Friday, January 28, 2011

The Interlok issue

Abdullah HussainImage via Wikipedia

A very heated debate happen earlier this month about a book name Intelok, written by National Laureate winner Abdullah Hussain. Earlier reports in the newspaper mention of a spat happening in the Indian community of Malaysia over the "P" word or known as Pariah, a derogatory term for an Indian person. That was what was reported in the newspaper of lately, but I think that is not the case at the moment.
In the Letters section of the News Straits Time dated 27th January 2011 an Indian lady wrote in and this was what she found  when she reading the book. Presumably, she is a teachers in a school in Kuala Lumpur.

(as quoting from the article)
I thought the only issue was with the P-word. However, I would like to point out that there is more to it and it is totally degrading to the Indian community,
There have also been numerous instances when a certain books and drawings were deemed disrespectful to a majority of Malaysians and demonstrations were held. The offending books were then banned.
Why the double standard? Let me point out a few examples in Interlok that are bad for national unity.

"Maniam, seperti orang India yang lain, tidak pernah khuatir tentang keselamatan isterinya".( Page 218)

Does this mean Indian men do not care about their wives' safety?

the paragraph with the P-word is contained in this sentence: " Mereka yang dari arah ke utara sedikit bercakap Bahasa Malayalam atau Telugu, tetapi hampir semuanya tahu Bahasa Tamil. Malayalam dan Telugu pun berasal dari satu rumpum bahasa Dravidia. Satu perkara besar yang membuatkan mereka senang bergaul adalah kerana mereka tergolong dalam satu kasta....(the P-word)(Page 211)

Loosely translated, it means that the Indians in Malaysia can get along well with each another because they are all of the "p" caste.

So, does this mean they cannot get along well with the other races in Malaysia or even other Indians who are not from the same caste?

"Mereka berasak-asak seperti kambing" (page 211)

Is the esteemed author now comparing Indians to goats?

"Tidak makan tengah hari tidak mendatangkan masalah, asalkan dia dapat mengunyah sirihnya seperti lembu atau kambing memamah biak." (page 224)

Is this another comparison of an Indian to cows and goats?

"Dia gertak sahaja, orang kulit hitam ini tentu takut kecut," (page 253)p

Why the need to label Indians as dark skinned? Are all Indians this color? and why the need to talk about skin color at the first place?

"Dia berasa bangga kerana anjing orang putih itu jinak dengannya," (page 276)

Is the Indian man so low in his opinion of himself that he takes pride in the fact that the white man's dog is friendly towards him?

Suthichana Puvandran
Kuala Lumpur

The two ends of the stick:

  • Some defended the book saying it will cause healthy discussion and will avoid name calling after its being taught in the classes
  • Some said it is accordance to the era mention in the book. In other words in was a normal occurrence back then.
  • Some pointed out that this will alienate Indian students in school after this. Unproper name calling will start.

My thoughts:

  • Was the name calling necessary in the book mentioned above necessary at the first place?
  • Is the author some attention seeking person. Does he even get his facts right?Fellow Indian readers, enlighten me please. 
  • Will in help in promoting unity and harmony and uplifting the 1Malaysia concept. I am afraid it will not be like that if the teachers who taught this doesn't tell about the improperness of the derogatory terms used in the novel. I think name calling will start if is not handled well. So in conclusion, not really a good choice at all all.

Other notable websites and blogs, what they have to say.

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