Friday, 27 September 2013

Balik Cina, India & Indonesia

Malaysia has the best of Asian cultures. Different types of people live here. Different roots, religion, language all in one country.

There are also those with mixed parentage known as Eurasians. We call them Orang Serani. They have been living here for centuries as a result of intermarriages between the Portugese and Malays.

The Orang Serani
Whichever tribe, ethnic or religious group we belong to, we share the same citizenship, Malaysians. It is our citizenship which holds us together in this country. This citizenship is also what brings us closer when we bump into each other in a foreign country.

But it looks like some do not appreciate it. Whoever you are, you should love your own tribe or race but you should also strive to bring people closer in the name of friendship. That is what we should be doing.

But some of these racist bigots are much more interested to say "balik Cina, balik India, balik Indonesia".

Why balik when we are all citizens of this country? We are not refugees, not tourists, not visitors, not illegal immigrants. 

We pay tax for this country. Many have even died fighting for the freedom of this country. Many are still working hard for this country.

If someone has to balik because of ethnic origin, then let it be that all who came here balik for good. Back to where we all came from.

Want to take a look at the origins?

Most Indians in Malaysia are from Tamil Nadu. My family is from southern Tamil Nadu. The remaining Indians are from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, Bengal etc. The Malaysian Ceylonese are from the nothern and eastern region of Sri Lanka.

The Chinese as we know are from mainland China. We also have many Chinese with roots in Taiwan and Macau. Back in China, they are identified according to their language, region and clan. The Han ethnic forms the majority among the Chinese.

The Malaysian Malays have their own divisions too. Today, the term Malay is a very loose definition. 

Malay is a ethnic with its own origins. Indonesia's definition of a Malay is not the same as Malaysia. 

The actual Malay race is made of Tamiang Malays, Riau Malays, Deli Malays, Jambi Malays, Bangka Malays, Belitung Malays and Samba Malays. Many Malay settlement already exist in peninsular during ancient times.

Most modern day Malaysians who call themselves Malays today are not real Malays. Most of them are not the direct descendants of the ancient Malays who lived here. Alot of them do not belong to the divisions which I mentioned above.

The Bugis, Minangkabaus, and Javanese of Malaysia have begin to call themselves Malays today. These people have their individual  language and are different from the actual Malays.

The Bugis people are from Sulawesi. Our Prime Minister Najib is a Bugis. He still visits his ancestral village in Sulawesi each year.

The Minangkabau people are from Sumatra. Those from Negeri Sembilan are mainly Minangkabaus with roots in Sumatra.

The Javanese are from Java region of Indonesia. They form the majority back in Indonesia.

Although they call themselves Malaysian Malays for official purpose, they are actualy different from each other. 

They even have associations like Persatuan Anak-Anak Bugis Selangor, Persatuan Ikatan Keluarga Minangkabau Malaysia and Persatuan Penggiat Kebudayaan Jawa Malaysia.

Basically, we all came from somewhere. We came from different parts of the Asian region, from different countries, from different kingdoms, from different tribes, speak different languages, believe in different religion and finally settled down in this country. 

We are all Pendatangs
So who are the actual natives? If you were to ask me, the correct definition of a native is the first tribe to settle down in a region.

The natives of Borneo have lived there for many centuries before any empire flourished in the thick forest of Borneo or in the coastal regions. They have their own language, customs and way of life.

Genetic studies has proven that the Orang Asli, particularly the Semang people are the first tribe to settle down in Peninsular Malaysia. 

For these people, all of us are pendatangs regardless of who we are.

It does not matter whether we are technologically more superior or more civilized, the fact remains that they were here first before us.

I know my roots and I accept it. It does not make me less Malaysian than others.

What about you? Do you know your roots? Do you accept it? Or are you living in denial?

