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The Three Generations of the Telugus in Malaysia
By Appanna Naidu




This article gives the detailed insight of the first , second and third generations of the Telugus in Malaysia.. Information on the first generation is obtained from books and elders. For the later two, information is merely based on my twenty years of personal experience with them, and on some surveys carried out in 1973/4. In this article, immigrant Telugu labour, in West Malaysia, born before 1920 , are assumed to be the first generation. The second generation constitute all those Telugus born between 1920 and 1940 and the third generation will be those born after 1940.

It has also to be noted the facts in this article were as in 1973/74 and not as they are today (1999). This paper was presented as a subject paper for Sociology and Development while I was a student at the University of Science, Penang. My acknowledgments to Prof.Paul Wiebe a Sociology Lecturer who is also well versed in spoken Telugu. This paper was subsequently presented at the Second World Telugu Conference held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1981.  I have noted that some students doing some papers wanted to use my material  as reference. By putting this article on internet I believe more could use the material whenever the need arises. As the Malaysian Telugus are in their fifth generation I hope to update information when time permits. For the time being I am only providing the original version.

The simple, dhoti clad Andhra also known as Telugu from the Kalinga region of Andhra Pradesh, first stepped on the Malaysian soil, as early as  the 15th century,  as a trader. Unfortunately by mid 19th.century, almost the whole of India, came under the British control and the industrial revolution in Europe transformed India from an exporter of manufactured goods to that of a supplier of raw materials . With the aim of monopolising the trading sector, shipbuilding which was still an important industry in India, in the early years of the 19th century was brought to a a decline by arbitrary legislative measures by the British. The strangulation of the British imperialists dwindled the shipping industry into insignificance. This indirectly brought a decline of the prestigious merchant and shipping class of the Kalinga region and resulted in cessation of the Andhara coming in as traders anymore. It is truly a pathetic story.

However it was only in the later part of the 19th Century and early 20th Century, there was a significant exodus of Andras especially from the Vishakapatnam district to the Malay Peninsular. It is sad to say that this time they came in as manual labourers to meet the dire shortage of labour in the rubber plantations owned by the British. The cause for their migration was the push factors present in India and pull factors of the promising Malaysia. The push factors being the intolerable conditions in the Vishakapatnam district. There were continuos floods which devastated the crop and the dwindling of the shopping industry brought a lot of port labour to be unemployed. Restriction of the cottage industry by the British brought a customary loss of livelihood for a large number of spinners, potters, millers and shoemakers. The factories were unable to absorb the teeming population . On the other hand, when there was a surplus of labour in Andhra Pradesh, there was a shortage of labour in the plantations of Malaysia. Advertisements which gave a promising picture of Malaysia. Advertisements which gave a promising picture of Malaysia were printed in all the South Indian dailies i.e. including the Telugu dailies. When conditions at home was so painful .and when a promising alternative is shown the next step for a rational person is to move. Afterall it was a plight for survival.

By the year 1921, 39,986 Andhras from India migrated to Malaya. From information obtained from the Andhra Association of Malaysia, most of them came under the Kangani system. Under this system, the Kangany, an old hand of an estate in Malaya returned home to his homeland as a successful man from Malaya. Besides painting a heavenly picture of Malaya, there was his lavishness towards his friends and relatives to attract them to Malaya. In return for this the Kangany was given commission. The innocent farmers from Andhra inspired by the Kanganys rushed to grab the gold in Malaya not knowing that it was just jungle . Having reached their destination Malaya, they realised that they were deceived but it was too late for them to emancipate from the situation for they were tied down to the estates. Incidentally most of the Andhras who came to Malaya scattered throughout West Malaya though the concentration was mainly in Lower Perak,Selangor, Negeri Sembilan,Kedah and to a lesser extent in Johore and Pahang. Their exact distribution is stated in the following data obtained from the statistical department.

The immigrant Andhras were brought either to coconut or rubber plantations. To their surprise the environment of the estates did not differ much from the farmlands in India. It was purely an Indian environment with Indian people who were mainly Tamils and with hindu temples. Interestingly enough there were some estates with nearly hundred percent Telugu population. Kuala perak Estate, Pelam Estate will fall in this category. There was not much feeling that they were on alien land. The Andhra labourer was housed separately from the Telugus and in accordance to their castes. Separate lines were allocated ti different castes. Some estates the Telugus had separate temples too.

Though partially satisfied with the non-alieness of the environment the Andhra labourers were quite disheartened with their living conditions. Their high expectations were shattered. Their high expectations were shattered. They were housed in long lines roofed with local palm or corrugated iron. Each family, immaterial of size,was given only one room in the long lines. Partition between each room was so low that there was hardly any privacy. The overcrowding was found to be very unhygienic. In cases where one person was infected with a disease, the whole family was affected. There were no proper cement drains for the lines and the stagnant water was a very good breeding place for mosquitoes. The nature of the long lines did also drive the neighbors into frequent quarrels over petty issues. In short there was no peace of mind for the disheartened Andhras..

