Tuesday, March 15, 2011

OK and KO-ed Indian Malaysians

Malaysiakini reported in its news article Kula flays Palanivel's back-to-the-estates solution that:

DAP MP for Ipoh Barat M Kulasegaran has described the call to down-and-out Indian Malaysians in urban areas move back to estates to escape the poverty trap as "preferring a placebo to a panacea" in addressing the community's problems.

The proposal aired last week by MIC president G Palanivel that Indians caught in the poverty trap in urban areas stand a better chance of survival in the estates has drawn flak from several quarters.

Kula correctly urged: "When it is established why crime and school dropout rates and incidence of single parentage are high among Indian Malaysians, we can begin to find the solutions to the problems of the community."


… which them made me remember the old Mamak (uncle) in my Ayer Itam village, from whom I used to buy an economy mee rebus ‘burger’.

Hah, you may wonder what kaytee’s economy mee rebus ‘burger’ is (or was)?

The ‘burger’ consisted of half of a whole (square-shaped) fried tau-knua (hard tofu), cut diagonal-wise; Mamak then sliced a slit along but not exceeding the ‘diagonal' (or the hypotenuse of the triangular-shaped half of a tau-knua – me the maths genius, seeing Pythagoras in my mee rebus man’s tau-knua wakakaka). The slit created a ‘pocket’ in the tofu.

Stuffing the tofu’s pocket with some mee rebus (hotly rinsed Hokkien noodles), julienned cucumber and lettuce, he completed the ‘burger' by pouring his renowned kuah (gravy) into the slit. Man, was he a genius in developing the ‘burger’ where pokkai (money-broke) kids like me could enjoy the economy version of his fantastic mee rebus?

When Mamak passed away, his rather dapper son took over and introduced the pasembur as an additional menu item to the already fantastic mee rebus & goreng. His business took off like a runaway American Atlas ICBM so it wasn’t at all surprising that (according to my mates in the village) he eventually bought over the kopitiam (coffeeshop) from the Chinese owner.

Aneh (Elder Brother) is now one big towkay (rich businessman). It’s the story of an Indian success.

Then there was Subramanian. Subra was a wandering barber in my village. He plied his trade by walking around and seeking out known clients (like young kaytee), while carrying an old small suitcase which contained his equipment including the barber’s sheet.

His village trade eventually disappeared in the face of growing affluence in society and the appearance and greater attraction of girlie barber salons, which provide not only haircut complete with shampoo and drying, but also ear cleaning (I could never take the ‘pain’ of the scrapping though I think it was more psychological than actual physical pain – I dreaded the very scary thought of the sweetie plunging her traditional Chinese-designed ear de-waxer right through my ear drums, ouch & gulp!); there was of course the massaging as well, yup, of zones way beyond the region of the head.

All poor Subra could provide by way of competition was the old fashioned Thuggee-style twisting of the neck to produce a couple of satisfying but frightening 'cracks' (or snaps) – at times I wonder whether he was going to break my neck. But poor Subra’s livelihood inevitably succumbed to modernity and his personal problems, mainly excessive toddy.

Unlike the mee rebus Aneh, he became a total failure. The last time I saw Subra was years ago when I returned home for Chinese New Year celebrations. Shabby, unwashed and smelling of various odour, especially stale toddy, he staggered into my house to pay me a CNY visit. Naturally I welcomed the elderly Uncle and invited him for a drink of, no, not toddy, but traditional F&N sarsi. Declining my welcoming drink he asked rather bluntly whether I could spare him a couple of ringgit.

I always have a soft spot for Subra, despite him occasionally giving a then very young kaytee a cuff or two on the head for not sitting still when he was cropping my hair. I gave him RM20 which saw him seeking leave from me straightaway to hunt down the village Chinese samsu shop man (because it was CNY and the shop was closed). I haven’t seen Subra since that sad parting.

Here we have two examples of Indian Malaysians where one has been innovative and extremely successful while the other gradually became a failure, owing to his inability to cope with the changing business scene of barbering and his own indiscipline.

So how man? In the last half a century there’s more Subra’s than mee-rebus Aneh’s. Yes, there were, have been, are and will be the Chinese equivalents of Subra but never to the shocking numbers in the Indian community.

May I, without offending anyone, say something about the difference between pathetically poor Chinese and pathetically poor Indians? There’s a noticeable lack of support for and within the latter group, unlike the poor Chinese. In this (kaytee’s observation) I believe the MIC has a lot to answer to, especially when you read of the son of a MIC bigwig boasting he housed his German Shepherd pet in an air-conditioned kennel.

Kula is absolutely correct in stating "When it is established why crime and school dropout rates and incidence of single parentage are high among Indian Malaysians, we can begin to find the solutions to the problems of the community." What's the point of running back to an equally miserable life in the plantation?

(1) The Toddy Syndrome
(2) Malaysia's Economic Pariahs?
(3) Hated by Indra


  1. The caste system and all the problems emitting from it still exists in this country. Plus the tradition of having numerous children, regardless of whether the parents are capable of providing the basic care for those unfortunate children.

  2. The trouble with the Indian wealthy ones are they think they are superior to the poor ones.
    The caste system made them so aloof, not caring about the down-trodden.
    They are not like the Malay rich who helps the poor via the zakat system.
    Ananda Krishnan, A. K. Nathan, Nalla, Vickneswaran et all could do wonders for the race.
    Haha Palanivel wants his race to continue to be estate kulis.
    Shame on him!

  3. With the taste of city life
    The villager bumpkins will not run back
    No matter how much pain they have to endure
    Searching for their pot of gold

    They struggle to make it work
    Some may have fallen on the wayside
    The dreams all died in their minds
    The efforts wasted on not working extra mile

    The sights and sounds
    The fast buck and economic pursuits
    The village bumpkins will not run back
    They can't stand their failures in pursuing wealth

    It is like the humming birds
    When they are 2 weeks old
    Out of the nest to see the world
    On the open ground the birdies feel free

    Put it back in the nest
    The birdies will hop out again
    They want to see the world
    The birdies aren't afraid of the hunting cats

    In fact the birdies never think of it
    The birdies hop and run hoping to fly
    It can't fly for wings haven't formed properly yet
    The birdies will not sit back in the nest

    So like humans
    From village to city
    Taste the pursuit of wants
    The economic vibrancy

    It will be hard to walk back
    The people in the village will say
    “It never rains in California...
    Don't tell the folks back home”