Let’s get one thing straight. Here’s the immediate reaction whenever anything Malaysian goes onto an international platform.
Oh crap we did something embarrassing again. Did someone say something stupid? Did The Bung hail Stalin now? Did someone try to outdo Raja Bomoh & gang? Are we banning cats with moustaches now?
Given our track record, these are unfortunately not too far from reality. But once in a while, we get the good ones that make you go, phwoar Malaysia memang boleh. And what better way to spark this national pride than with a Google Doodle?
Yesterday, Google celebrated Mokhtar Dahari a.k.a. Supermokh’s 61st birthday with a beautifully illustrated doodle which made headlines everywhere. While our friends at Google Malaysia told CILISOS that Supermokh was only visible to Malaysians and the rest of the world saw the Philae Lander robot, it’s still a pretty big deal.
It’s universally known that anything Google-related IS the shiznit. Everything is Google, and Google is everything. Our friend also told us that “Google Doodles aim to celebrate interesting events that reflect Google’s personality and love for innovation.” So whenever we get a Malaysian doodle, we. go. nuts.
While news sites and blogs wrote about Supermokh yesterday – from his achievements as one of Asia’s greatest footballers to his death after a 3-year battle with motor neurone disease – it was Malaysian Digest which reminded us that Google Doodles never fail to remind us of what we’ve been missing: the true pride of Malaysia.
And that’s exactly the tone we’d like to end our week with.
From our Bapa Kemerdekaan to P.Ramlee, Nicol David to Marina Mahatir, we sometimes forget that we’re overflowing with some of the most talented, passionate, moderate, and progressive individuals that make us proud to be Malaysians.
While the list can go on and on and on, here are four other inspiring fellow rakyats who, like Supermokh, we might’ve overlooked in our daily lives.
P/S: Wanna suggest more? Comment below or send in your proposal directly to Google! Email [email protected] 🙂
1. Leftenan Adnan bin Saidi
Why is history always such a snoozefest for people? We guess when you’re reading your Sejarah textbook, we don’t feel much. But what if we imagined us living through it? What would it have been like to fight battles during the Japanese Occupation? That’s how Leftenan Adnan’s story came alive for us.
Adnan bin Saidi was a Kajang boy. At 18, he enlisted in the Royal Malay Regiment. He married Sofiah Fakir, a schoolteacher, after his promotion to 2nd lieutenant and the family moved to Singapore for. But within weeks, the Japanese invaded and Adnan quickly sent his pregnant wife and 2 small children back to Kajang.
“My father did not talk a lot. He was a firm man and believed in discipline. He was always serious and fierce… yet had a good heart. There seemed to be a ‘light’ illuminating his face.” – Mokhtar Adnan, Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi and The Malay Regiment
Adnan led his platoon in defense of Bukit Chandu, Singapore against Japanese troops. He is credited as the soldier who caught disguised ‘Indian troops’ marching in error, four abreast (Japanese marching style) instead of three (British style). The Battle of Pasir Panjang lasted from 12 to 14 February 1942.
“The Malays started to fight the Japanese on Reformatory Road. They had dug slit trenches but they didn’t have a lot of weapons. They started fighting the Japanese just with rifles virtually. And when the Japanese broke through them, the Malays took to them with bayonets, they put bayonets on the rifles and with a bayonet charge they drove the Japanese back across Reformatory Road. They were very brave people. They fought very hard, but for every Malay soldier there was about 10 or 12 Japanese soldiers. So it was inevitable what was going to happen.” – Lieutenant Penrod V. Dean, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, OoCities
Adnan himself took several bullets and shrapnel and his arm was broken but he refused to stand down. After the battle was lost, Japanese soldiers tied him to a cherry tree and bayoneted him to death. So heartbreaking, right?
Leftenan Adnan’s story was also made into a movie. One of the memories Malaysians will always have were his words:
“Biar putih tulang, jangan putih mata.” – Leftenan Adnan bin Saidi
Superman and Batman? They’re just comic characters. But Leftenan Adnan? He fought for you and I. He was a true hero.
2. Karpal Singh
When news of Karpal’s death came out, we remember feeling overwhelmed with shock. Karpal Singh?! The Tiger of Jelutong?! You never expect it to happen to people who are as tough as nails, and Karpal was tougher. We Googled up his history to see if he started out like one of ‘the little men’. Turns out, he kinda did.
Karpal was born in Georgetown, Penang on 28 June 1940. His dad, Ram, was a watchman who also had a few cows. Then one day when he was a teenager helping his dad herd the cows, he met his wife, Gurmit Kaur, who was just a little girl at the time. “Much later, after I finished my studies, I met her at the temple and at the library, and the little girl was all grown up,” Karpal told The Star. “Back then, there was a bit of opposition. Her family was okay, but my family was stubborn. Of course, once the first son came along, order was quickly restored!”
Karpal studied Bachelor of Law at the University of Singapore but he took 7 years to graduate because he was “playful and didn’t attend classes.” After failing his final year courses, the dean sat him down at the front of the class and according to Karpal, “I couldn’t play the fool anymore and I passed my exams accordingly!” Bah, this is Karpal, we thought, he would have made it in the end like all the other great people before him.
And when his rival Datuk Seri Samy Vellu dubbed himself the ‘Hindu lion’, Karpal responded “He could be the lion, and I could be the tiger, because there are no lions in Malaysia!” Heart him more! He was also the first lawyer who was charged under the Sedition Act in 2000 in court according to The Malay Mail. It was because he made this controversial statement:
“It could well be that someone out there wants to get rid of him… even to the extent of murder… I suspect people in high places are responsible for this situation,” Karpal Singh, The Malay Mail
If you ask us, that’s true Karpalism!
