Aku sehelai Jalur Gemilang

In reminiscing when most Malaysian primary school children would compose an autobiography as an inanimate object, we write about life as the Jalur Gemilang in conjunction with the Merdeka Day celebration.

I am Jalur Gemilang. I was born in a small printing factory in Balakong, some 15km from the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

The minute I opened my eyes, I saw a gentleman who was carefully packing flags as he was talking to a young girl, I believe his daughter, over WhatsApp video in Bangladeshi.

I was neatly packed in a transparent plastic sheet and joined several other ‘newborns’ in a box. Some workers later picked us up and placed us in a van, where there were some discoloured and torn Jalur Gemilang.

“Listen up, newbies,” said discoloured Uncle JG.

“You will be sent to a stationery shop in Petaling Jaya. Your task is to proudly display your colours. Regardless the situation, be proud of who you are. You are more than just a piece of cloth.”

“Stay safe young ones. And make us proud!”

I was motivated.

We reached the stationery shop in Jalan Othman and the staff there took us out and placed us on a shelf. We were accompanied by several other flags, some looking rather dusty.

“Oh boy, another batch of newbies. And they will be left to rot here for a long, long time,” an old grumpy voice was heard.

It was Grandpa JG. The old timer had seen people come and go, only to pick up flags during a specific month.

“You will only be remembered in August. It’s the same every year. Come end September and throughout the rest of the year, you’ll be forgotten.

“Sorry if I sound pessimistic young ones, but that’s reality,” Grandpa JG added.

I didn’t quite like the old man’s tone and preferred to remain positive.

Later in the evening, a young boy picked me up. I was elated as I would be heading to a new home.

The young boy went by the name Abu. Or was it Ah Bu? It could be short for A. Buvaneswaran. It didn’t matter to me.

Abu had a class project in conjunction with Merdeka Day where he was required to creatively display the Malaysian flag. Abu got his lovely mother to stitch me on his bag.

He was proud of me. I could tell. He showed me to his teachers and friends and treated me with respect. Never once did he put his bag on the floor or allow anyone to disrespect it because it had me on the flap and his books inside.

I followed Abu to school daily. I saw many things. I saw how people hung other Jalur Gemilang on their cars, homes and even public areas.

Soon after Merdeka Day, I became sad.

Don’t get me wrong. I was still happy to be with Abu as he treated me well. But I saw the other Jalur Gemilang did not enjoy the same fate.

They were left torn, discoloured, some were just discarded on the floor. There were torn flags that were still being flown. I felt their pain.

I also noticed that people were so busy on their handheld gadgets that they failed to realise and appreciate the Jalur Gemilang around them. I felt my flag friends were taken for granted.

I then understood Grandpa JG’s frustration. But I also remembered what Uncle JG said on my first day out.

I am more than a piece of cloth. Every design on me tells a story.

The 14 alternating red and white horizontal stripes and the 14-point star reflect the 13 states and the Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan).

The red symbolises courage while white is purity. The dark blue canton represents harmony among the people while yellow is the royal colour of the rulers.

The crescent acknowledges that Islam is the official religion.

My Jalur Gemilang friends fly high when athletes win in major competitions and pay tribute to our fallen heroes.

We are the first to often greet you, whether at kindergartens or palaces.

Some have said they don’t see the need to fly the Jalur Gemilang due to the political situation in the nation. Remember, politicians don’t define the country.

And please don’t take it out on me or my Jalur Gemilang friends for we symbolise something bigger than politicians and politics – we are the symbol of the people and the country.

I don’t know how long more I will survive. I may one day be torn too. But I’m glad to be part of Abu’s life.

And before my time is up, I truly hope more people will understand and appreciate the significance of the Jalur Gemilang.

Don’t just celebrate us on Aug 31, celebrate us every single day.