A Malaysian’s journey

Dharm Navaratnam

Modified 2 May 2016, 2:29 am

Truth be told, most Malaysian's are immigrants. There, I said it. Aside from the Orang Asli, if we look carefully at our history, at some point or another, our forefathers all came from other lands.

The Sumatra-based Srivijaya civilisation, whose influence extended through Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula and much of Borneo was evident as early as the 7th century. Trade with China and India was happening during that time as well so it is not strange to think that Chinese and Indians would have existed or at least visited our lands at that time.

More migrants came in over the years to form what we now know as the major races of Malay, Chinese, Indian and a whole myriad of others. All Malaysians. But this is not so much about the racial origins of Malaysia or about who came to this country first.

Rather, it is about one Malaysian’s journey to discover more about his ancestry. And in the process try and raise funds to improve the lot of other Malaysians. You remember David Wu? He is that crazy fellow who walked from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Baru last year to help raise funds to repair homes affected by the floods of 2014.

Last I heard, 13 houses in a small village in Rantau Panjang have been repaired. He named this effort Projek Wumah, a play on his name and also in dedication to his late sister.

Through the efforts of Projek Wumah, he connected with Hayati Ismail, who does social work through the Food Aid Foundation. She came across a dilapidated home in Gombak and knowing of the success of Projek Wumah, asked David if he could help. The project in Kelantan was coming to an end and the fact that there were similar homes in the Klang Valley shocked him.

Most of us who have accomplished a task to repair homes would just rest on our laurels. However, Wu realised he could do more. In fact, he wanted to do more. I have known David for more than 30 years and one of his problems is that he thinks up grandiose schemes. The beauty of it though is that he seems to bring these schemes to fruition. And in the process help a whole lot of people.

So he started thinking. When I first knew David as a bespectacled college boy, he was never good in math. However, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if each Malaysian donated RM1 to a cause, that would generate RM30 million. That's a lot of money to assist in rebuilding homes or any other cause for that matter. That is what David worked out and what has driven him to his next cause. But really, what more can you do after walking all the way to Kelantan?

Cycle to China!

Yes, you read that correctly. Wu is planning on cycling to China on May 6, 2016! Why China, you may ask? Well, aside from his grandiose scheme of raising funds it is also very much a personal journey. You see, like all of us whose forefathers came from abroad, his grandfather came from China and set foot in the then Malaya more than a 100 years ago.

Grandpa Wu left China at the young age of 10 to seek a better life for himself and ended up in Alor Setar, Kedah, where he built a family there. Imagine leaving for a new life at the tender age of 10 not knowing what to expect. Imagine the fear and trepidation of the unknown. A brave young boy indeed.

That is as much as David Wu knows about his forefathers, other than the fact that they originated from Taishan in Guangdong Province.

In the process of cycling close to 4,000km from Alor Setar to Taishan, David Wu hopes to raise funds that will help his own countrymen. His fellow Malaysians. For contrary to what certain politicians try to tell us, we are not Chinese, Indian or Malay. We are all Malaysians first and foremost. It just so happens that our forefathers came from different places but in reality, we have no allegiance to these countries of our ancestors’ origin.

David will leave from his grandfather’s old address in Alor Setar, 11 Jalan Tengah, on the morning of May 6, 2016 which happens to coincide with his 49th birthday.

One of his friends, Dave Ern, who heard about his plans, thought it was a great idea and asked if he could ride with him. David Wu was thrilled to have some company along the way. Then came the icing on the cake. Two senior citizens, both well known Malaysians, decided they wanted to ‘tag along’ as far as Bangkok. Simply for the experience and also to do something to make a difference in the lives of all Malaysians.

Patrick Teoh, the Voice of Malaysia, and David Chin, the man who started Dave’s Deli, are these two senior citizens.

Even more remarkable when you realise that Patrick had polio when he was a young boy and his legs are not very strong. In fact, he uses a walking stick to help him get around. David Chin on the other hand is a cancer survivor. Amazing Malaysians indeed!

It is not going to be an easy ride and I can only imagine how difficult it may be. I do know however that once David Wu puts his mind to something, he will see it through. I also know that it will be a very emotional trip for David. To cycle all the way to China to look for your ancestral home is something you might expect to see from a Hollywood film.

The thing is, he doesn’t know what to expect once he reaches China. Are there any ancestral links there? Will he be welcomed? He does not know. He can’t even speak the language well! The only thing he knows is that this is something he wants to do as part of his attempt to help his fellow Malaysians. And in a small way, maybe relive what Grandpa Wu may have felt as a wee 10-year-old coming to a new country.

In his own words, David says, “Take a look around you. There are so many Malaysians living in poverty. There are so many people living in conditions that no human being should be subjected to. And there is so much that can be done. This is my way of trying to raise awareness and in the process raise some funds that can help.”

All stellar Malaysians

So while David is busy finding his way to China, Hayati Ismail will be looking for houses that need repair. Together these Malaysians will highlight the plight of those homes and appeal to the public once again to help improve the lot of fellow Malaysians.

David Wu. A man that wants to make a difference. Hayati Ismal. A woman that has a passion to help those in need. David Ern, David Chin, Patrick Teoh. All stellar Malaysians who want to join together and contribute to society. Remember these names.

I still think David is a little crazy for wanting to cycle to China but I have to admire his will and perseverance. And for simply having the guts to do this! Social media is already abuzz with #AiyohKayoh (Come Cycle) and #CycleToChina. There is also a crowdbacking application on Webe Community that is trying to support this effort.

Good luck, David, and the rest of you as you start your journey on May 6. There will be a few of us, in the background, offering him support and assistance, albeit remotely on his journey to China. What we are doing is nothing compared to what he wants to do.

Once again, I am honoured and proud to have you as my brother because you are certainly more than a friend. You are indeed an inspiration to all of us and Ii wish more of us had the power to not just dream but to also do!

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