3. Irene Fernandez
Very recently, we went to the national library to look through some random documents. We came across a speech by Irene back in the 70’s, where she spoke to empower women, putting down the exploitation of women consumers. (Back then, they were considered ‘the modernists’. Who said your momma was old fashioned? Oh, the fun in relatives!)
Even by just reading the speech, with no background music or a dynamic, powerful voice energising our thoughts and flaming our passion, we found our bulu roma going up. We could feel her passion through the aged printout, every point full of substance and fire. And with the realisation that she carried this flame, this care for the rights of people all through the years, left us heartbroken that another one of ‘the good ones’ bit the dust.
Known for having a strong voice in protecting the rights of the less fortunate, Irene was a PKR supreme council member and the director/co-founder of Tenanganita (an NGO for migrant workers and refugees). Her peers also regarded her as someone with compassion and a sense of humour.
“She once told me, ‘Right is right. We must fight for rights of all.’ She was a giant among heroes in the country. She has left a huge gap.” – Dr Hartini Zainuddin, founder of Rumah Nur Salam
Dubbed Malaysia’s Joan of Arc, she was also charged with ‘maliciously publishing false news’ for publishing a report on the abusive, torturous and dehumanising conditions of migrant workers in detention centres. The 13-year battle saw her getting convicted to one year’s imprisonment and even barred her from standing as a parliamentary candidate. But at the end, the High Court overturned her earlier conviction and acquitted her.
On 31st March 2014, the nation woke to news of her passing due to a heart failure, of which we saw waves of sadness for the loss of a “remarkable and irreplaceable woman, a towering and selfless Malaysian who devoted her life to helping the helpless, comforting the exploited and soothing the wounds of the tortured in a once bright place that is blackened by corruption and that has lost its way.” (Steve Oh, MalaysiaKini)
Truly, one of ‘the good ones’.
4. Zeti Akhtar Aziz
For someone who is not at all ejumacated in Malaysian politics and finance (talking about me, not ugaiz k), my response to this name was… Zeti who?
“This one la, Lyds!” Jolyn said, showing me the RM1 note with Zeti’s signature on it.
So, who’s Zeti? That’s 67-year-old Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz, actually… And she’s the current governor of Bank Negara, holding the position since year 2000. She’s also the first woman to wear those shoes, too. She was named one of the world’s best central bank chief by Global Finance magazine in 2009, and was named ‘Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah 1432H’ at the ‘Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah’ award, also the first woman in the celebration’s 24-year history. She’s also the Chairman of the Asian Institute of Finance, and was even nominated to head the super prestigious International Monetary Fund in 2011.
Tan Sri Zeti was also selected as a member of the United Nations Commission of Experts to guide the world’s monetary and financial system. (!!!)
Big words, big names, but what do they all mean?
As a central banker, she’s gotta basically make sure that the money world revolves smoothly. According to The Choice, a now-defunct online magazine, she needs to produce the right level of money supply for the economy to function, regulate credit and interest rates, and watch up for inflation and deflation to adjust the money in circulation and the exchange rate too.
“[The role of Tan Sri Zeti as a central banker is like] keeping fifty flaming torches in the air for fifteen minutes while being pinned down by sniper fire.” – The Choice
That’s a heavy burden, dude. And while you may think, “Hah!! Malaysian economy? We’re going down the drain yo!”, get this. She’s had key roles in…
- recovering the Malaysian financial system and economy during the Asian Financial Crisis
- the formation and implementation of two consecutive 10-year plans for our financial system to develop
- putting Malaysia at the forefront of global Islamic finance, causing a helluva domestic and foreign Islamic investors.
In a nutshell, Tan Sri Zeti is seen as a financial genius who has helped stabilize and develop our country’s economy.
5. Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid
The arts scene in Malaysia may not be as self-sustaining as New York, but we’ve got a pretty solid foot in the door. Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, more profoundly known as Lat, is our country’s most popular cartoonist. Some of his popular works such as ‘Kampung Boy’ and ‘Town Boy’ have shed light to the world about our humble kampungs and what’s it like growing up in such an environment. They remind us about the simple things, that there’s so much life and beauty in the little stuff we overlook. He’s also got a way to illustrate our flaws with a touch of humour.
A datuk in his own right, an award-winning cartoonist, and well-respected by some of the most prominent cartoonists around the world… What’s his story like?
If you’ve followed his work, you’ll definitely know that Lat was no city boy at the start. Literally a kampung boy from Ipoh, Lat spent 11 years in the green countryside before moving to the urban streets of KL. To help put food on the table for his family, he contributed cartoon strips to publications, and by the age of 13, Lat managed to publish his first comic book – ‘Tiga Sekawan’. (What were we doing at 13??)
Although he failed academically in sekolah menegah, life didn’t turn out too badly for him. He found a job as a newspaper crime reporter, a job which he took of necessity instead of choice. But he deemed himself a failure there too, as his “breathtakingly detailed, lurid and graphically gory descriptions” needed much editing, much to the frustration of the editors, we assume.
But somehow, his comic on circumcision was picked up by HK-based Asia Magazine and garnered the praises of NST’s then editor-in-chief. In essence, it kickstarted his career as a full-time cartoonist for newspaper and the publishing of his incredible works of art, leading him to where he is today.
Now a semi-retired cartoonist back in his kampung, Lat’s works continue to impress his readers – young or old, Malaysian or not – wouldn’t a doodle be so apt for a cartoonist like him?
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Our country may be famous for more ridiculous stuff than we’d like, and naturally these are the things that people love harping on, causing us to forget the true beauty that we possess. So, as we end this crazy week, we’ll leave you with one of our favourite Malay phrases –
“Buang yang keruh, ambil yang jernih.”
This article was co-written with New Jo-Lyn