Halcyon Days: The Foreign Patriot

19 August 2019 / Team Ceritalah

“I’ve not seen or spoken to him in years. He still struggles to accept that she’s gone, and I guess he copes by taking his anger out on me.”

In the mid-1990s, 67-year old Anwar lost his wife to illness. His son, who at the time was about to finish secondary school, never got over her death. Today, Anwar doesn’t know where he lives nor what he does. They are well and truly estranged.

Anwar has lived in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur for 41 years. He’s far from a KL native however. Before 1978, Anwar called Medan in Indonesia his home.

“I was a sergeant in the Indonesian army. Unfortunately, I didn’t like a certain iron-fisted dictator and decided to leave.”

In Malaysia, Anwar pursued a variety of different trades. His first job in 1979 was as a salesman at the Campbell Shopping Complex in Dang Wangi. He later found work as a welder in Petaling Jaya, before helping his wife run a café in Ulu Klang. After his wife passed, Anwar drove a taxi for about a decade. Nowadays, he’s a cobbler.

“Things used to be easy. You didn’t look for work, work looked for you. If you had skills, you were set.”

He admits though that this is no longer the case. In fact, Anwar thinks Malaysia in general is in a rut.

“Why? Partly because of the younger generation. In front of people like us, they proclaim their patriotism. But in reality, they don’t care.”

Anwar says genuine national pride is rare amongst younger Malaysians. Many of them he claims are more obsessed with finding a way out of the country rather than trying to make it better.

 

“When our generation fades away, who will be there to pick up the pieces?”

He also worries that intolerance and depravity are creeping into the Malaysian mindset. Increasing racial tension is one example, but more importantly to Anwar, religion is no longer the shining beacon of hope it used to be.

“I don’t think these new clerics and scholars are actually religious. They wear certain clothes and say certain things to seem religious, but in reality, it’s all an act to gain money and adoration. Is this what religion should be about? No wonder young people no longer care!”

Anwar’s passion when speaking about Malaysia was infectious, but also rather bemusing. After all, here was a man who had been born and raised in Indonesia, a fact that made his next statement even more confounding.

“You know what the biggest problem is? Pendatang (foreigners). The country shouldn’t have let so many of them in.”

“But aren’t you a pendatang?” Team Ceritalah retorts.

“I don’t see myself as one. After all, Malays and Indonesians are of the same blood. It’s different with the Bangladeshis or Nepalese for example.”

For all intents and purposes, Anwar sees himself as Malaysian.

“I really love this country, in spite of its flaws. Malaysian culture at its heart is tolerant and relaxed. What more could you ask for?”

We wrap by asking him whether he’s considered retirement.  

“No way! I cannot not work. If at my age you just sit at home and do nothing, your mind and your body start rotting!”