Before we begin the discussion on SRJK (C) in my vernacular school series (following on which will be titled ‘VS’ in the header), this is a prelude.
I don’t have much to say on Tamil schools since I’m not qualified to comment. Only that if Chinese insist on our Chinese schools, then by the same token, I can understand if Indians want to keep Tamil schools going.
A friend of mine who attended Tamil school told me he was the better for it and most importantly the schooling taught him the value of frugality.
To me what he said makes sense. I don’t think we can quantify values, such as to compare between the races but eating habits are something visible.
I feel a twinge of guilt that I (and probably other Chinese) are more cerewet compared to Indians and Malays. This statement is, needless to say, only a broad generalization.
We are known for our 8-course dinners on more formal occasions and banquets in China even today can be royally sumptuous. To the Chinese, food is more than just to fill our stomachs. It’s also a social vehicle – imagine if we don’t know how to use chopsticks in company – and the occasion reflects on the host (his status, his means, etc).
I observe to my own embarrassment that my Indian friends eat more simply than I do. They also eat more vegetables whereas the Chinese are known for their taste for exotic meats.
So if my friend says that he learned the value of thriftiness from his Tamil schooling, I say good on him.
Senseless wastage is bad, undeniably. That’s why I liked what Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg did — which was: He slaughtered a pig and a goat.
In other words, he personally killed the meat that he ate. This awareness will make us more responsible in our actions with regard to food consumption (‘Telegraph’ article here).
Schools are not just places where kids learn to read and write but they’re also for the transmission of language and culture which in turn shape our ethos.
Next, briefly about my experience learning Tamil. I’ve blogged a bit previously on the aesthetics of Tamil alphabets. From my 16 Oct 2011 posting:
“Vowel atau huruf hidup dalam bahasa Tamil disebut ‘uyir’ yang bermaksud hidup/jiwa. Konsonan dalam bahasa Tamil ialah ‘mey’ (badan/jasad). Apabila vowel bercantum dengan konsonan, ianya menjadi uyirmey — sempurnalah jasad bertemu jiwa.”
Some samples of Tamil words can be seen in my 2 March 2012 posting. This basic vocabulary introduced at kindergarten level (samples scanned from the flash cards I use to study) indicate the deep spirituality of the Indians in their worldview and old civilization.
In another posting, I’d found on the Net a virtual Tamil keyboard which enabled me to type nambikei — நம்பிக்கை . (Postscript: Hindraf has extended PKR an invitation to meet Indians tomorrow 1pm at Padang Chetti, Klang. If Anwar doesn’t show up, I hope Uthaya breaks the tembikai this time).
Before I started Tamil class, the alphabets all looked like just squiggles to me. The saying ‘tak kenal maka tak cinta’ is quite true.
Nowadays whenever I’m in Brickfields (Little India), I’ve begun to take notice of shop and stall signboards, and attempt to decipher their script.
Most times when I go out and I expect to have to wait – whether for an appointment or in the queue – I’d bring along a Tamil workbook plus a small stack of writing squares (paper). I keep half a dozen 2B pencils and an eraser in my bag.
One time, an Indian lady looking over my shoulder pointed out that my writing strokes were wrong. I had been experimenting with Tamil alphabets through the Chinese hanzi (radical-phonetic) method in my head.
Another time, I was doing homework in a mamak shop while waiting out the rain. The F&B staff appeared pleased to see a non-Indian learning an Indian language. They were foreign workers either from India or Burma (which has an ethnic Indian population as the country borders India).
The point I’m trying to make here is that people love their native tongues wherever they are although far away from home.
Indian vendors are friendly to my failings as an elementary learner, e.g. at the food stalls where I don’t know how to say ‘mutton’, I might say adu (goat). Or koli (hen) instead of chicken. I like Indian food. I like Malay food too. (Wink … a famous Twit keeps tweeting about her love of Italian food and her diet).
Malaysian Firsters do not promote local cultures or local languages.
Ideologically speaking, the Firster position is anti vernacular school. Why DAP are being hypocrites on the issue of VS is explained here: ‘Eh, Guan Eng belum ajar Dong Jiao Zong lagi ke?’
Another personal observation: People tend to treat you nicer when they see that you try to communicate in their language. For example, when I buy my Tamil books at the Indian bookshop, I’m given free bookmarks by the shop owner.
The other day, I took a taxi to the bus station. Getting in, I wished the driver kalai vanakam (good morning). The meter for the ride showed RM11.10. He asked me to pay only ten ringgit. I got a 10 percent discount on the fare.
Personally, I’m happy that Malaysia has an Indian minority. It gives me the chance to practice Tamil. The ice-cream seller, for example, told me his name.
Our ethnic diversity is an asset and we can choose to avail ourselves of a win-win situation.
Of course it goes without saying that every citizen must be competent in BM, and Malay should be respected as the country’s lingua franca. My debut blog posting ‘Memartabatkan bahasa kebangsaan’ supports this position.
A major grouse appears to be the complaint that Malaysian Chinese are not fluent in BM. I shall be making the argument that the fault lies not with the SRJK (C) but with attitude.