Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Malaysian Indians like me ... translocated from Malabar to Malaya by Great Britain!

People use all kinds of justification to "establish the truth" about Indians being marginalized in Malaysia. In today's Malaysia and Singapore, all of us (who are products of the past immigrant Indians) do not accept the current immigrant Indians as equal. We call them "Ooris" or "Oorukaaran" or "Indian Indians" ... and we do not take them as equal to us. If their kids are given the same fees in school we fight to change the system.

So in this context, why are we expecting Malays to go back to history ... analyse the origin of roti canai ... and give us an award that we are equal to them? Those are bygone histories of Chola, Srivijaya and Majapahit kingdoms. They lost some war somewhere along the lines and they are no longer here. We came because the British wanted "slaves" (who had no rights), supervisors (who were half English speaking Indians) and middleman (who were recruiters) to manage their plantations, railways and roads. The British took land (in 100,000s acres) from the Malay rulers of the time. Just because we were British "slaves", helping Britain exploit the resources of the land and adding wealth to Queen Elizabeth's treasure trove it does not make us contributors of Malaysian economy. We were mere selfish beings enjoying the newfound opportunity to make a living. If our forefathers were anywhere near having a "good life"in their village in India, they would not have "fled" the country and landed here ... and soon became citizens.

By the time the Japanese landed on bicycles, the British fled! Notably the Japanese sank two British naval ships within days making the British abandon all their "slaves" and battalions of Indian soldiers. When the British came crawling back, the natives slowly rose to the occasion and wanted independence. By this time, we who helped the British change the whole landscape of the country and caused the Malays to lose their land in the name of plantations, wanted equal rights!! In what era is that a fair expectation?? Inadvertently, we also "helped" the British to push all Malay kampungs into the interior by developing vast lands around them.

In the entire process, by 1957 we were the "pitiful Indians" who were left with 888 active Tamil schools, 112,000 Hindu temples, 3 Tamil newspapers, 1 Radio Malaya Rangkaian Merah, 1 Minister, several MPs, 1 political party, many Gounder/Malayalee/Telegu sangams and numerous toddy shops. We were also given RM1 medical treatments and free schooling. Astonishingly, our Tamil schools with 104,600 enrollment by 1993 and was allocated government funding of RM27 million between 1990-1995 ... and we still could not "change" the fate of the remaining "pitiful Indians" of 1957!

I am unable to "connect" to the constant argument of trying to fight for equal rights when we have not utilised the given resources properly. If our teachers (in Tamil schools) wanted to genuinely uplift the lives of Indians, they had 100,000 students with them each year to do so. Was this not enough to make a change?

We do have complete freedom to run our own business. And yes, just like any other country in the world, some benefits are reserved for the natives.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

An important wedding

On my way to an important wedding in Singapore ... I thought I will pen a meaningful wish to the groom whom I know for long and is an excellent "partner-in-crime"!!

Here it goes ...

"I am writing this from Malindo lounge at KLIA2. Sitting here after missing my connection flight to Spore. The Mumbai flight delayed by 1 hr.

Reflecting on my norms, this is by far the most complex logistics that I am dealing with to attend a wedding. I am a stubborn character by norm (as vouched by my uncles, aunties and relatives). I only attend events that I want to provided it is convenient. I have missed a host of weddings, parties and ceremonies.

But this multi event of your wedding was too important to miss. The chemistry we share is valuable and your dad is one of the few with whom I can speak my mind without the fear of being judged. You are more like my friend than relative and I can be totally myself without any acting.

Hopefully this chemistry stretches through the next generation. I was eagerly looking forward to the tea ceremony and church wedding but looks like I have missed it. But I am glad that my troops are there representing my presence.

This is to wish you a blissful married life and many years of happiness. The only way out of conflicts is to walk through it and not around it. And the only words that count is usually "I am sorry" even if the mistake is hers!! But we are man, we hardly learn or remember anything!!

Trust I should get there in time for lunch. See you then."

Friday, November 24, 2017

My varied status in Dubai

I have been walking the streets and tourist spots of Dubai since Nov 2014 when I officially became a Dubai "resident visa" holder. My stay here has been a mix of studio apartment, serviced apartment, hotel apartment and hotel rooms. I must say I enjoy less space rather than a sprawling apartment ... the brain has less to process in a hotel room as everything is taken care of by housekeeping.

I realized that I am an expatriate, tourist and immigrant at different times.

Expatriate - when I am in the Gold Class cabin of the Metro, having bfast at Costa Coffee and dinner at Uno Grill.

Tourist - when I walk out of the hotel with my camera & water bottle, get excited about photography at the Burj Khalifa fountain and shop alone in Watson.

Immigrant - when I underestimate the weight of the laundry and walk with 12 hangers with pants, shirt, T shirt and 2 bags of unlisted items.

