A rally for the mind and soul
I want to be completely honest. I did not expect a large crowd at the Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat (HKR).
I wasn't pessimistic because I thought that sentiment had changed; my worries stemmed from the fact that the police and the government had surprising agreed to let the rally proceed without obstacles.
It is the nature of people to push back when pushed and I thought that without roadblocks, physical and psychological; without the presence of policemen in riot uniforms and tear gas canisters and without the threats of the goons from Perkasa, the people who want change would stay home.
And so, because I did not want the rally organisers to face the ignominy of an empty stadium, I went to the rally.
Before I tell you about my HKR experience, let me tell you who I am so that you can understand how I felt yesterday.
I am one of those who had finally stood up openly in 1998. Although I have always been against corruption and injustice, the only action I had taken prior to that was on ballot papers. I was and still am not a member of any political party; this had nothing to do with partisan politics.
In 1998, the injustice was just too big to ignore and I decided to come out and be counted.
I have thus lived through this entire movement for change: the large protests when Anwar Ibrahim was sacked; the small protests at Masjid Negara and the Suhakam office.
I attended so many protests, always in the background and for the sole purpose of adding to the numbers. I always felt that numbers were needed.
I was there at the huge gathering on the Kesas highway; at Bersih 1, 2 and 3 rallies. So in some way, I have lived through the entire change of hearts among Malaysians.
In 1998, only a few of my friends felt the way I felt. Today, all the people I know who supported the ruling side have become strident supporters of change.
Against this backdrop, yesterday, on Jan 12, 2013, I was at Stadium Merdeka. How wrong I was to be pessimistic about attendance.
The rakyat had turned up in full colours. It appeared as if every single thinking Malaysian had come.
The numbers delighted me, of course, but I was glad I came for another reason. This turned out to be a rally that fed the mind.
Instead of the usual opposition party flags and banners asking 'BN to be kuburkan' and 'Najib to undur', I saw placards with real issues. Placards that asked for ‘Violence against women to be stopped', for ‘Petroleum royalties' to be paid, demands for ‘Students to be unshackled' and my favourite banner, seen on an MRT construction site fencing near Pasar Seni, 'MRT - Mari Rompak Tanah'.
The politicians were naturally eloquent in their speeches but it was the NGOs and the common people that touched my soul.
The voice of Tijah, the Orang Asal representative, so passionate, making the case for the Orang Aslis, betrayed and marginalised in their homelands. Mama Bersih with her clever turn of words expressing the disgust of women whose families were being oppressed by crime and corruption.
Ito, with his inspiring song calling for change. Wong Tack, the Himpunan Hijau man speaking the truest of words when he said, "I don't see any Chinese here; I don't see any Indians here; I don't see any Kadazans here; I also don't see any Malays here; I only see Malaysians here."
I am now sure that change will come. The movement for change has become so widespread, so diverse and so strong that nothing will be able to stop it.
It will go on even if I no longer turn up for rallies. What a wonderful feeling to finally be sure that my presence is no longer absolutely necessary.