians can say “yes” to family, then I believe there is hope. And I want to be a part of that hope to make us an even better family… as a macha, a bro, a taiko, and even an uncle, since I am old enough to be one.
Selamat Hari Merdeka, Malaysia!
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