Trail of my North India business visit

Looking back... left Dubai 2 weeks ago and landed in Gujerat (Bhuj) the home state of Narendra Modi, and the adventure began. Cows everywhere, camels in some villages and amazing how this town has resurrected after the major earthquake in 2001 that destroyed 400,000 homes and killed 20,000 people.

Passing the salt pans sent reminders of Gandhi's Salt March and the fact that salt is tax free till today ... had a quick lunch stop at Ahmedabad and soon landed in Jaipur the pink city with people wearing colourful winter costumes.

The hospitality of Asheesh Srivastava continued on with our road trip to New Delhi where IAL India's most modern office awaited. By this time my appetite was growing restless with the continuous flow of yellow dhal, black dhal, chana, boondi raita, pineapple raita, mixed raita and the likes. Yearning for the Elevation Burger of Dubai!!

Our next stop was Calcutta, the scene of jovial Bengali girls all dressed for their Saraswati Pooja holidays... and our local man Tapas says it is their version of lovers day!!! This town has a rustic charm and has appealed to me from my first visit long ago. Park Street is vibrant and always "alive" with crowd.

Going forward ... we have our next leg towards Bangalore then Kochi where the Budget Meeting of IAL is to convene and will take us through the numbers and charts for the next few days ... accompanied with Kerala food and Malayalee versions of Chinese food ... anything white is Hakka, red is Manchurian and always accompanied with bits of chilly floating in vinegar.

God's own recipe in God's own country

Many parts of Kochi are "invaded" by the "talented" people of Orissa and Bengal. Perumbavoor, a once sleepy town south of Kochi is now the administrative capital of Orissa migrants.

There are Orissa juice bars, restaurants, phone ships, barbers and mini markets. That is not exactly my complain of the hour as business globalisation is the new economic phenomenon. But what irks me is Orissa chefs cooking a storm in Kerala cuisine restaurants and serving us whatever they deem as "Gods own recipe" in God's own country.

Sea of Indians in Dubai

Orchid Vue Hotel in Bur Dubai is my current location. Hotel is new, so rooms are clean and there are no leftover smell of cheese or chapati.

But the crowd here is seriously Indian. By Indian, I mean the hardcore Indians who...

  • stand at the buffet and start eating right there without going to their tables ... as if they are in a stand up comedy party
  • speak so loud that their relatives in India can hear ... 
  • everyone speaks at the same time... 
  • the tiny lady in the group shrieks in her high pitch voice like a opera singer... and
  • the crowd is completely undecided about their plans... they stand at lift discussing their "action plan" while blocking everyone else. 

Today there is an English couple who is trapped in this sea of Indians. They were weaving through the human web to reach their breakfast. And when they got there they realised that breakfast menu is also Indian!! If they are "lucky" they are going to be in the same tour bus with all this confusion and perpetual revision of action plan.

I am very much in India in this restaurant. Successfully got my coffee and sitting here watching the fun. Will have my breakfast after all the excitement completes.

My view on technology ... 1965 to 2017

I was born in a rubber plantation i.e. literally born in a rubber plantation house on my parents' bed and not in a hospital! And that is because my mom could not get a transport in time to get to the hospital which was 4.8 miles away. My grandma was the "nanny on duty" and I must thank her for having handled "my arrival" at 9.25pm on that Thursday in 1965.

Given the starting point ... arriving in a "jungle" with no phone, no TV and no car ... we relied on the radio for most of our updates. Now, over time, my life changed from the "naturally unconnected world" to a fully connected world of Dubai that runs at high speed.

Many of my friends do say that "the good old days were great" and we talk a lot about our memories. I too have fond memories of my free flying childhood where my playground had no boundaries and every other kid was a friend. We had every plausible shortage ... food was short during month ends, clothing was limited, water does not flow daily on our taps, electricity was only for 12 hrs a night and the neighbour's chicken littered our veranda every day! But nevertheless, it was a beautiful world that I cannot forget. Nothing matches the spark of excitement that comes momentarily on pay day and on festivals ... that happy moments were unimaginably brilliant. Looking back, we were probably just chasing those spark moments and living our days then.

But that does not mean I want to go back to that world ... I fought hard to come out of it. It took lengthy efforts to get to a more "predictable world" where we had running water daily, electricity all day long, TV that works and the internet. So do I look back and say technology "spoilt" my life??

  • When TV came to my house, I saw the other people of the world ... and knew that I am not alone in many situations
  • When the car came to my doorstep, I learnt the price of petrol. 
  • When I got the mobile in my hand, I learnt to stay in touch
  • When computer came to my house, I connected to the universe
  • When the air conditioning came to my house, I understood the heat I had endured previously
  • When I stayed in the city, I valued the gardens
  • By dealing with banks and cards, I became part of the economy
  • With the smell of perfume, I valued the essense inside fresh flowers. 
  • With the coming of fast food, I valued my mom's cooking
  • And lastly when I got on Facebook, I remembered to wish everyone on their birthdays!
Nice to see that I found the connected high speed world after all.