I started off the day leafing through this week’s issue of The Edge, which features a 56-page special pullout on Iskandar Malaysia, which called it “The New Boomtown”. I have a special interest to it because I was in REHDA at the time when the new economic corridors were launched, and my naive excitement at the prospects of this new metropolis was at that time met with my older and wiser colleagues who preferred to look and see, as we were facing troubles at that time with escalating property prices and KLCC and Mont Kiara at that time . Incidentally, my course on Development Policies will give us exposure on Iskandar again – now nine years after its conception, and today I am much more critical of it than I was back then, for many more reasons than property prices. Incidentally, I’ve not heard of anyone who is moving to Johor for greener pastures. But I suppose we are wooing expatriates from South East Asia, even Singapore, and if so I would have a lot of curiosities to bring forward.
To set the mood for the day with Gadoh, a 2009 production, which has been lying on my table for a couple of weeks since I brought it home from Pusat KOMAS’ Third National Conference on Non-Discrimination last August. Gadoh is a brilliant 70-minute film that effectively and very sharply captures the racial issues of our country, with no apologies. From beginning to end, it is honest, endearing and minces no words. It is idealism and realism put together – in fact, it starts and builds in idealism, and ends in the reality of the difficulties of true unity. As expected, I was misty-eyed throughout the movie.
Next I picked a collection of short films and found Fahmi Reza’s “Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka” (click link to watch the full the 35 minute documentary) immensely intriguing. I do not recall knowing about the People’s Constitution, and even if I did, it must have been a fleeting or passing remark. And I’ve come to realise that there is so much truth about the past that we do not know. Things pushed under the carpet, petty things dramatised, facts reconfigured and truth disfigured.
My thoughts now also stray to the lighter side of things – the Makyung performance, my first, that I saw with a couple of friends at the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. The tale was of the Raja Besar Ho Gading, performed by Kumpulan Makyung Kijang Emas, JKNN Kelantan. It was led by Rosnan Abd Rahman, who led a mesmerising performance. Although I could not fully understand the Kelantanese accent, I could pick out the story – a familiar one of jealousy and betrayal among the princes of the land, and how forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation closes the story. Leaving the best to last, the fluid, muscle-torturing slow movements of the makyung dances were my favourites.
It’s funny where I find myself today. How being a fresh graduate I launched myself into tasting the best of the Western world – whether it be visiting jazz joints, the orchestra and so on. Today I find myself intrigued by “sejarah silam” or old history, and the cultures of this land.
How is Malaysia rich? It is rich in its diversity of culture and peoples. Although the mainstream will find entertainment in what MTV, Billboard, YouTube and mainstream media has to chirp about, digging deeper will unearth the real treasures.
Here’s to freedom of being and respect for the rights of others. Let deep admiration for the other prevail over suspicion and disinterest.