Malaysiakini Letter

How do I answer my son if he is called “keling” in school?

Gokula Kumar Appalanaido  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | I refer to the Malaysiakini report Mahathir to EC: Here's a 'keling' word for you, ‘podah’.

Undeniably, the word “keling” had been used on me by some uncivilised racist people in the past.

Unlike the “keling” friends of Dr Mahathir Mohamad who were happy to be called as such, I for one surely felt insulted and very much offended despite hailing from the North where this word is supposed to be the norm to describe the Indian community as pointed out by our great statesman and prime minister of 22 years.

I felt offended as a young schoolboy being called a “keling” and worse, unable to defend myself against the majority of other races.

Looking back on all those years, I can’t blame those children who uttered that word against me since I spent most of my schooling days during the period when Mahathir was leading the nation.

It would be very nice if those friends of Mahathir who were never offended or even delighted to be called “keling” come forward and reveal themselves.

Probably I can educate myself on how to feel proud of being called “keling”. Mahathir’s “keling” friends can help many of the people from the Indian community in the country understand that “keling” is not an insult equivalent to the N-word that was used to describe the blacks in the uncivilised West back in those days.

If Mahathir is unhappy with the EC or ROS of Malaysia, there are many other examples that he could have used to vent his anger. Why on the Indian community?

Mahathir, what vengeance do you have towards us? After 22 years in power, you failed to look into our well-being because a works minister who was supposed to build roads did not tell you that we Indians in Malaysia need help (or probably you assume the “kelings” are a stupid bunch of people who will blindly believe you).

Mahathir's famous excuse was that there were many Indian doctors and lawyers during his time but he never took credit for the vast majority of prison inmates being Indians as opposed to our population ratio.

Those criminals were created by his policies that denied the youth opportunities and proper jobs.

Instead of being a statesman whose aim should have been “to ensure every child born in this land should achieve his or her maximum potential regardless of race or background”, he followed the path that brought a large number of Indian youths to their current state. After all this, he without any remorse can still happily call us “keling”.

In a civilised world, one would wonder if an American president or British prime minister can win an election after calling the people of a darker skin tone a certain name.

Having said that, anything is possible in Malaysia. It is amazing to see the Pakatan Harapan lawmakers standing in solidarity behind Mahathir, including those who may look like “keling” in his eyes.

Today I felt betrayed by these unprincipled Pakatan Harapan lawmakers or lawmakers wannabe who instead of demanding Mahathir to relinquish the post as Pakatan Harapan chairperson, they are actually defending him as their prime ministerial candidate.

A principled politician in any country would have called for Mahathir’s resignation regardless if he were to apologise or not for using such a derogatory term on his own country people.

Probably the Indian community votes do not matter to you, Mahathir. We are just a small population of “kelings” who hardly have any political weightage.

Can we trust a prime minister in waiting who repeatedly uses the demeaning word “keling” on us to to actually bring the Indian community out of the catastrophe that he himself created? What am I going to tell my son next month if children of other races in his school were to tease him as “keling”?

To be proud that he is being called as such since our own former prime minister called us “keling”? Dear Dr Mahathir Mohamad, if on the polling day I still vote for you to become the prime minister of Malaysia for the second time and knowing that I may need to prepare myself to go to the streets once more to demand for our rights as in the Hindraf rally 2007, then I should happily call myself “keling bodoh”.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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