Being well off (in Malaysia/Singapore) means having a servant. These days, the servants are protected by the government. They are usually from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They may have part of a day off each week but are on call at any other time … Against their background, servants apparently consider themselves well off. Yet there have been reports of some agents doing better than the maids, their clients; of some employers who had conveniently forgotten their recent rise to wealth; and of some Tamil servants being arrested by Sri Lankan authorities on their return home.
Foreign maids are only some of the expatriates working in Singapore and Malaysia. I was told of Japanese enclaves and of many whites, from a range of countries, working in white-collar jobs. I met an Aussie who had no skills or qualifications, but he was marketing manager for a firm which had put him on a year’s contract.
… … While I was looking around both of these countries, I came across some interesting phenomena. I was told that, in a Chinese home in Malaysia, ash formed on a holy picture. It was regularly scraped off. My informer was a Ceylonese teacher, who examined the picture and confirmed the story. The people involved did not take any money from those wishing to view the phenomenon or to take some of the accumulated ash. My contact also told me of a similar phenomenon elsewhere in Malaysia, but could not confirm it personally.
He also told me of a news report of a ‘ghostly image’ of a Hindu deity appearing in a photograph of the Batu Caves. There are shrines in those caves. The way to them is by a very steep set of steps. My mother climbed to the top before the concrete steps were laid. … My contact claims to have seen the photograph and to confirm that the image was the traditional representation of that deity.
Equally strange, in a city whose speech sounds are, according to a Chinese wit, Chinglish (i.e. English spoken not only with a Chinese accent, but also with the structure of colloquial Chinese) is the extent of British accents heard. These accents are heard both on TV and also in the shops, offices and bars. In fact, many Singaporeans are Westernised in this way. … These people came across as detribalised (or deculturalised) as I am.
This is an interesting development. The overseas trained come home with a variety of accents. Many have not been exposed in their youth to their ancestral culture. By this, I refer to their writings (including poetry), their philosophy and their art. They would normally have been exposed only to religious traditions … as well as the practice and the mode of prayer. On return, many return to their religion’s practices, some in a limited way; many do not renew their traditions.
What do we have then? Nominal Ceylon Tamils, Southern Chinese, Indian Moslems, Sikhs, and so on, with no real understanding of, feel for, or support for, the cultural traditions of their forefathers? Since they are already uniformly dressed and since their conduct is also uniform, what distinguishes one from another in the absence of an ethnic tag. By ethnic tag, I refer to name and physical appearance of descent. Do we then have a cultural melting-pot?
(It would be clear to any objective observer that Asian religions are not based on the authority of their priesthoods. When a mixture of ethno-tribal origins live together as immigrants in a foreign country, each tribe will follow its own traditions for a generation at least.
As circumstances allow, and with a shared education and equal opportunity, as occurred in British Malaya, soon there can occur a fusion in colloquialism, cuisines, and clothing styles; but the people may continue to pray as they always have. They might eventually come to see themselves as one people, with no memory of any previous allegiances.
Only politicians and priests, especially of foreign religious sects, can deflect this development. Otherwise, people do tend to be interested in others, leading to the possibility of a cultural melting pot. I do sincerely doubt if our Creator has a preference for particular tribes.)