Meet Aishah Salleh and Izrin Ismail, a mother-daughter duo that are invested in the world of fashion, who share with us their personal takes on Merdeka. While we might expect significantly less pomp and parade, we could certainly do with a lot more of the Merdeka spirit.

If anything, our multiple lockdowns have laid bare the social pressures and inequality faced by the varying stratas of our society. Honouring our national birthday is a great way to remember how far we’ve come collectively, and an awesome reason to celebrate our humanity. As long as we’re jogging on the great wheel, we’re going to need each other. So we reached out across the generational divide, asking a veteran and scion what Merdeka means to each generation. Here’s what we heard back from Aishah Salleh, a remisier who started selling batik on the side and the founder of The Innai Label back in 2013, with her daughter, Izrin Salleh the managing director of Innai Group, as well as founder of her own brand, Innai Red.

Aishah Salleh

What new things has surprised you about Malaysia?
The improvement in infrastructure in the recent years has really amazed me. I see better transportation systems, city planning and so many vast shopping malls.

What do you love most about life becoming increasingly digitised?
Digitalisation efficiently facilitates our lifestyle. Any change needs an open mind and acceptance. I certainly prefer checking emails rather than the ordinary mail. Besides, it’s more sustainable to the environment.

Contemporary life is busier and more complex than before. How should Malaysians deal with that?
We should never lose sight of what is really important. Number one is integrity, followed by the rule of law across the board. And most importantly, let’s not forget to give more empathy in everything we do.

What is a skill or trait your mother passed down to you?
My late mother showed me that women have a unique role towards creating a caring society. Plus, I learned to weave the ketupat neatly from her. Till today, I weave my own ketupat for Hari Raya instead of taking the shortcut with nasi impit.

What makes you feel proud to be a Malaysian?
I feel proud to be a Malaysian when I see the immense help and unconditional support that was given for the oppressed worldwide by Malaysians, with the recent donation and support given to the Palestinians and other refugees.

How should we celebrate Merdeka?
Our independence is a sweet and beautiful thing. We must unite to maintain this precious commodity.

How well will we survive considering the current climate?
Malaysians are an enterprising lot. We will do what it takes to survive and thrive, God willing.

Izrin Salleh

Since you were young, what changes have you seen in Malaysia?
As we evolve with time, a lot of things are easily accessible thanks to technology in bridging time and space. Education has improved so much and there’s more schools (both private and non-private) then there were before.

What are the pros and cons of life becoming increasingly digitalised?
What I like about life becoming digitalised is the accessibility to many things with just your phone. You can attend numerous seminars / classes without having to be there physically. However, I do miss reading news from the newspaper, buying glossy magazines, having cash in my wallet or having a genuine face-to-face conversation without having the urge to look at the phone or take pictures of food before eating. Another big con of digitalisation is, I have become somewhat impatient.

What values would you like to see more of in your fellow Malaysians?
I would like to see stronger integrity in Malaysians – being dependable and following through on commitments. Being open and honest when communicating and holding accountable and owning up to shortcomings.

What is a skill or trait your mother passed down to you?
I inherited the habit of shopping (haha) from my mother, and to always support local brands as much as I can. On a serious note, she has actually passed down to me a love and appreciation for batik.

What makes you feel proud to be a Malaysian?
This may sound very insignificant, but I really do feel proud to be a Malaysian every time I board the national airline departing from other countries. Especially when I’m coming back from a long trip/journey, the comforting announcement of the flight attendant saying “To all Malaysians, welcome home” does make me feel good and proud.

What’s an important lesson about Merdeka we should never forget?
The spirit of Independence that was nurtured in me since my time in school really shaped me and made me who I am today. I’m proud to be a product of a public school and went through countless Merdeka performances, Merdeka poetry reading, and drawing/colouring Merdeka elements that were required at that time. It totally ignited a different spirit of love towards Malaysia.

How can we grow stronger and improve our lives?
I believe that Malaysians have a lot of potential, but it starts with me, you, us. If we were to do the right thing, the right way, it would definitely bring betterment in the future.

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