Covid, coupled with political developments in the country, has made many Malaysians, including a pragmatic optimist like me, dispirited over the last 21 months.
Just as we thought things might be getting better, the scenario is again troubling. This time, we have the uncertainties surrounding the Omicron variant, not to mention the aftermath of the devastating floods. Prior to this, it was the Delta variant that was cause for concern. Who knows what the next variant is and when it will end.
Against this backdrop, the Christmas season in many parts of the world has been more subdued. Often it is the negative news that steals the spotlight.
So, we count our blessings for not being as badly affected as other countries by the Covid onslaught and its variants. On balance, we have done relatively well in managing the pandemic, though sceptics may strongly disagree.
One ray of sunshine as we bid farewell to 2021 was the news that the Pearl of the Orient, Penang, has been ranked as the third-best island in the world for retirees. For many, it may be nothing much to shout about, but at least it is still good news, given the dearth of heartwarming news these days.
Penangites in particular can take pride that in a list published by International Living, Penang was the only island in Asia noted for its welcoming and accommodating people. That is a feather in the cap for Penangites and the DAP-led state government.
Penang has been on the radar of expatriates for decades as it offers retirees affordable living, a variety of Asian fare, the absence of a language barrier (as many are fluent in English) and easy access to other countries in the region.
The state was ranked first in Asia and in the top three globally, sharing the glare of publicity with 14 other amazing islands on the list.
Penang is also noted for being well positioned within Southeast Asia and “home to varied architecture, a pulsating arts scene and the best street food in the world”.
Earlier in April this year, Penang was mentioned in another travel publication catering to senior travellers as the third best island in the world and the first in Asia.
KLites too, have a reason to celebrate: Kuala Lumpur was reported as the best city in the world to live – a leap from its eighth position in 2020.
The survey was conducted by InterNation, the world’s largest global expatriate network with over 4.3 million members.
Opinions from over 12,000 people, comprising 174 different nationalities living in 186 countries and territories, were sought on critical issues. They considered the quality of life, ease of settling in, personal finance and working conditions in the city.
The factors cited in Kuala Lumpur’s favour included its healthy environment, quality of life, absence of language barriers, ease of settling in, and affordable healthcare.
That said, Malaysia, like the rest of the world, was confronted with the challenges arising from the pandemic. The disease resulted in job losses, plunging many into poverty.
Many suffered a decline in their mental and psychological health, as social quarantines and financial apprehension sparked anxiety. Distress signals in the form of white flags were displayed in parts of the country.
So, when any good news is reported during difficult times, however negligible it may be, it is like a breath of fresh air and much-needed tonic to uplift our spirits.
Take pleasure in the moment, even if it is nothing spectacular or exclusive. At least it is good news, for what it’s worth. Savour it.
After all, any good news provides a respite from the many negative reports in the media about the grim political landscape and the ills afflicting the nation.
Merry Christmas and a blissful 2022 to all Aliran readers.