More than anything else in the world, nine-year-old Alias Daniel wants to become an astronaut one day and explore the vast unknown regions of space.
It is a fitting dream for the boy who not long ago won a prize for being the best student in his school.
Out in space lies the promise of endless possibilities and discoveries waiting to be found.
And out in space, where the universe is untouched by territories and borders, his own origins will be of little consequence to anyone.
Daniel was abandoned by his biological parents when he was only a baby. The locals who found him lying cold and hungry on the boot of a car took him to the welfare department where he was placed under an adoption care system.
When he was two months old, he was adopted by Nur (not her real name) and her husband, who live in Johor Bahru.
It was a long and tedious process which required Nur to pass two interviews with officials from the department and take an oath before a magistrate in court.
For Nur and her husband who had wanted a child for years, no wait was too long. But when they went to the welfare department to collect his documents, they were shocked to discover more blank spaces than words on his birth certificate.
The document contained his name and his date and place of birth. Apart from that, it was empty. Daniel was, for all intents and purposes, stateless.
“I was shocked at first when I learnt about Daniel’s condition since I assumed I wouldn’t have to deal with documentation concerns if I adopted a child legitimately through government bodies,” Nur told MalaysiaNow.
The official in charge told the couple to go to the National Registration Department (JPN) in two years’ time to complete the paperwork for Daniel’s adoption as well as his citizenship.
But while they were given his certificate of adoption, his citizenship status remained unchanged. Unknown, it read.
Nur and her husband were determined to keep trying. They returned to JPN to apply for citizenship for Daniel but were told that it would take a long time – at least three years – although his chances were better as he was considered an adopted child of the government.
For years, the couple continued to contact JPN to ask about the progress of their application, but today, they are still waiting.
“Now I understand why so many adoptive parents choose to return their adopted child to the department,” Nur said.
“The issue isn’t the child or the parents, but the lack of documentation. It burdens the parents.”
Returning Daniel to the government would have been an easy way out for Nur, but she was adamant that she would not abandon her son.
“He is a bright child,” she said. He consistently scores A’s in his exams and he was the lead actor in his school drama when he was only in Standard One.
Nur treasures every trophy and medal he brings home from school, and keeps them carefully in a glass-faced cabinet in their house.
But she knows that eventually, he will have to face the hardships in life brought about by his status as a stateless individual.
“We have provided a good education for him, but we don’t know what his future will be like,” she said.
“Without citizenship, he has nowhere to go. He will always be considered stateless and without meaning.”
For as long as she can, though, she is determined to do everything within her power to make sure that Daniel will one day be able to live a normal life as a lawful citizen.
“As a mother, I will keep voicing out about this issue and I will keep fighting for him,” she said.
“If I was told to turn in all of my possessions and my own citizenship in exchange for his, I would gladly give it up because I know he has a bright future ahead of him.”
She is all too aware that she herself may be reaching for the stars in her efforts to help Daniel gain citizenship. But as his mother, she is unwavering in her belief that this is something he deserves.
“All I want is for my son to be given a chance,” she said. “He is not at fault, so please stop punishing him.”