Coming Full Circle: Vas Ramanujam



Where do I begin?

My parents moved to Malaysia from India in 1990 when I was four. They are both doctors and we were granted a PR in Malaysia after about 10 years.

I went to school and college in Malaysia and left at 18 to pursue my undergraduate education in Scotland. Upon graduation with an Actuarial Science degree I managed to score a great job at a Big Four Professional Services Firm.

My girlfriend – who is Malaysian – moved to London to study her MBA in 2010. I personally did not want to move to London as the thought of squeezing into the Tube in the morning/evening rush hour like a sardine was not something that I fancied. Instead, I opted to transfer with my company to the coolest city in UK – Bristol.

I love this city. Very artsy and cultural with its beautiful scenic Harbourside.

I have now decided to move back ‘home’ mainly for personal and family reasons.

I have a job offer in KL,  right at the heart in Jalan Sultan Ismail. Yes peeps, I have officially  traded my somewhat peaceful (and frizzy wet/cold) 15 minute walk to the office for a massive bumper to bumper 2 hour traffic jam!  My girlfriend will be following me back home as well. She’s successfully completed her MBA and will be looking for a role back at home as well.

Some of you may think I am insane! And rightly so. If all goes to plan I will be returning back at the end of July.

Back in the 1990s, growing up in Malaysia was paradise. The warmth of the weather coupled with the insanely amazing food are just two of things on my “100 reasons why I love Malaysia” list. We had no immediate family other than an uncle who moved to Malaysia in the 50s. The only other family I had was the unbreakable bonds of friendship we built with Malaysians.

Malaysians are very welcoming and social. If I meet a Malaysian outside Malaysia, I could in theory come up with a 2nd or 3rd degree connection which will connect me with that individual. Everyone knows everyone in Malaysia! Given the size of the country, that is amazing!

But times are changing. The sad thing about all this is that the political situation is holding Malaysia back from its true potential. It is truly hurtful (as a pseudo-Malaysian) to watch videos and read articles about the havoc that is happening with regards to the elections. I was absolutely shocked to find out that my Malaysian friends living abroad are not allowed to vote unless they have been sponsored by the government.

However, as bad as the situation back at home is, take a look on the western world. The social and economic structure build up in Europe over the past 200 years is collapsing as we speak.

We don’t even need to look that far. Take my home nation, India – yes it is powering through and growing rapidly. But at what cost? The divide between the rich and the poor is the largest it has ever been. What use is the next Software giant / economic powerhouse, when we cannot even take care of our own community and provide clean drinking water – a basic requirement for human life!

In China, fundamental human rights are being violated – we just don’t see much of it as the Chinese government controlled media is synonymous to a black hole – nothing can get out.

Every country has its highs and lows.

I had a very interesting conversation with a Malaysian friend of mine who works in London. His opinion is that whatever is happening in Malaysia – the instability etc. – is good. Good that people are starting to join hands and fight back for a single cause.

The US went through years of Civil War to become Independent from British rule; the Indians struggled long and hard as one nation using non-violence as a means for Independence. In each  story, a struggle took part for the greater good. I have to  admit I kind of see his point of view. I am interested to see what readers of this blog have to say about this.

The major dictatorships in the middle east were crippled not by brute force or guns. They were brought down via the likes of Twitter,  Facebook, YouTube etc. In the 21st century, the pen (or the keyboard) is indeed sharper than the sword.

Social media nowadays lets us have more power than that of any newspaper. One insightful blog post has the potential of  going viral.

When I talk about the uniqueness of Malaysia, I refer to the tables of Indians, Chinese, Malays, Whites, Blacks etc. all sitting together around a mamak at about 3 in the morning after a good night out in town chilling down and having roti canai and teh tarik.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it here in the UK. The sense of freedom of expression and equality is second to none. Nowhere else would the Prime Minister come under scrutiny and be interviewed for screwing things up (I’m referring to the current ongoing enquiry with  relation to the phone hacking scandals in the UK – David Cameron will be interviewed for his relationship with News Corp.).

What I am saying is, sometimes we need that uncertainty in life to make it just a little bit more interesting. That is something Asia offers in abundance.

At the end of the day, blood is thicker than water. Family ranks higher than anything else in Life and after eight years away, the decision to move is actually much easier due to the time spent apart.

I hope to share a few more snippets of my experience of starting the Malaysian life for the second time after 8 years out of the country.

I’ve tasted the waters of the promised land. It was  exciting at first but then the blandness of it has bored me to death.

Here’s to having a nice cold Milo Ice back ‘Home’ with you all.

Write to Vas Ramanujam at [email protected]

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