ONENESS: What better time to foster closer ties than this Year of the Horse?
WHILE seated on a fairly stiff waiting room settee inside a government department office here in Putrajaya, we found ourselves babbling about animals while waiting for the media conference to start.
There I was, a snake, seated next to a rat and farther to our right was a pair of tigers. Evidently, I am at the very bottom of this food chain.
No, we had not reverted to name-calling among the journalism fraternity during our rare idle periods, but rather were having an interesting discourse pertaining to the Chinese zodiac animal signs and what the Year of the Horse has in store for us in terms of career predicaments, marital prospects and health concerns.
I continued deliberating over this subject back in the comfort of my office.
Based on the 12 animal symbols of the Chinese calendar, being "born" in 1957 would make Malaysia a rooster. Several taps of the keyboards and scrolls of the mouse later, I am instantaneously transformed into a Chinese astrology sage.
As the Year of the Horse rewards those who are honest, forthright and diligent, the rooster is perfectly positioned to take advantage with its innate qualities. The year is expected to bring us good business prospects and increased wealth, but only if we form strong collaborations and pay attention to the details of the plans as carelessness may lead to failure.
The success of Iskandar Malaysia in attracting RM131 billion in investments coupled with the creation of 554,000 job opportunities over the past eight years is the result of establishing strong working relationships between the federal and Johor governments.
For the rooster to prosper this year, soothsayers say it is imperative to plan properly, work hard and take progressive steps instead of expecting instant gratification.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently reminded local entrepreneurs to use the business facilities provided by the government to improve their livelihood instead of renting the premises to others to operate.
Najib has urged hawkers and petty traders to optimise the opportunities provided and work hard to attain lucrative returns and be more successful in their businesses, thus contributing to a stronger national economy.
On the financial outlook, the rooster will need to keep a close eye on its expenses this year or it could see debts building up. Apt warning indeed as Malaysians from all walks of life are faced with fiscal discomforts projected for the year. In his New Year message, the prime minister assured the people that he will "continue to fine-tune government programmes so that the effect on household incomes is not too great".
He added that his team "will put in place mechanisms to cushion people from the rises in the electricity tariff and toll fares" and to come up with new ideas to ease the cost of living pressures.
The new year places tremendous emphasis on equality when it comes to relationship and family for those born in 1957, which, incidentally, according to experts, are people full of passion and easily moved by emotion.
As we continue to find ways to be more receptive to one another and respectful of the multicultural and multiracial fusion that makes our nation distinctive, it would be good to take heed of the need for equality this year. With Malaysian Chinese representing the second largest ethnic group at 24 per cent of the country's total population, which exceeds 29 million, it is worth taking the time to understand better our family members as they welcome the horse into their homes today.
While our leaders strive to figure it out on a larger scale to get the formula right for national unity, despite my outspoken repulsion of the deafening fireworks during this festive period, my family continues with our own modest approach to foster stronger ties within our own community.
This time each year, we will give our neighbours mandarin oranges and Chinese New Year cookies to strengthen our bond. Although we may not visit each other often enough to keep tabs of our children's development or deliberate over our homes' escalating maintenance fee, it is nonetheless a pleasantly amusing sight watching a Malay lady in lively green baju kurung carrying a box of oranges and handing out ang pow to beaming kids of various races.
As the rooster is advised to build trust and a sense of community in the presence of the horse this year, my family and I hope that Malaysians can start coming together more often to share and listen to each other, even if it means starting a conversation about animals.
Gong Xi Fa Cai to all!
A shopper looking at Chinese New Year decorations.
The Year of the Horse is expected to bring business prospects and wealth.