Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Permissible (halal/kosher) & forbidden (haram/tereifa) applies to all religion!

Vanakkam. Malaysians are blessed with some of best cuisines and variety of food, that can be found everywhere. Many of us unwittingly will answer "food", when asked what is the 1st thing we miss in Malaysia while travelling overseas. Living in a multiracial, Muslim majority country we adhere to the halal/haram (similar to kosher/tereifa in Judaism) rule when it comes to food served in public. No non-muslim will ever knowingly serve non-halal food to the Muslims. Non-muslims are also taught to identify the Halal symbol which are affixed on permissible food for Muslims. Usually ignored by us, in India there's a sign for marking vegetarian / non-vegetarian food items as shown below.

(The universal Halal sign found all over the world)

(This sign denotes non-vegetarian and vegetarian food ingredients - mostly used in India)

Now let me get to the subject. The fasting month is over and in Malaysia feasting for the Hari Raya celebration is still going on at many places such as your friends or neighbors place, at your offices or your vendors/suppliers treat etc. Scene like below is common sight in many of those buffets we attend over the years. Is there anything wrong in this picture?

Usually beef and other meat items are placed together on the same table, sometimes on the same platter, usually without any labels. Like this :

Hindus predominantly shun away from eating beef and just like the Muslims, large majority of us don't eat pork too. Pork is often avoided, but is not forbidden. Many Indians are vegetarians and while meat is not always prohibited, the Laws of Manu say that ‘no sin is attached to eating flesh, but abstinence bears greater fruits’. The main restriction is on Hindus eating beef is due to cow being considered as sacred and not to be eaten. In fact the cow is given the ‘mother’ status. While beef being restricted for Hindus (some Hindus do eat beef), we still attend those functions or buffets where beef is served for those who can eat them, accepting and celebrating the diversity among us. Can you show me 1 devote Muslim who will attend a feast or buffet where pork is served?

(That's pork, if you didn't know it)

In Malaysia, have you seen Muslims openly patronizing eateries which serves pork with no halal sign? Some liberal one won't care, but majority of them wouldn't step foot into such places. In fact if we have potluck events in our office, what is the 1st warning you get? Make sure you bring only halal food, if possible buy from Muslims. Or someone will loudly ask if the food you cooked is halal or not, embarrassing you in the process while creating doubts in others. Have you come across this? There's nothing wrong in them (Muslims) protecting their religious integrity and sensitivity. But what about us? What about our sensitivity towards those who are serving/eating beef?

(and that's a beef steak)

Being the minority (in population), we can't possible stop people from serving beef at public feasts, potlucks and buffets. But as a Hindu, we can always do any of the following:
  • ask everyone to label any food that contains beef and its by-products brought for potluck event;
  • if you can't avoid an official function that serves beef, never take any other food that are placed together with beef items (like satay), don't compromise;
  • if the eatery you visit serves beef, ask them to label properly, if not stop going there (I do this);
  • if someone (knowingly or unknowingly) offers you any beef item, never hesitate to say its forbidden/haram for Hindus (I do this, a lot); and
  • lastly if possible, politely turn down invitation or avoid attending any event that serves beef. If can, let the organizer know earlier of your preference, restrictions and sensitivities.
(south Indian vegetarian meal - its halal/kosher/permissible in any religion)

In a multiracial community, the non-Muslims takes great care and goes the extra mile in respecting the Muslim's food restrictions (halal/haram), why can't we respect our own religion's teachings in choosing or abstaining from certain food/ingredients. Why should we keep silent when food which may affect our sensitivity are served/mixed with ours? Respecting diversity and other's religious sensitivity should be a 2-way understanding. Bon appetit.



Monday, July 15, 2013

Annoying advertisements - வெறுப்பு ஏற்றும் விளம்பரம்

How many times have you turned on the radio and being bombarded by annoying, false and down right stupid advertisements? Well, at the moment, the businesses which are advertising through radio is trying very hard to beat each other, for being the most silliest advertisement.

Both the Tamil radios are not doing us any favor, in advising their clients on how the advertisements are supposed to be beneficial to the potential clients and the advertising companies.

Some of the advertisements aired are getting sillier and they also border the false claims offences. Many times those advertisements makes me wonder, do the makers really thought about the adverts inside out before proceeding to air them over national radios.

Let's look at some of the advert's lines, which I feel making us feel stupid, just be listening to them, let alone buying or using the advertised product or services.

