MALAYSIA - Now 56 years old himself, the former Bar Council member and long time Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-president has watched Malaysia take many interesting twists and turns through the years.
"Perhaps we must start off by asking how old Malaysia is" he began, only half-jokingly during our interview. "Is it 56 or 50? Because while Malaya became independent in 1957, Malaysia itself was created in 1963. I am certainly proud to have been part of a movement that successfully campaigned for September 16, 1963, which is Malaysia Day to be a national holiday. "
While national days tend to be occasions of pomp and circumstance, Sivarasa feels we need to look at our nation with a critical eye. And yet he considers himself a patriotic man.
"I may not defend the way Malaysia is run, but I will defend the people and this land anytime. I notice this happens especially when I travel. I talk about the country and I feel proud of its people. Every time I look around, I am impressed by the rich diversity of cultures that makes this place a lot more interesting than most countries."
Unlike many of his generation who migrated to the Klang Valley, Sivarasa has resided here since birth. "I've actually always been in this area. At first it was in KL in Jalan Beserah, in the Titiwangsa area near Jalan Pahang. I attended primary school there. Then we moved to Section 14, PJ in 1967.And of course I attended Universiti Malaya. Funnily enough, these particular areas haven't changed that much over the years, although the Federal Highway was smaller then. It was just a dual carriageway."
"There is no question that there have been dramatic changes all over Malaysia. From the late 80s to 1997 the sheer pace of economic growth was reflected all over the country. And it's not just KL, you can see it in Melaka, Ipoh, or Sungai Petani. The development is there although sometimes it feels like every little bit of spare land is grabbed by somebody who has put a tall building there."
Sivarasa describes his early years and influences as quite normal for people of his time. "I had some Malaysian heroes. I used to listen to the Blues Gang and Hamzah Rahmat, but really it was Western music that I grew up with … Deep Purple and Cream. We had Western-influenced, English-speaking interests. Indigenous explorations come when you're older."