Monday, 10 December 2007

Malaya - The Last Resort?

Who will provide the grand design?
What is yours and what is mine?
'Cause there is no more new frontier
We have got to make it here

We satisfy our endless needs and
justify our bloody deeds,
in the name of destiny and the name
of God

And you can see them there,
On Sunday morning
They stand up and sing about
what it's like up there
They call it paradise
I don't know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye.

  • The Last Resort, Eagles

Of late, there has been a lot of racist and ultra-religious hate rhetoric being spewed by our so called leaders, which I thought was juvenile at best.

The way I look at things, despite being treated as second class citizens, this country is what it is today, because of our forefathers who actually helped build this beautiful country of ours. Anything or anyone that says otherwise, is nothing but a blatant liar.

Any racist rhetoric, is nothing but an attempt by the powers that be, to distort the truth, so as to cover their inferiority complex and greed for money and power, and brainwash the lovely Malaysians with an ideology of hate.

This ideology of hate has manifested itself in more ways that one in all sectors of society. I couldn't help but feel sad for our nation as a whole, as I heard the story of a University Malaya Lecturer who lost all her Malay friends (and they were her best friends), due to the change in their mindset, towards that of chauvinistic attitude propagated by our politicians and religious leaders. The other story I heard was that of an “Indian” executive, who was fired using trumped up charges, simply because he wasn't a “bumiputra” - apparently all he could say at the end of it all was, “Do you know how much I contributed to the Company?”

Sadly, I wondered if I too would one day be faced with this predicament ...... the day when Ketuanan Melayu rears its ugly head, just as Hitlers “Aryan supremacy” ideology once struck fear in the hearts of the Jews of Europe prior to and during WW-II.

Later, as I listened to events and the song above, I couldn't help but reminisce about the stories that my Mum and Dad told me when I was just a “starstruck” kid, listening with wonder about the “adventures” that my folks had in the “good old days”.

My dad used to relate that he had to make his own sandals in his younger days so as to be able to trek his way to school. Poverty, disease and hunger in “pre-independence Kerala” was the norm, and they had to escape the cycle of misery that all who stayed back for the love of the “Motherland” had to face under the yoke of the British Raj.

They chose to switch their allegiances to a nation that was just budding after the turmoil of the Japanese invasion – they chose a Malaya that was still having Malaria epidemics, still dependant on wells for water, and the “petromax lamp” if not candles for light. They had chosen an impoverished but fertile frontier, which appeared to have unlimited potential and promise, with an easy going, friendly, pious, beautiful and loving people for “hosts”.

They chose a Malaya where a wooden house on stilts and a motorcycle to call your own, was a dream come true. And even if it was hell that they had to face, together with the others of different ethnicities, they were willing to walk through it, to achieve their dreams.

They had chosen to build a life in a new frontier through plain hard effort and work, faced with stark realities and choices in a new world – armed with nothing but sacrifice, some knowledge and the spirit of enterprise – all fired up to build a dream, a nation, in the spirit of “Merdeka”. They had chosen, never to turn their back on a small, new and beautiful nation in the making.

It was apparently quite a hard time that they all went through, when they first chose to pack up and migrate for good, and never to turn back. They had chosen a path, to break away from the mindset that held many immigrant workers and families, who still had their allegiances to the culture and mindset of colonial India. This was their “last resort” and they had to make it here.

It is quite difficult for me to imagine the “quantum leap” in mindset that my parents had to undertake, in order to achieve what they had in those days.

My dad came first, to first attain a stable job – I still remember that his first job was in Borneo Motors as a “fitter”, with a lucrative salary of 5cents/ day. From there, he moved on into the estates.

Papa was later introduced to the new “rubber estates” when he was still in his early twenties. He was apparently “spotted” and and started out as some thing like a trainee/ cadet “conductor” (at least, that is what I vaguely recall – gotta confirm it, though).

Papa then went back to his hometown in Kerala, got married to mum, and soon enough, was back in Malaya, reassuring my mum in this brave new world.

Mum, I presume, probably wasn't too happy initially, with the isolation that she experienced at that age, but persevered in her commitment towards building a life, by being supportive of Papa. Those were the days when women were so totally committed to their wedding vows and family, that all personal interests took second place.

My dad meanwhile worked just as hard if not harder at performing his duties as the breadwinner, husband and father.

I suppose, he knew the value of honesty, dedication, perseverance, education, language and the written word. In order to do justice to his talents and his desire to progress, he made great strides in learning “Queens English” and good letter writing skills through books he bought or borrowed.

These qualities probably did not go unnoticed by Mr. Perkins, his boss. Papa's command of his duties and his ability to learn fast possibly caught the attention of the “white Tuan” Planters ...... and he rose the ranks exceptionally fast, and before long, he was a planter himself!

Papa would surely mention Mr.Perkins (the Tuan Planter) at the first opportunity, should one ask about his exploits. I'm quite certain that Mr. Perkins played a pivotal role in his education and promotions. I still recollect his visits to Mr. Perkins' mansion overlooking a lagoon somewhere in Port Dickson, long after Mr. Perkins' retirement – there were also Mr. Perkins' dogs (all Alsatians) named Brandy, Whisky and Soda!

The psychological “evolution” that he underwent during that time was nothing short of phenomenal – even his writing bore no semblance whatsoever, of one who grew up learning the twisted Indian (Malayalam, in this case) script. The same could be said of his accent, to a lesser extent. This is something that still fascinates me to this day, if I where to compare him to his peers.

Papa also developed a taste for scotch, which he enjoys to this day (which Mum would nag about)! As a result, I occasionally end up in the “firing line” when I try to secretly give him a Chivas off and on, and get found out by Mummy. (Of course I try to explain that a “medical dose” of a spiritual drink is always good for the heart, mind and soul ......).

Actually, I find their arguments over Mr. Chivas extremely amusing – two old folks who have endeared themselves to each other through all the trials and troubles of life, and yet cannot see eye to eye on issues about Chivas and Co.!

So Pa, Ma – for all that you have done, your sacrifices, the values that you instilled in me (even if we still fight and argue about it) and for making me who I am today – A big Chivas Cheers, Love, hugs and Kisses to the idols of my life!

Also Ma, Pa - I just hope that the day wouldn't come, when I have to say in frustration, “Do you know how much I contributed to the Country?” I also hope, you do not live to see your dreams for this beautiful nation dashed.

Malaysia, My heart bleeds for you .....

Daulat Tuanku!