Saturday, August 30, 2014

CHINATOWNS AND LITTLE INDIAS – STARK REMINDERS OF WHERE THE ANCESTORS OF THE CHINESE AND INDIANS IN MALAYSIA HAD COME FROM.

…THEY ARE BAD FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN A STATE OF DENIAL.
By Mansor Puteh



SOME OF THE MALAYSIA ALSO HAVE (OR HAD…) ANCESTORS TOO WHO HAD COME FROM CHINA AND INDIA AS THE MANY OTHER MELAYU IN THE COUNTRY.

So relating this is also about describing our family and racial background.

But alas our backgrounds are grounded by facts and not of fantasy for our later ancestors had come to accept the fact that we cannot bring the whole of china and India with them and have to live as Melayu and Muslims.

The Chinatown area along Jalan Petaling had to be quickly designated because the Chinese community thought if this was not done soon, chances are it might lose that identity as more and more Chinese who used to trade there had left the area leaving it to the ‘new immigrants’ from Bangladesh.

If this trend does not stop, chances are the ‘Chinatown’ might become ‘Bangla City’ in Brick Lane in London.

But the fuss about wanting to call certain areas in the major cities and towns in Malaysia as Chinatown or Little India is quite a shocking exposition by these communities as much as it is in other countries, especially in London and the few major cities in America such as New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

On the one hand, they frown from being called descendants of immigrants from China and India, yet what they are doing is to do exactly the same.

No wonder they are constantly in the state of denial of not wanting to accept facts and of history and not knowing where they are now, that they are not in China or India but elsewhere.

There is a Slavery Museum at Albert Dock in Liverpool. When can we have an Immigrants Museum in Malaysia or anywhere in Southeast Asia or ‘Nanyang’? (More about this will be written in a separate essay as it deserves special attention.)

Many Melayu who are now successful liked to relate to everybody how he was once selling cookies or ‘goreng pisang’ all over the village and walking bare-footed, just to show how far he has gone up the ladder of success.

But how come the Chinese and Indians do not have the same sentiments?

Even if there are many of them who are wealthy, but they never want to describe how poor their ancestors or even parents were and how desperate they were when they were forced to leave South China or the remote village in Tamil Nadu, to come to Tanah Melayu.

They are guilty. They do not want to tell everybody how the Melayu who are charitable had resulted in their ancestors from possible death by saving them, by nursing their lost pride and lost villages in their ancestral lands.

And they had come to Tanah Melayu to be saved and be able to prosper.

Some of them had gone to other countries, but they were not many of them. That’s why they are not allowed to form any associations or exert their ethnic backgrounds and be absorbed into the society.

Yes, for the sake of history, we need to build this museum or Chinese Immigration to Nanyang so that future generations are aware of it.

Many have forgotten about this episode, so no wonder, some of them are aghast of it and are reacting to it in a violent manner.

Ironically, they still want to remind everybody that their ancestors had come from those countries.

This explains why they want to see where else in the whole country to call the areas where there are sizeable Chinese and Indian communities as Chinatowns and Little Indias.

There is a trick in this; in that if there are areas which are designated as such, then this can ensure that those areas become permanent settlements for these communities and cannot be touched.

Their community leaders can start to demand that they are redeveloped and their demands cannot stop with new demands being made especially during the elections.

And if there is a small temple somewhere, it can be enlarged until it becomes a complex and a self-contained city, such as what is happening in Batu Caves now.

The Hindu temple in Batu Caves was not like it is now. It was not even a temple in the first place.

This was a place described in a Filem Negara documentary as a sanctuary for wildlife.

In the caves were some Hindu deities.

It attracted a lot of visitors to this area because of this, and not because it was a Hindu temple. Even the Hindus did not flock there until much later.

And the Taipusam celebrations were held there only much later.

When did the mass celebrations of Taipusam at the Batu Caves start? When did the small deities in the caves cause the whole area to become a Hindu complex? And when was the tall statue of one of the Hindu deities constructed?

They were all of recent origins, and were not in existence since ancient times.

All the Hindu temples that were constructed in ancient times when the whole of the land was Hindu, and all the Melayu were Hindus had been demolished when the Melayu reverted to Islam en masse.

Only traces of them could still be found especially in the Bujang Valley in Kedah.

And for historical reasons, they are being excavated not by Hindus but by Muslim researchers and scholars.

The reason is probably to show to the whole world and especially to the Hindus in Malaysia that Malaysia was once a Hindu state. But not anymore. And this is what’s left of their ancient pre-Islamic past.

But alas, it was not a glorious past, but of despair and how the Melayu were thus saved by Islam.

I remember when I was in primary school in Melaka, in one of the history classes, the teacher discussed the reasons why the Melayu reverted and willingly embraced Islam. The reasons given if related today would sound very offensive to the Hindus.

They are the same sorts of reasons any Hindu who reverts to Islam would say, although he may not want to do so publicly. Some of them who had left the other faiths, including Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism and Buddhism or even Hindus have written about it in their books and also the internet.

But for the Melayu in ancient Malaysia, they had other more unique reasons for wanting to do so one of which was their distaste for idol-worshipping which Islam forbids.

The Hindu temple in Batu Caves seemed to have grown in size when more and more deities were placed there when no-one was watching until the whole place became exclusively for the Hindus.

This is how the early history of this temple can be described. It was a cave far away from the city center and some Hindus placed some deities and it became a temple. Now it is a complex.

This whole place will be claimed by the Hindus as their most sacred place, just because no-one cared to look after this once wildlife sanctuary for birds, until it was claimed by some Hindus as their temple.

And the Chinatowns and Little Indias that we see in Kuala Lumpur and in other cities and towns cannot be a very good way for the Chinese and Indians to preserve their identity, as it also exposes their true identity which they want to deny at all costs.

They just cannot be like the British whose historians like to describe how their explorers had ‘founded’ a certain city or country when there were in existence a long time before the first Englishman ever set foot on it.

And for the same reason why the Chinese who came to Tanah Melayu cannot be described as the people who had developed Kuala Lumpur and the other cities and towns in the country, simply they were already there and were developing with time.

What the historians and researchers and other scholars should say is how they had made these cities and towns a mess with their presence.


So in place of claiming cities and towns, all that they can do now is to call some areas in these urban dwellings Chinatown or Little India? 

No comments: