“ Yaathum Oore, Yaavarum Kelir” – no matter the place, all people are the same-Yogambikai Vijaykumar
Malaysia or formerly known as Malaya is actually a multi-racial country situated in the south east of Asia. The population here stands at about 28 million. With the major ethnic group being Malays which makes about 54% of the total population, 25% are Chinese, 7.5% are Indians, 11.8% are natives of Borneo and 1.7% are other ethnic groups.Malaysian Indians largely consists of those who migrated from Southern India during the British colonization of Malaya. Prior to British Colonization, Tamils had been conspicuous in the archipalego much earlier, especially since the period of the powerful South Indian kingdom of the Cholas in the 11th century. The Indians here are made up mainly of Tamils, Malayalees, Telugus and the remainders are Punjabis, Bengalis as well as sindhis. Though the south Indians were mainly brought in to work at estates as indentured labourers by the British around 1900 while the Sikhs were brought in to be guards as well as to be in the defence services.
With the passage of time, Indians became a part of Malaya’s population and moved out of the estates, integrating with the larger Malay society. Tamil schools were established to cater to the needs of the Tamils here, however only primary schools were built. For higher education, the Indians here have to depend on the government schools which are either Malay medium or English medium.
When the Indians started to come out of the estates, some assimilation occurred between the Tamils with the Malays here which formed the unique community known as Malacca chitti’s.
The members of this community are Hindus, who still follow a lifestyle based on the Tamil Cultural ethos. However, the language of the Chitti’s aint Tamil but they speak Malay and even their attire is Malay in character.
Though the Malaysian Indians here are far away from their homeland, the traditions, cultures, and also the language are still being treasured andfollowed strictly.Traditional Indian music, dances and also festivals have now become a part of the Multi-Racial Malaysian culture. One of the highly prestigious Indian cultural Schools is the Temple of Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur.
Many individuals other then the Indians have mastered the traditional Tamil performing arts in Malaysia. One can remember the names of Ramli Ibrahim, a Malay and Mavin Khoo, a Chinese. The tamil festivals like Diwali, known as Deepavali in Malaysia and Thaipusam are public holidays observed by most provinces here.
The Indian immigrants played a pivotal role in Malaya’s struggle for independence. Tun V. Sambanthan was the President of the Malaysian Indian Congress and later worked closely with the then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Rahman. Sambanthan, was actually the voice the Malaysian Indians and sought to work for the welfare of the Indians in the estates.
Another prominent face of the Tamil community in Malaysia is Tan Sri Tatparanandam Ananda Krishnan, a businessman and a philanthropist of Sri Lankan Tamil origin. He is the third richest man in the south East Asia and the also the wealthiest Tamil man in the world. Other known Tamils are Dato’ sri Anthony Francis Fernandes who launched the highly successful airline -Air Asia. Apparently The first Malaysians to have conquered the Himalaya’s are also Indians, Magendran and N.Mohanadass. There are still many Indians who continue to make a name for them.
Malaysian Indians only differ in nationality but at heart they are always Indians whose ancestral roots are from India. Regardless of the nationality, we are all Indians and will always be bonded in the name of Indians. As the saying goes in Tamil, “ Yaathum Oore, Yaavarum Kelir” which means no matter the place, all people are the same, in this case, all are Indians regardless of their ethnicity, location and nationality.
Yogambikai Vijayakumar is a a student of Health Education at the National University of Malaysia. She is a part of the Malaysian Tamil community
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