I'm listing down the Tamil adverts, in Tamil:

Some 'health' tonic:
(In horny voice) Ivulo naaluku apurom ippo than sambalathai kodukiringeh!!
Avulo naal ni ennadi pannitkitu irunthey? Un purusen vereh yenggeh, yethuku selavu panuranu teriyameh serial parthukitu irunthiya??

Some 'smart' water:
*toot* kudikirathanaleh, naan ippo nalla padikiren, nalla mathippuengalum pera mudiyuthu!
Dei dei dei, summa naalu bottle tanni kudichi brilliant aaga mudiyumna, inneram inthe aboorva tanniyeh dappa-dappavah vaangi ellarum kudipangeh da!

Long-term saving program:
Oru million-aaah? Yenneh eppo ponnu parka varingo??
Un munjilkellam oru million kekutho? Athu iruntha aven yendi unpinnaleh suttha poran?

Medical program:
1 minute old son : appa *toot*ku pongeh
Father : porantha pillaiku kude teriyuthu
Mandeiku mani adikathigeh bang!

College advert (same voice):
Day 1 : A college, miga sirantha kalluri!
Day 2 : K college, unggel oreh tervu!
Day 3 : O college, unggel etirkalam terichikittu irukum!
Dei, ni urupudiya oru mudivuku vaada!!

Do you have more annoying adverts? Share it via comments below:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Paripogum Palagaram

I vividly remember during Deepavali preparation many years ago, the adhirasam is one 'tough cookie' to make and keep safe. My late grandmother insist on using the 'ural & ulakkai' traditional mortar to smash the rice to make the flour. If you have used it before, you'll know how tough it is. Then she will make the caramel from thick brown sugar and check the consistency by dropping small dots into cold water. After the laborious preps, the dough for adhirasam is made by hand and kept at high place for a day or 2 till it hardens. Then she and my mother will fry the sweet, succulent adhirasam ... and keep it under lock and key till Deepavali!!! According to my granny, it must not be eaten until the Deepavali morning prayers and 'padayal' offerings are completed. It remains the only item that is kept, not tasted till the day, 'etchal padamal irukanum'. The adhirasam she makes, will keep for at least 2 months without spoiling nor hardening.

So the adhirasam remains an elusive snack throughout the year, until Deepavali comes. It all changes when ready-made mix for adhirasam was available, we can make it and savor at anytime of the year. But yet, it remained in our houses, occasionally can be found in restaurants or muruku shops.

Now, adhirasam and many of our traditional snacks and sweets are available in almost everywhere, unfortunately not made and sold by our people. Take a short walk along Jalan Masjid India, you'll witness many Indons making our Masalvadai and selling it as Masalodeh!! In Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, a stall makes and sells our Adhirasam in large quantities as Denderam!!

I did a few image search to see the number of results pops out for some famous items, see yourself:

maruku 156,000
muruku 60,200

kuih ros 161,000
achu muruku 2,200

adhirasam 91,600
kuih telinga hindu 7,850
denderam 5,010
kuih telinga keling 4,890

idiyappam 44,300
putu mayam 29,700

Our palagarams are being commercialized by others, while we make and keep them in cupboards (now you know why the intro above). Why aren't we confident in our own traditional delicacies? We only make them in small quantities and sell in our own shops or stalls, without bigger vision for making them in commercial mode. Very few entrepreneurs who dared to venture into this business, but they only look at (small) Indian market, unlike the others who have learned our recipes and making it big in all nooks and crannies of the country.

The worst part is, allowing the names of our delicacies to be changed (corrupted). WTF is masalodeh? maruku? denderam? papadom? bariyani? putu mayam? I don't know what is so mayam (mythical) about the putu here.

While opportunities are aplenty in this field, we also face challenges when our people make and sell them. The belilah tanpa was-was issue dances in front of our traders, even though these items are pure vegetarian. So the others are taking advantage of our reluctance and diffidence.

In short time, Indon troops on bikes will be hawking their invention putu mayam everywhere, while we duduk melopong.

Inconsistent funeral rites - முரண்பாடான ஈமச்சடங்கு

[Ennapa ni, kaalaiyileh yelevu patthi yeluthureh? - expected reactions, but I see some disturbing trends in funerals nowadays]

In the cycle of life, we can't possibly ignore the fact that we will be dead on one fine day. Funeral rites are part and parcel of our Hindu custom. Of late, whenever I have to visit/attend any funeral of a friend or relative, I find that every funeral is being 'uniquely confusing', or its better to say inconsistently performed. 

