Love letter to Malaysia

It’s Malaysia Day, so I thought this post to be pretty apt.

I like to say that I grew up in Malaysia. Although I landed in the country when I was just shy of 16, my years there have by far been the most significant of my life. I was a very different person when I landed in Malaysia, and I was a very different person when I left it as well.

Yes, Pakistan is my home. But apart from my extended family (and the delicious cuisine), I don’t feel like there’s anything left there for me to go back to.

With Malaysia, I feel the opposite.

I grew up there. I overcame so much during my first year there, and the subsequent years that followed. And because of that fact alone, I believe, I am the person I am today. If not for Malaysia…I think I would be a more subdued, narrow-minded person. Of course, I still am those adjectives in some ways, but I’ve been attempting overcoming that as well. It’s a process, I guess.

Apart from my first year in Malaysia, I think the diverse environment in the country too had a major impact on me. I made friends from different backgrounds, races, countries; and with them, my mind found space to wander, instead of being crushed in the feeling entrapment I’d felt for many years prior. One particular person is to thank for the major chunk of this…growth, but even for having the opportunity to meet them, I thank Malaysia.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve suffered in Malaysia as well. I’ve been in classrooms and group projects where my fellow classmates have refused to speak a word of English; I’ve been in situations where salespeople have been snickering in Malay about me, as I stand right in front of them; situations where I’ve encountered actual racism, or seen another suffering from it. And, after spending close to a decade in the country, even more years than many Malaysians I know themselves, Malaysia disappointed me. In Malaysia, I’ve always felt like an outsider. Which is fine, I guess, since I am a foreigner, in fact.

And yet, and yet.

Malaysia is what I’m going back to.

I owe the country a lot; I owe my parents to bringing me to Malaysia, a lot. My personality, my dreams, my goals, my eventual independence, my life-long friendships and relationships, all formed while I was in Malaysia, due to the environment and people I surrounded myself with. I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve learnt. I’ve transformed from a girl into a woman in Malaysia. I’ve held a dependent pass, a student pass and an employment pass – all in Malaysia. Need I elaborate more?

I leave for Malaysia once again next week (iA), permanently. And I ponder on my feelings in regards to it the next time I depart. Until then –

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