Fatimah Alwee, 70, interviewed by Aziff Azuddin.
At the time of Merdeka, I was fourteen. The celebration wasn’t anything grand so I guess all the joy was going on in town. My brothers were excited about going to the field and celebrating. My sisters and I, we stayed at home.
Around the time we achieved Merdeka, everything was British-ruled: the school, principal, and the teachers. It was still under the colony. Of course, the times then and now are incomparable. We’ve modernised a lot. There are plenty of people entering Malaysia to a point where it looks like we’re a different country. We’re moving forward with times.
Pre-Merdeka, there wasn’t anything special, nothing to look forward to and life was lived day to day. It was only after Merdeka did we see changes.
Especially in terms of education. There were more schools, more opportunities and a lot of people left for overseas. In comparison, now, you have a lot of choices. All you have to do is just pick and everything is given to you. I suppose that’s what independence is about. When you’re on your own, you make your own choices.
You have Prime Ministers who have introduce new things for us to look forward to. Every day becomes different. Then, my life in the village, it was a routine: you go to school, the mosque and then home. The mosque wasn’t big in those days either.
I suppose that’s what independence is about. When you’re on your own, you make your own choices.
With open markets these days, you can get anything. Then, you could only get what was within your surroundings. Everyone practically plant and rear most of their own food, like vegetables.
It isn’t only missionary schools. There was only then madrasahs and Malay schools. The choices we had then were limited.
Now, even the elderly like myself can attend madrasahs to learn religion and it is with teachers who are university graduates and well learned. Back then, your religious teachers were those who selected among themselves, taught one another within the community.
In school, when it came to celebrating – I only heard about Merdeka from Tok Abah (my father), something about going to the field to greet Tunku Abdul Rahman. In school, I suppose it was because I was still young, we didn’t understand much of what was going on. What I recall was that the seniors were holding many different competitions.
There was a flag designing competition. A drawing competition. They drew photos of the British Prime Minister and they drew Tunku Abdul Rahman. For us juniors, we were observing and just watching as it went on.
“What are they doing? Oh, it’s to celebrate Merdeka.”
It was only then did I realize we were celebrating Merdeka, 31st of August 1957.
We’ve worked hard to gain our independence and it was worth it. Our lives have changed and we’ve gained so much. All you have to do is just look at what we’ve achieved down the road.
Raymond Tan, 76, interviewed by Sherry Israel.
I’ve stayed in KL for over 50 years. I used to stay in a two room flat at Old Klang Road.
I was a salesman selling Dutch baby milk. Because of recession, I was let go because they cannot employ so many salesmen. So, I looked for a job in a foreign bank. I worked for 30 years and retired in 1994. The bank was a steady job, I had to take care of my family. I was in the customer service.
I was invited by a police friend to witness the celebration at Stadium Merdeka. There were a lot of people there and the stadium was full. We were really happy because we just attained independence from the British. We shouted, Merdeka! Merdeka! There were also lots of fireworks in the sky.
As a nation progress, everything is computerised. During my time, there was no internet, nothing.
As a nation progress, everything is computerised. During my time, there was no internet, nothing. You wanna watch TV also don’t have. Everything change already. But that’s life la.
Malaysians today are much smarter. During my time, not much progress. As a nation grows year by year, people also improve. Malaysia is one of the best in the world. The people are progressing very well.
Now, the younger generation has more freedom. During my time, we don’t have so much freedom. Nowadays, you see all the children are born lucky, they have everything. They even have handphones and all that, even internet to play.
Before is good, not so crowded. Now everything change already after so many years. Of course la, when the nation progress ah you’re bound to have all this kind of things – so many murders, robberies, this and that.