Sheila (not her real name) is a girl I met at college years ago. We got along like a house on fire as we shared many similarities especially our love for food and movies – I remember both of us skipping classes for coney dogs and Tom Cruise. Good old times.
Over the years, we drifted apart but our friendship remained strong thanks to social media. Through Facebook and Instagram, I watched her grow in her career, fall in love, get married, migrate to a foreign land and become a mother of two.
As a foreigner where she now lives, Sheila’s stories about her new life are somewhat exciting and interesting – especially for someone like me, who had never travelled to Europe before. I remember going through her photos and videos on Instagram quite religiously, wanting to learn how things were in the opposite side of the globe. I remember pouring over pictures of her trips to the local street market, sending her daughters to school, picnicking at the park and even enjoying winter. It all seemed pretty surreal to me.
While she remained a dear friend, I found however that Sheila’s perception of Malaysia changed as time went by. Through her status updates, postings and comments on social media, I realised she was no longer the Sheila I used to know, who loved Malaysia and was proud to be called Malaysian.
Having lived abroad for a few years now, Sheila says things about Malaysia that upset me to the core.
“Haze? Again? That’s definitely one good reason I am no longer in Malaysia. Over here, the air is so fresh you can almost feel the freshness inside your lungs.”
“Another Bersih? Yeah, like that is going to change anything! The Malaysian government and its hypocrisy will never change. Glad I now belong to the part of the world that recognises freedom and human rights.”
“How do you people stand Malaysian healthcare? Long queues, rude nurses, unprofessional doctors – thank God I can enjoy free world class healthcare over here.”
“Another stupid clown making yet another idiotic remark? What else is new in Bolehland? It is hopeless to expect anything to change. Just stop complaining and leave already!”
Sometimes she makes me so “geram” I could strangle her – luckily, she lives thousands of miles away.
But Sheila is not the only one like that. There are many other Malaysia-born friends residing elsewhere who think the same way Sheila does. While refusing to give up their Malaysian citizenship, they continue to find pleasure in running down the country from their cosy homes overseas. Why do they do that?
Are they trying to convince themselves that they did the right thing when they chose to up and leave? What do they benefit from regularly speaking ill of Malaysia, once their “tanah tumpah darah”?
I do not deny that Malaysia has many flaws. Many things aren’t as they should be. There are many things Malaysians aren’t proud of. But we are working on changing it. It will take time and it will take a lot of effort – those of us who are still here and those whose hearts are still here, are definitely progressing towards the change we aspire to. The last thing we need are people like Sheila, who keep shovelling our flaws down our throats.
I can only wish there are more people like Farouk A Peru, an academic and a columnist who has been residing in London for a good few years. He once told me: “You can take the boy out of the kampong but you cannot take the kampong out of the boy”. Isn’t that how it should be?
Anyway, despite all her annoying posts on what a wonderful life she leads in Europe and how screwed-up the rest of us are back home in Malaysia, Sheila updated her Facebook status last week, announcing her two-week holiday to Malaysia.
“Visiting Malaysia soon. Can’t wait to have Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai, Pasembor. Chee Chong Fan and Nasi Kandar. Who’s free to join me go nom nom nom nom?”
I felt my blood boil.
Well, Sheila, if you are reading this, please do not bother coming back for a visit. Our Malaysian food could not possibly satisfy your delicate first world taste buds now. Also, God forbid you come down with leptospirosis, cholera, salmonella or e-coli poisoning, typhoid or end up with dreaded diarrhoea from filthy food stalls. You know lah how backward things are in Malaysia, kan?
On second thought, do come. Maybe a good bout of diarrhoea is just what you need.-FMT