‘Keling’ – they helped make this country great

Lt Col (Rtd) Mohd Idris Hassan

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Of noisy Indians and ‘keling’ blood: Utusan strikes again.

The attacking of fellow Malaysians by the mainstream media Utusan Malaysia because of their race is unwarranted and most uncalled for. I remember in the late 40s when I was a little boy living in my hometown of Raub, Pahang.

I used to pass road gangs of Tamil labourers toiling in the midday’s scorching sun from dawn till dusk. Armed with only picks and shovels, they would be hacking at solid rocks to carve out roads along the mountain side.

They had no proper attire, just a withered white towel tied in turban form on their heads. They would wrap rags around their spindly legs to prevent the hot molten tar from scalding them as they went about their chores.

Yet they had time to smile and wave at passing cars. They used to be referred to as ‘coolies’ and their slave-like living quarters as coolie lines. My late father used to tell us that most of the roads in Malaya at the turn of the century were built solely by Indian labour.

They toiled in the malaria-infested rubber estates, living with their families in filthy inhuman conditions. The white ‘tuan’ treated them like slaves and allowed them to indulge in drinking toddy to forget their woes.

Yet again, it was the same coolies called ‘toties’ who serviced our bucket system latrines until the early 60s as there were no takers for this job from the other races. I have seen for myself these ‘toties’ cleaning the rubber tubs at a stream not far from my house with their bare hands.

In short, when there was any dirty, menial job to be done, it was this Tamil coolie, then often called by the derogatory term ‘keling’, that did it for us.

Now times have changed and their offsprings have made much progress in all fields and want to take their rightful place in our society .Let’s not pour scorn on them and laugh away their pride.

As a soldier, I know that many of my Indian/Tamil friends who fought and died for this country. They all are a part of those who stood by us during the good and bad times, they have helped make this country great.

A country which rightfully belongs to all Malaysians.

Lt Col (Rtd) Mohd Idris Hassan: Thanks guys for all the kind words. I did really did not expect so much response to the thoughts of an old soldier. I am truly humbled. There is one thing we can all collectively do, that is to speak out when our brethren, irrespective of race, creed, religion or colour are being belittled, humiliated and ill treated.

By doing so, we can keep those who are out to create mischief at bay by giving notice that it is not okay to shoot your mouth without thinking of the repercussion it will have on the feelings of others.

I remember an article in the New Straits Times entitled ‘A total stranger has an ugly name for you’ (Oct 15, 1996). It shows a photograph of a Malay man with a haj cap with the word “Blachan” and a photograph of a dark Indian man with the word “Keling”.

As much as the Malays don’t want to be referred as “Blachan”, neither do the Indians want to be called “Keling”.


2 Responses to ‘Keling’ – they helped make this country great

  1. Impressed says:

    Thenk you, Lt Col (Rtd) Mohd Idris Hassan. The more decent people like you speak up the the better this beloved country country of ours will be.

    • N.Rajasvaran says:

      Fantastic! I would add that the PWD, Health, Education, Telecommunications, Railways, Police, Navy to name a few were ‘monopolized’ by the Indians and they made the British who ‘ruled’ the country then, proud and the Chinese too worked hard to make Malaya a rich ‘Tin & Rubber’country.
      The Malays who lived and worked in the rubber estates and other sectors lived as brothers and sisters with the Chinese and Indians in the estates as well.The politicians after 1969, have changed ‘history’ and they want to make the present children think in their lines…that is why some change came about in the 2008 general elections. Hopefully, a greater change will come about in future years and everyone can proudly call and be respected as Malaysians!!

      If you want to talk about History, have the Historians forgotten of the Hindu Kingdom that existed and proved
      (Bujang valley)…you mean there was only 1 Indian then? We know what was the population before 31.8.1957 and how the stat. changed ‘dramatically’. I can go on and i believe and know that ‘Truth will Prevail’!

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