If you are still unhappy and want to say "balik Cina, balik India, balik Indonesia" to a fellow Malaysian, then I suggest that you pack your bags first and return to where your ancestors came from.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Kelings

The word Keling has been used by the Malays (and Indonesians) for many centuries. Even today, the Malays of Malaysia use it to refer to the local Indian population.

What is Keling?

The word Keling is taken from the word Kalinga. Kalinga was a kingdom in the Indian subcontinent. It was located in the present day state of Orissa. 

Orissa changed its name to Odisha as of 4 November 2011.

The kingdom of Kalinga was once very powerful. It was even mentioned in the Mahabaratha.

Kalinga established maritime trade with southeast asia. Settlers from Kalinga also opened up colonies in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives and the Malay archipelago.

Ships from Kalinga arrived in large numbers in the southeast asian ports. It then became common for the local Malays to refer to anyone from the Indian subcontinent as Keling. India was even called as Benua Keling (Continent of Kalinga) in ancient times.

However, not all Indians were Kelings. This is because there were many independent kingdom besides Kalinga. 

One such kingdom was the powerful Chola. The Malays also had another name for the Tamils. They were known as Cholia or Chulia as many arrived in ships from Chola kingdom back in those days.

Why Malaysian Indians get angry when Malays call them Keling?

The Malaysian Indian population is made of several ethnic groups. These ethnic groups speak different languages. Most modern Indians in Malaysia are Tamils from Tamil Nadu. 

It is incorrect for the Malays to continue to call all of us as Kelings. If this was 1000 years ago, the Malays would probably call us Chulias.

We also do not like to be called Keling because those who call us  Kelings in modern Malaysia do it in a derogatory manner. 

Some go to the extend of saying that the word Keling is used in reference to the bangles and ornaments used by the Indians as it produces the 'kling-kling' sound.

We also have some Indians who thinks that we should be proud of being called Kelings. My ancestors were from south and east Tamil Nadu. They were not from Kalinga. They were Tamils of Chola and Pandya kingdoms. 

So why should I be proud of being called a Keling? It is not related to me or my ancestors. 

There are some existing Tamil royal families with surnames such as Kalingarayar. Their ancestors earned this title after winning battles with Kalinga. 
It only makes sense if the present day Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka and the people of  Odisha are referred to as Kelings. Because these people are the direct descendants of the Kalingans.

Although the ancient kingdom of Kalinga came to an end, the Indian merchants continued trading with the empires in southeast asia. This includes Malacca.

The word Keling then got stuck with the Indian traders in Malacca. Most of the traders were Tamil Muslims from the Maraikayar community. They were called as Kelings and had their own settlements in Malacca. These settlements are known as kampung Keling.

Many Tamil Muslims traders back then intermarried with the local Malays . The Malays were Hindus at that time. The intermarriage between the predominantly Hindu Malays and Tamil Muslims caused Islam to spread in this region. 

Their mixed parentage descendants are also known as Darah Keturunan Keling (Keling bloodline) or DKK in Malaysia. 

In 1456, Raja Kassim became the sultan of Malacca after his half brother, Raja Ibrahim was murdered. Raja Ibrahim was a Malay and he was supposed to become the king with a Hindu title, Raja Sri Parameswara Dewa Shah. 

Raja Kassim was a DKK Muslim. This is because Raja Kassim's mother was a Tamil Muslim woman and she was the sister of Tun Ali, the influential Maraikayar who served as the Bendahara (Prime Minister) of Malacca.

This is the actual turning point in Malacca's history. The DKKs then gained more prominence than the Malays in the royal court of Malacca. The mamak era of Malacca begins from here. The Maraikayars were so rich and powerful that they could decide the fate of Malacca's sultanate.

This is why there is an infamous saying among the Malay community:

"Kalau jumpa ular dengan Keling, bunuh Keling dulu"
(If you meet a Keling and snake, kill the Keling first)

There is also a term called 'Janji Keling' (Keling's Promise). This is used in reference to people who are unable to keep their promise.

It could be traced back to the times of Malacca. This is the story behind the word Keling.