JOHOR BARU: Retiree Rogayah Abu Hassan, 77, will never allow her age to get in the way of her love for the country. The single mother, fondly known as Mak Gayah, would decorate her double-storey terrace house at Jalan 4/22, Taman Desa Harmoni, here with more than 300 Jalur Gemilang of various sizes every year without fail. She said living in the Communist era in the 1940s had taught her the true meaning of being grateful for the country’s independence. “Makcik (as she addresses herself) have always been excited to celebrate Merdeka; come August, I would ask my children to buy the flags. “The flags will remain at the places where I put them until the next Merdeka month. That is when I would take them down and replace with new ones. “I put the flags up myself; I had to use the ladder and chairs I wish to place them at high spots. I had tripped and fell while decorating my house, but that’s alright, as long as I feel satisfied. It’s exhilarating to see the flags fly.
“Since I moved here in 1998, I would place the flags without fail every year. It has been a habit since I was a child and lived with my family in Kangkar Tebrau.
“To me, celebrating Raya is not as exciting as the National Day. That feeling of happiness, pride and excitement whenever August comes is something that could not be described with words,” said Mak Gayah who won the third place in the neighbourhood-level Fly the Jalur Gemilang competition for the residence category in 2014. Mak Gayah said her four children supported her interest, despite living away from her and would also provide money to buy the flags. She lamented that the young generation would not understand the hardship faced by people in fighting colonialists, especially the Communists. “I was about 15 years old during the Communist era. At that time, we had to buy food using the blue coupons. “Our food was rationed; if there are four children in the family, we could buy four kati (two kg) of rice and four packs of mi siam in a week. Whether or not it was enough would be up to us. When the rice ran out, my mother would boil the mi siam and turn into putu mayam-shape and prepared masak lemak (dish with santan gravy) for us to eat. “Father told us that the food was rationed for fear that the people would feed the communists,” she said. Mak Gayah’s hoped that the sovereign nation would continue to be protected and enjoyed for generations come. She said she prayed daily for the time of peace to last and for “our future generation to live in peace.” Mak Gayah’s only advice: “The hardship faced by the earlier generation who lived in the era prior to Merdeka must not be repeated.” © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd