Postcard from Zaharah: A tube sarong event at its best

LONDON: Malaysia Square at the iconic Battersea Power Station in London embodies a remarkable vision: uniting Malaysians abroad, whether they reside in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, to revel in the spirit of Malaysia Day and any other occasion steeped in Malaysian culture.

As I stood beneath the imposing chimneys of the iconic building, bathed in London's finest weather, I was entranced by the sight of Malaysians from as far as Wales and the Netherlands. They congregated in their resplendent sarong, proudly brandishing the Jalur Gemilang and harmonising patriotic songs to commemorate Malaysia Day.

This very Malaysia Square was built at the entrance of the power station, which had languished in dormancy for nearly four decades until a consortium of Malaysian enterprises breathed new life into it. Today, it stands as a testament to their dedication.

In 2021, this square saw its plaque unveiled by none other than Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

I was fortunate to join the jubilant throng at King's Cross Station, embarking on the Tube Sarong expedition to Battersea Power Station (BPS) to inaugurate the celebration. The sea of Jalur Gemilang, swaying proudly in an array of Malaysian attire, was a sight to behold.

The sarong, in its various forms — draped over shoulders, cinched around waists and even fashioned into headgear — held a special place in everyone's heart.

The orchestrators of this splendid event were none other than Anak Rantau Event Production Ltd. This organisation was conceived with a noble mission to champion Malaysian culture, traditions, heritage, unity and diversity in the UK.

Organiser Nina Syafina Mohamed Shukor, who has been organising the Keretapi Sarong event for the past 11 years, has hopes for a bigger event in the coming years, judging by the support and success achieved for this first big event.

With only two months to prepare and rally everyone together, Anak Rantau Event Production collaborated with Locco Malaysia and Battersea Power Station, alongside the United Kingdom and Eire (Ireland) Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC), to ensure this event reached its maximum potential.

Malaysians needed no other persuasion or encouragement to join in.

Thus began a frenzied search for sarong. Some were freshly retrieved from the depths of long-forgotten luggage hidden beneath beds, some begged and borrowed from friends, and they made a striking appearance, instantly drawing the curious gazes of passengers on the Tube and along the way.

Word of the event spread far and wide, drawing together husband and wife, Muhammad Uszair and Emma Famiezza, who travelled all the way from Delft, the Netherlands, to immerse themselves in the festivities and savour the taste of home away from home, all the while seeking the familiar faces of fellow Malaysians for this momentous occasion.

Uszair looked resplendent in his tanjak and baju Melayu, with a sarong draped casually over his shoulder. Emma, equally stylish, adorned her bun with a cucuk sanggul. As the couple made their way through the bustling London Underground, singing along to the tune of Jalur Gemilang, they became the centre of attention.

Other passengers were accommodating and looked on with amusement at the crowd of Malaysian revellers.

Uszair and Emma weren't the only ones who went to great lengths to be a part of this vibrant celebration. ACCA students, Wina and Insyirah, along with two of their friends, hopped on a bus from Newport in Wales at the unearthly hour of 3am.

The event, a true embodiment of Malaysianness, had everyone craving for more.

The spirit of the gathering extended to second- and third-generation Malaysians who have made the UK their home. They participated as flag-bearers, dancers and singers, captivating not only their fellow Malaysians but also non-Malaysians who joined in the revelry.

The grand finale, the joget lambak, was a particular crowd-pleaser.

The event featured a diverse array of performances, from silat demonstrations to dances from Sabah and Sarawak, and even a Bollywood dance number. These acts brought a wave of nostalgia to Malaysians who have long resided in the UK.

Kamariah Kazmi and Aseah Hassan Poyntz, who have spent more than four decades in the UK, wouldn't have missed this Malaysian gathering for anything. Bedecked with flowers in their hair and hearts brimming with Malaysian spirit, they wholeheartedly joined in the festivities.

For many, this celebration was an opportunity to introduce the next generation to Malaysian culture and tradition. Parents and grandparents proudly brought along their children and grandchildren, providing them with a glimpse of Malaysianness that they hoped to instil in the younger generation.

Amidst the lively atmosphere, the song Saya Anak Malaysia, composed and popularised by singer Dr Sam Rasputin, resonated throughout the square, epitomising the essence of what it means to be a Malaysian, no matter where in the world you find yourself.

Dr Sam, when contacted, was deeply touched and moved and couldn't imagine that the song, a brainchild of Datuk M. Nasir and now synonymous with Malaysia Day and Merdeka Day, which made its debut in 1986, is now being sung by Malaysians around the world.

I left Malaysia Square long after the space was cleared for the next event, with the song Saya Anak Malaysia sung by my 9-year-old grandson, Iskandar, ringing in my ears.

I left feeling proud that my son who performed the silat, did so on his birthday, Sept 16, and had brought his laptop along as he was also working online. Nothing would have made him miss this.

Present at the event were Malaysian High Comissioner to the UK Datuk Zakri Jaafar and his wife, Datin Noor Aini Abd Rahman, and several staff members of the BPS — all dancing away and enjoying the occasion.

A great day indeed for all!

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