Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Indon Maids Do Our Household Chores

Bangadeshis,Myanmars, Nepalese and Indians All Doing Our Hard, Menial and Dirty Work

“Malas” in Malay means lazy, indolent, idle, lethargic languid, sluggish, slothful etc. “Manja” means pampered, spoilt, coddled, fussed over, over-protected etc. "Manja" is usually used on children in a loving way but in this short essay the two words refer holistically to the general psyche of people in different countries – Malaysia and Singapore included.

Whether it is the USA, England, France or any developed or developing country like Malaysia, this “Malas & Manja” (M & M) syndrome invariably sets in slowly but surely on the native population. Development is a result of hard work and industry by earlier generations. Sacrifices, good governance and pure industry are among the major factors that generates national wealth and well-being of citizens in all such countries. The M&M syndrome is not anything new. Even ancient civilizations have fallen due to this factor – Babylon, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Muslim empires (Ottoman, Mogul etc.).

I recently read a retort by a Singapore Malay to a comment from a retired Malay politician who had commented about Singapore Malays rather negatively. The Singaporean had said that Malaysian Malays suffer from the M&M syndrome mentioned above. I wish to add that not only Malay Malaysians but indeed all Malaysians have become afflicted with this syndrome – including the Singapore Malay. Excepting perhaps some, the M&M syndrome is quite apparent in all communities in Malaysia today.

When a country is doing well (to be read as generating significant wealth) it begins to attract “pendatang” or immigrants from poor neighbouring countries. The “pendatang” I am referring to is not to be confused with the forcible influx of slaves as was the case in the USA and indentured laborers (near slave labour ) brought here by the British to Malay peninsula in earlier times from India. The “pendatang” referred here is to those who migrate voluntarily to seek better fortunes away from their homelands. This term is also not to be confused with expatriates who are brought in simply because of their expertise as is the case with Indian technocrats now in USA.

These modern day immigrants then begin to fill in the lower paying menial jobs that the local M&M folks are not keen on. As such unskilled labour is the favorite occupation. Therefore, the M&M syndrome is clearly seen in UK which has attracted both legal and illegal immigrants by the droves from West Indies, Africa, India, Pakistan and just about every other country one can think of. The menial staff at Heathrow airport is menially manned by almost 100% from Pakistan or India. The same has happened in USA with people going seeking for the American dream especially from Mexico and the Latin America and the South American “football” countries. In European countries people from the former USSR states have started flocking more recently to their wealthy neighbors such as Sweden with the lifting of the Iron Curtain. Arab countries, notably Dubai, also suffer from the same M&M syndrome.

Now back to Malaysia (and Singapore), almost all unskilled labour in the construction industry and similar areas is from Indonesia and/or Bangladesh. In many Malaysian eateries, workers from India, Myanmar, Thailand etc. work as cooks and waiters. In almost all mamak” eateries Tamils and Pakistanis from the Indian sub-continent handle almost the entire operation of the eatery except perhaps banking in the money. The only visible Malaysian component is seen in the license / permit hung at the payment counter prominently displaying the name of a Malaysian Indian Muslim (Mamak). Maids from Indonesia and Filipina work in many Malaysian homes and take care of all our household chores including baby care.

We have all become afflicted with the M&M syndrome knowingly or unknowingly. We hardly even walk but ride about. Our children too are chauffeured around. We are not willing to emulate hard work and endeavor onwards like our forefathers who had worked laboriously and sweated it out in padi fields, fishing boats, vegetable farms, rubber estates, railways, ports etc. The present generation expects the government to solve all their woes. Kit Lee (Antares) in his part cartoon book “Adoi” (Times Publications 1989) has a glossary of Manglish words such as “Bekozwai” – because why, “Lastaim” – last time, “Aidonchmain” – I don’t mind, “Aiseman” – I say man, “Atoyu” – I told you so, “Chipsket” – cheap skate and so on also lists “Debladigarmen” which is explained as “ a contraction of “the bloody government” – “widely used scapegoat for all of life’s disappointments, delays, denials and prohibitions”.

Let us not accuse anyone of being “malas and manja” okay?. Look yourself in the mirror first……..that Singapore Malay included.


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