I am not allowed

In response to the atrocity that has befallen my friends in Seksualiti Merdeka, I present this story of what happens to a dream deferred.

About dreams, whispers of promises,
For dreams I’ve wept, I’ve bled,
Daydreamer, foolish one,
You are not allowed.

From wooden bowl the silver spoon feeds,
Slogans, soundbites and catchphrases,
Yes you can! Malaysia Boleh!
Daydreamer, silly one,
You are not allowed.

Pen to paper, from the ether onto stone,
Make your mark, make yourself known,
You’ll be envied, maybe feared, always remembered,
Daydreamer, delusional one,
You are not allowed.

I am shadow, I am shame,
For you I cower, I run, I shudder, I hide,
I don’t exist, neverconceived, neverborn,
Daydreamer, obedient one,
You are not allowed.

I had dreams of being a great Malaysian author. I yearned to someday bring fame and pride to the nation as several other Malaysians already have. I can name some of these people that I look up to:

Tan Twan Eng, author of ‘the Gift of Rain’ long listed for the 2007 Man Booker Prize.

Tash Aw, author ot ‘the Harmony Silk Factory’ and ‘Map of the Invisible World’, winner of the 2005 Whitbread Award and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for the same year.

Preeta Samarasan, author of ‘Evening is the Whole Day’ and owner of the most beautiful soul I have seen in a person.

I mean, look at these people. They are wildly talented and rightfully recognised for their immense contributions to the annals of Southeast Asian literature. I dreamed of someday joining the pantheon of these gods, share the same airspace with them. In wanted to be just like them. No ‘scientific experiments’ in space, I dreamed of being the read deal. In short, I wanted to be a great Malaysian, recognised for verifiable excellence in my chosen field of expertise.

Apakah cita-cita anda?

Dreams will remain just that if no effort was put into the making of those dreams into reality. We’ve been told as much since the very first day we stepped foot into school. “Apakah cita-cita anda?” (What is your ambition?) became an all but consuming obsession in the matter of our nurturing. Naturally, things were no different for me. Like everyone else with a dream, I put time into honing my skills in narrative crafting. Practice makes perfect they said and I was determined to make things fall into place.

A couple of years ago, I won a micro-fiction writing competition alongside a group of other talented writers. What may look like a small achievement to others was to me the pebble that may be responsible for bringing down a mountain. Earlier this year, I made the shortlist in the 2011 Commonwealth Short Story Competition; the only Malaysian in this year’s shortlist and the first in five years to receive this privilege. When told of the news, I thought to myself “Greatness is possible, I am not untalented.”

Personal dreams are embedded in political reality

However, as of several hours ago, I am no longer master of these dreams of greatness. Greatness, it appears, is not possible. Not for me and for people the likes of me anyway. To put it simply, I am not allowed. I attempt to refine this statement: greatness is not that which I am not allowed to achieve, it is I – the person this pronoun refers to – that is not allowed. My existence is not allowed. Somehow, the person that I am – and I have to assume, the person that we all are for people the likes of me – have been reduced to no more than a threat. Somehow, I am a threat to a religion I do not practice, a threat to a nation I have no intention of harming, a threat to a culture I participate in and therefore shape. I am to be dealt with by the strong arm of the law, in the harshest of terms because I am not allowed.

Oh, I had dreams of greatness and all the signs so far indicated that I had every potential to achieve this very greatness I am told should define my existence. I had dreams of being a great Malaysian.

I had those dreams, I really, truly did.

I don’t anymore.

I am a child to a country that does not want me. I am an orphan, I am abandoned.

I had a dream and I don’t anymore.

I hope you’re happy.