Is ‘mamak’ a derogatory term?

by: Jahabar Sadiq

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My friend wondered aloud whether using the term mamak was derogatory. I replied that it wasn’t and the conversation went on for a bit.

But mamak is just a Malaysian term, and its a corruption of the word mama, which means uncle in Tamil. And it is specifically uncle on the maternal side.

Uncles on the paternal side are known as sacha or chacha. And for variety, depending where you are from in Tamil Nadu, mama is also pronounced and spelled mamu. Hence the Penang variant.

So how did it become a put-down or a derogatory term. From what I know, it came about from the old days of Malacca when the Bendahara Sri Maharaja Tun Mutahir or prime minister was seen as a vain pot. He was accused of plotting against the sultan and his entire family was put to death in 1510, a year before Malacca fell to the Portuguese.

And then there’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is of Indian Muslim descent. A fair number of people have called him derogatory names including mamak and mamak kutty. That probably explains the reason why mamak is derogatory for some.

But Dr Mahathir isn’t mamak. His family came from Kerala and they are known as Kakas. Ignorance has resulted in more odium and contempt for the more popular Mamaks rather than the Kakas.

But you want to talk derogatory? Or dirty.

The Indians themselves, and in Malaysia that really means the southern Indians or Tamils, have also described Indian Muslims in less than friendly manner. The term they use is Thulukans, or people of Turkish descent.

There’s a long history there as Islam came by land and sea to India – that sub-continent of princeling states and people divided by language, diet, culture and united by the British (correction, India was united before that so in defence I’ll say, English language).

The Arabs always had relations with India even before Islam but a fair number of Muslims came by land from the northwest and pushed right through to the south. They were of Turkic origins. The seafaring Arabs proselytised among the coastal Indians in the east coast and somewhat in the west coast and their offsprings were just known as Arabs, not Mamak or Kaka.

But among the Indian Muslims, the term Thulukan is friendly and a sign of recognition of brotherhood and family relationships.

What term do Indian Muslims or Mamaks use to put each other down? They call each other ToppiWappa. But it is friendly, not spiteful or derogatory.

Why I’m writing this down? Because I might forget all this one day and also to underline one thing. You can call Mamaks and think it is derogatory but it is a sign of respect. And you know, the Mamaks are there 24 hours to cook delicious fare for you and your family. And there for your cigarettes, condoms and crisps.

So before you think it is bad and not politically correct, just know the Mamak doesn’t quite care. They are a courteous community focussed on family, feasts and finance.

The rest of Malaysia can’t live without them, and know them as the people you go to when in you need food, foreign exchange and friendship.

Get the picture? Oh, and maybe one day I will write about 786.

Source: Facebook Jahabar Sadiq (27th May 2017)

Millennials: Four main reasons for Gen Y’s unhappiness

WERE you born after 1983?

Congratulations, you’re a millennial. Now here’s a quick loving guide to everything that’s wrong with you.

An Inside Quest interview with renowned author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek has gone viral thanks to his insights on Gen Y.

In the 15-minute segment, he covers everything from social media to flawed parenting in summarising the newer generation’s problems.

“Apparently millennials are tough to manage and they’re accused of being entitled and narcissistic and self-interested, unfocused and lazy,” he says.

“But entitled is the big one. Because they confound leaders so much, what’s happening is leaders are asking the millennials, ‘What do you want?’ and millennials are saying, ‘We want to work in a place with purpose’. Love that!

“’We want to make an impact’ — whatever that means. We want free food and beanbags. Somebody articulates some sort of purpose, there’s lots of free food and beanbags and yet for some reason they’re still not happy. That’s because there’s a missing piece.”

Mr Sinek goes on to outline four main reasons for Gen Y’s unhappiness: poor parenting, social media, impatience and environment.

On poor parenting, he says that “too many” young people were brought up being told they were special and could do anything they wanted to.

“Some of them got into Honours Classes not because they deserved it but because their parents complained. Some of them got A’s, not because they earned them, but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents. Some kids got participation medals for coming in last.

“The science we know is pretty clear — it devalues the medal and reward for those who actually work hard and it actually makes the person who comes in last feel embarrassed because they know they didn’t deserve it. So it actually makes them feel worse.”

He added: “They’re thrust in the real world and in an instant they find out they’re not special, their mums can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last and by the way you can’t just have it because you want it. In an instant their entire self-image is shattered. So you have an entire generation that is growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations.”

Mr Sinek compares our addiction to technology to alcoholism, noting that engaging with technology triggers dopamine, the feel-good receptors in the brain, just as booze, gambling or eating food does.

He explains that — thanks to platforms like Facebook and Instagram — young people are increasingly used to “filtering” their lives and presenting only their best “self” at the expense of reality.

Therefore, when they actually enter the real world, they’re dealt a sharp shock when they realise you can’t exactly chuck a Valencia filter on your career.

“The reality is there’s very little toughness and most people don’t have it figured out,” he says. “So when the more senior people say, ‘What shall we do?”, They sound like, ‘This is what you gotta do’ and they have no clue!”

Likewise, he points out that technology has created a generation that needs instant gratification. They might be in a job for eight months and then question why they’re not making an “impact”.

“Too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships…they have fun with their friends but they also know that their friends will cancel on them if something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practised the skillset and worse they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress.”

He says this even extends to sex: “You want to go on a date. You don’t even have to learn how to be like, ‘Hey…’ You don’t have to be the uncomfortable one who says ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘No’ and ‘No’ when you mean ‘Yes.’ Swipe right. Bang! I’m a stud!…everything you want you can have instantaneously, everything you want — instant gratification.

“Except job satisfaction and strength of relationships. There ain’t no app for that. There is slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.”

So, what’s the big solution? Mr Sinek calls for young people to lower their smartphone usage and take a more long-term view on life.

Don’t keep your phone on your desk in a meeting, face-up or face-down. Charge it in your living room, not by your bed while you sleep at night. Engage with the people around you, don’t sit there texting your friends.

The alternative, he says, is pretty damn bleak.

“The best case scenario is you’ll have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy. They’ll never really find deep fulfilment in work or life.”

He does at least acknowledge it’s not their fault.

“They blame themselves… but it’s not them. It’s the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do.”

Source: (6th January 2016)

Negative space

At a glance it looks like what you perceived it. But on a second and more deeper observation, you begin to spot something totally different. And when all is settled, it becomes clear that there is more to it than what meets the eye (at first sight).

This is the magic of negative space illustration. An art term for something like this:


Pulp fiction by Avinoam ‘Noma’ Bar. The picture shows two images in one of Samuel L. Jackson (in Afro) and John Travolta (in tuxedo).

Negative space is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image (Wikipedia)