Before we go into the rites and customs, lets start from the mourners and visitors. I wonder if many are ignorant on the traditional color of mourning a Hindu's death is white, where one who attend a funeral/cremation should be dressed in simple white clothes. Unfortunately, we can see maximum 'chinggu cha chinggu cha' colorful dressings, some even with elaborate jewelries like they are heading for a kaathu kutthu function. Adeh kaalam poreh pokkil, vellei sattei engge naan poyi tedi potu vareh? Summa jeans, tshirt patthathaa? Yeah, even when going to temple we can see all kind of inappropriate dressings, let alone funerals.

If not everyone, at least some majority can start this 'uniformity'

Next comes the rites and rituals. I've personally witnessed all sort of 'performance' by the undertakers (not WWE related). There are many types of undertakers, some trained, some self taught, some fast & furious, some slow and steady, some with hours of chanting, some with minutes of mumbling, some with exorbitant expenses, some simple bin sempoi, some are structured, some are ambiguous, some sober, some are even drunk!

There don't seem to be any fixed rituals performed, everyone has their own way. Worse case when, family members, friends, foes, munaavathu veedu mama, turatthu sontham, teriyatha bantham starts give comments, suggestions, objections, threats and teachings to the poor undertakers. Everything gets messed up, some people gets fed up. Why don't the 'wholesale authority' of Hinduism in the country, come up with clear guidelines on funeral rites/rituals and conduct trainings on that? Something like Kursus/Program Pengurusan Jenazah conducted by state Islamic bodies? Athu kastham tambi, ellarum course pogeh mudiyathuleh. Then don't get into the funeral business lah!

The Chinese community has formal training program/facility for undertakers.

Recently there's another trend mushrooming around our community, musical funerals. Nothing wrong with it, but if the lead singers are female, and they sing and drum their way till they're heard in another village, something is not right. I witnessed a troupe which 'entertained' the dead, of which I was so afraid the dead will get up and slap them hard. They were so loud, coarse and plain irritating. Athu athuku oru murainu irukuleh? Summa kaatu katthu katthi, nambe mandeiku mani adikathingehlah! There seems to be acute shortage of Hindus to perform these musicals, as a result you may have come accross many Chinese singing funeral & Sivan songs so precisely and passionately at Hindu funerals.

As long don't end up like this, OK lah.

Finally, after all the ooh and aahs completed with oppari paadal CD launching (occasionally interluded by fist fights and kette kette varthaigal), the body of the dead is brought to the pyre in a crematorium. Here more shocking scenes are seen. Traditionally NO female family members or relatives are allowed to set foot in a crematorium, in addition to that women are not allowed to participate in certain rituals and funeral ceremonies, they are not even allowed to visit the cremation grounds. But now the curious ladies, some with young children are allowed right near the burning pyre, be it electric or open cremation!! Ennayah nadakathu inggeh? Yaruku labam, piragu unggel pillaiku peyi ottum poli samiyargalukuthaan. The sad part is, elderly people are not attempting to stop this nonsense from continuing, even if they do I don't think these maangga mandeh manusis will listen anyway. Again, guidelines are needed.

Post-funeral customs are also modified to suit the fast-paced lives of 'ultra-busy, multimillionaire' family members and relatives. The norm is, anyone who've performed the final rites for the dead, are to follow a strict vegetarian diet and abstaining from attending any temple function/prayer, feast or auspicious occasions for at least 16 days as the mark of respect to the departed soul and in accordance to the generic Hindu custom. Some undertakers are very strict on this matter, some says only 10 days enough, some goes on to 7 days, while there's a few who gave mega sale discounts to just 3 days of vege diet!

If we can't even follow this simple sacrifice of abstinence from food and entertainment, don't bother to cry out loud and pull the coffin walls apart in the process, to show intense 'mourning'! Stay home, watch Astro, eat idlis with meen curry.

Nallathaa irunthalum, yelevaa irunthalum, seiyurathai olungga seiyanum, seiya teriyatti kehttu terinjikanum!

Some useful links:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Malaysia Hindu Sangam or Tamil Sangam?

வணக்கம் வாழ்க வழமுடன்.

