Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Offsprings of the Trade Winds

Offsprings of the Trade Winds

I'm trying to get used to life in Malaysia. I have to accept a lower standard of courtesy and politeness than what I'm used to in Indonesia. Malaysians are generally a warm and friendly lot but at times I feel the customer service here leaves a lot to be desired.

In Jakarta I'm used to greeting the taxi driver everytime I hop into a cab. I usually get a cheerful reply. In Malaysia and Singapore, sometimes you get stoned silence; you can never even be sure if the cab driver even got your destination correctly. There's a tendency here to treat people with more suspicion.

Perhaps that's understandable. The kind of crimes that I read daily in the papers here makes me feel worried about the way our society is heading. Hopefully this Khidmat Negara (National Service) thing is good for the new generation of Malaysians. I remember when I was a Form Four student--twenty years ago--I wrote in one of my school Bahasa Malaysia "karangan" (essay), suggesting National Service as one of the ways to counter crime and to instill patriotism among the youths. Little did I know one day it would really happen. I think I would have loved to participate in one had it been available during my time.

It is still too early to tell if this present initiative will be a success. I think parents should give it more support. There should be pride associated with being selected to participate in Khidmat Negara. Many now see it as a hindrance and a waste of time. Parents prefer to shove their children into matriculation or pre-university classes and gain some headway in the paper-chase. It is sad indeed if education comes down to that.

Malaysia is a blessed land. I always tell my Indonesian friends that Malaysia is lucky not to have gone through the kind of upheavals that Indonesia has. I fear the younger generation do not realise how lucky they are to inherit a country that is strife-free and endowed with rich natural resources. We are also shielded from earthquakes and other natural disasters.

For centuries the trade winds have brought prosperity to our land--Arab and Indian merchants from the West and Chinese from the East. Our fengshui is very good indeed. The Straits of Malacca is like a funnel that channeled all the wealth of commerce to our land. Ad we Malaysians--the offsprings of the trade winds--must learn to make ourselves its worthy inheritors.

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