I guess it is true… that the world gives you, to write something every time: I have not read the book myself so it wouldn’t help by me giving you a commentary. It wouldn’t do justice to it’s champions if I do.
I do not intend to read the book.
There is one paragraph which deserves attention though:
“Di dalam kapal itu ada kira-kira 120 orang penumpang atas dek. Mereka datang dari berbagai daerah – Pondicerry, Pulikat, dan Madras; dan ada juga dari Malabar, Kerala dan Hyderabad. …..Mereka yang datang dari arah ke utara sedikit bercakap bahasa Malayalam atau Telugu, tetapi hampir semua tahu bahasa Tamil. …Satu perkara besar yang membuatkan mereka senang bergaul adalah kerana mereka tergolong dalam satu kasta Pariah. Mereka tidak perlu takut akan mengotori sesiapa kalau bersentuhan” – extracted from page 210-211 of Interlok, Tingkatan Lima, Edisi Murid.
A rough translation could go something like this :
In the said ship, there were about 120 passengers on the deck. They came from various districts – Pondicerry, Pulikat and Madras; and also from Malabar, Kerala and Hyderabad. …..Those that came from slightly north spoke Malayalam or Telugu, but almost all knew Tamil …One big factor that made it easy for them to interact was because they are classed into one Pariah caste. They need not fear making anyone dirty if touched.
Apparently the Ministry of Education feels that it should be made an imperative part of the Malaysian education system because the main theme of the novel is the integration of various majority races of Malaya ………………………………………………………………………………………… YES, I feel you!!!
interlocked? …the joints look kinda nasty.
Some may argue that it is unfair to quote one paragraph from a 418 page novel and deem it unfit to read anymore as the entire subject has been taken out of context. I can just smile, in bitter angst on that argument.
and, there are some others who argue the actual relevance of the subject to the caste system which is being practiced within the Indian community… even today. Yes. It is unfortunate that to a certain extent, the spree of colonization over the last 1000 years has robbed the Indians of their own identity – the caste system is extremely complex, perhaps the oldest systematic segregation of individuals in a society known to men and I will refrain from discussing that in this note. I will, one day.
BUT …there is something else, some of us keep missing bout Interlok.
No one actually cared bout the book back in the 1970s when it was 1st published. Why NOW? I actually feel sorry for the author. He is 91 and is being accused of being a racist for something he wrote 40 years back! An outdated ignorant yes. A racist? Abdullah Hussain has been misunderstood.
At one end we have the author, a national literary laureate who defends his work with tears and at the other end we have the entire community against the inclusion of the novel as a literature text for Form Five students from this year. Well, the entire community, almost.
….and in between this two, you have that bloody lot which excites itself at the very instance of controversy. Can’t blame them, they breathe and breed on this!
A couple of questions to the ministry’s decision to introduce and now deliberately retain the novel as a literature component in Malay studies:
Was there an actual panel of experts who reviewed the novel BEFORE the ministry decided to …make this a national agenda? I am sure you have other worthy novels around. I recall a few myself and people who have wrote real good stuff about life in pre-independent Malaya. I bet you know them better.
I am not ridiculing that wise old man’s novel …I am sure he has got some good stuff in it and I am sure he had his share of ignorance when he wrote the book BUT clearly this has cost him and the country too much unwanted attention. So, what is the whole fuss of NOT withdrawing it from the syllabus altogether now – owh coz you guys think that novel STILL promotes national integration? You ni serious ke? Sure?
The latest decision effectively retains Interlok as part of the syllabus in Malaysian schools but amendments were to be made to parts of the novel which were deemed too sensitive to the Indian community. The Indians aren’t very happy with this… again, almost all of them – some couldn’t be bothered much, but there comes a point when YOU got to start bothering about issues – Indian, Chinese or Malay, it really doesn’t matter. After all, they say this is all about nurturing national integration …isn’t it?
p.s. I am not against the book that I never read, I am against the manner THIS is being managed.