The Malaysian Hindu Sangam (should be spelled Sanggam) is known to be the de facto, wholesale, singular authority of Hindu religion in Malaysia. Established in April 1963, since then they have been referred to as the society that speaks for and protects the Hindus in the country.

Much have been said on the successes and failures of MHS in Malaysia by many, over the years. In some cases MHS were swift in taking (often reactive) action towards issues affecting Hindus, while in many cases they often take delayed calculated measures in reacting to highly sensitive issues, pertaining to Hindus. Interlok novel, Zakir Naik's public condemnation and unilateral conversion of Hindus are some of the burning issues to name.

Hindus in Malaysia have been impacted by many issues, both internally and from external entities and people. Internally, there are many caste based, culture based, language based organizations splitting the Hindus into smaller groups, which are easily swayed and controlled by its committee. Externally, inefficient 'defense' mechanisms by MHS against barrage from other-than-Hindus, often leaves us to question their very existence. OK, that's generally the feeling of any Hindus you may ask about the roles and responsibilities of MHS.

Now to the issue of how MHS communicates to Hindus, I've never seen MHS 'speaks' other than English or Tamil in all their communications.  Since Hindus can be from many other ethnicity like Telugus, Malayalees, Gujaratis, Bengalis in Malaysia, how can they understand all MHS communications published predominantly in Tamil? What are the measures taken to spread the communications from MHS to other than Tamils? Being the voice of Hinduism, we'd expect their communications are reaching everyone who professes Hindu religion.

Its time for MHS to relook at their communication approach. If MHS want more (Hindu) people to listen or support them, they need to reach out beyond the Tamil community in this country. Every Hindus, regardless of the ethnicity should feel MHS is their representative.

Note: I'm not anti Tamil, I'm a Tamil too.

Monday, July 1, 2013

KL Crime - snatch theft attempt

Whoever dares to tell us that, the rising crime rate in KL city is:
  • Just a perception; or
  • Being hyped by media; or
  • Used for gaining political mileage; or
  • Being seriously taken by the authorities …

either must be crazy or have not fell victim, yet.

Last Sunday, I experienced a snatch theft attempt first hand. On the busy Jln. Tun Razak road, I was riding my good old bike after making some purchases are Berjaya Times Square. As I rode along the Indonesian Embassy, I sensed another bike approaching fast on my right and felt a tug on the back of my neck. Somehow, in a quick reflex I held my gold chain and held it hard. The chain snapped and remained in my grip; I looked up and saw a lone local man, speeding away on his bike. A few meters away, he turned around and looked at me, probably getting a good look at the intended victim of his failed attempt for the day. I managed to note his registration number, and etched it hard in my memory.

I put the chain in my pocket and tried to give chase, however my 15 year old bike is no match for his. I continue to ride until GH, to see if he’s around. Then, I made a turn back to Jln. Tun Razak police station to make a police report on the incident. I related the incident in detail and gave them the registration number used, which turned out to be a false number. At the end of the report, the officer at the desk asked me : “what’s the purpose of this report?”, I was puzzled with such a question. He asked again, to which I answered : “maybe for your statistics?”. I got the copy of the report and headed home, after posting the incident on social media.

While riding home, I was reflecting:
  • When was the last time I remember of any police road blocks near my place? – more than 3 years ago!
  • Do I see any police presence doing beat patrol duty on bike in places where many crimes have been reported? – not many! A hawker at market related that, every week there’s a snatch theft along the roads, but no action.
  • The culprits are daring, they don’t target ladies only.
  • The culprit must have been doing this often, and left uncaught.
  • Why the authorities don’t increase their presence, improve their intelligence, have more local knowledge and know what’s happening around them?
  • There were increased number of police recruits, but I don’t see them around. Do you?
  • Some politicians are making statements on how safe our cities are, but do they dare walk/ride alone like us?
  • What if the culprit kicked my bike when he grabbed the chain? – I’d be writing this on the hospital bed, if I’m fortunately alive!
There were many friends called or messaged me to ask about the incident, and some of them have either fell victim to or witnessed snatch theft recently. Every time a survey or findings on our city’s crime rate is published, the authorities and politicians are quick to rebut those claims, but normal people like us feel those numbers are not going down. I wonder how many more people will have to become victims of snatch theft, worse if there’s injury or even death. What will they say / do then?

Until conditions improve (fingers crossed), take care of yourself and belongings. If you witness any such crime, take note of the details of the culprits. If can make a citizen’s arrest (only if it’s safe).