It was very disheartening to look into the poor medical facilities provided. Though the poor drainage and sanitary conditions resulted in alarming sickness among the labourers, most of the estates did not have Hospital Assistants to look into the health conditions. This resulted in high mortality rates especially among infant children. The estate conductors acted as part time Hospital Assistant though not qualified. They managed with limited medicine for varied sickness. The risk was there but shat do the illiterates know.

Practically all the Andhras who came to Malaya were from the very backward region. Before migrating they were not only backward economically but their literacy rate was very low too. It was hard to see a literate Andhra in the early 20th century, in Malaya.. They not only had no English Education but they were equally illiterate in their own mother tongue Telugu. In every estate where Andhras settled there were only one or two Andhras who had two had two or three years of formal education in India. In some estates there weren’t any. With this condition it was interesting to know how these people had constant communication with their families in India. Those very low literate Andhra or Telugus were in good demand when any Andhra wished to communicate with his people in India. To see that a letter is written one sometimes had to wait for weeks. Where there was no literate Telugu in an estate one has to approach a literate countryman in the neighboring estate to see that his message is passed on to his people in Andhra Pradesh. When replies were received from the other end the same person was approached to read out the message. Thus the few literate Telugus had a hectic time. However, the letters written by these people normally had a stereo type beginning and ending.

Pertaining to education in the estates then, there is nothing pleasant for me to say. Instead of building schools, there was much emphasis on building cretches for the children to be kept, while the adults went to work. The government too did not provide education to the immigrant labour It was completely left to the plantations but what can we expect from these profit orientated British. What they were looking for was a labour class and not an educated class. To discourage education among the labourer’s children, they even gave employment to children above 10 years old and thus damaging the second generation Andhras. However in the year 1923 the government of India requested for the erection of schools in every estate of Malaya. It is very interesting here to note the attitude of planters representative in the Federal council when this subject was debated. He said, "So long as they let the Controller of Labour pass my smoke factory with the world "SCHOOL" written up in large letters I shall be happy". The planters reluctantly provided education. Clerks, Kanganys and some literate labourers functioned as teachers. Unfortunately this too did not benefit the Andhra child as the poor, disorganised education was provided in Tamil language which was completely alien to the Aryan Dravidian blend Andhras. The then very ethnocentric Andhra felt that education should start with his own mother tongue and thus he neglected the little opportunity given.

Moreover the short sighed parents saw very little benefit in sending their children to school. They preferred their children to look after their younger children at home or to work in the estate as wage labour so that the family can get an additional income. There was neither instrumental support nor expressive support for the Telugu child’s education.

 Let me now touch on the economic situation of the first generation Andhras. They were penniless when they first stepped on the Malaysian soil. They expected to earn and return home with plenty of money but how could it be feasible when their daily wages were as low as stated in the table below. Their wages were not even equal to their marginal productivity.

Table 2 : Daily Wages for Men and Women in the Estates
 
YEAR
WAGES FOR MEN
WAGES FOR WOMEN
1884
1924
1925
1927
1930
14 cents
35 cents
40 cents
50 cents
28 cents
10 cents
27 cents
30 cents
40 cents
24 cents
Source: Arasaratnam- Indians in Malaysia and Singapore – pg 179
 
 

The faithful son and his wife who came to Malaya never forgot their old parents with whom they lived as an extended family in India. Apart from survival, the sole aim of the Andhras in Malaya was to send their savings to their family members in their villages in India. The Andhras felt that it was their duty to send back home to see to the welfare of their old parents and they tried not to fail in their responsibility. To fulfill this wish of theirs, it was just impossible for them with their very low wages. The only alternative for them was to be thrifty. It was then that the Andhras in Malaya started to be thrifty and even to this day they are branded as thrifty people. Their meals were very unbalanced and simple. They just survived on one curry and rice and the Andhras famous dish was and is "GONGORA’. Though cheap, it is a delicious preparation which could be preserved for more than a day. Poverty and obligation forced the Andhras to survive at times on one curry for even two days. The food that was left over for the day was taken in the form of porridge known as "Chalidhi Annam" or breakfast. Undoubtedly , they suffered from malnutrition which they never recognised. They saved and sent home whatever they could at the expense of the slow death they were undergoing. Though poor I appreciate them for their generosity which I hardly find with the present generation. They were never self centered but their generosity never crossed the boundaries of their family circle. Maybe at very low economic levels, there will be little room for human generosity. Apart from surviving and sending money to India, the Andhra women had a craze for gold and practically every Andhra woman possessed gold chains and "Theegas" ( a heavy solid gold worn around the neck). Infact this was their personal unproductive savings after having toiled in the jungle like plantations of Malaya.

Since, in the early 20th century, India was heavily over laid by all sorts of taboos and superstitions , I feel it will be interesting to see the cast-taboos as practiced by the first immigrant generation. Most of the Telugus who came to Malaysia fall in to the Vaisha and Shudhra and some into the Kshatria castes. Undoubtedly there some untouchables too.

Though all the immigrants broke away from their traditional occupation and even though having migrated to a foreign land, they were unable to accept another brethren of his of the same race but of the lower caste,for the caste .taboos had been an internationalised norm for generations. "Certain Hindus theological notions like Karma and Dharama have contributed greatly to the strengthening of the idea of hierarchy which is inherent in the caste system.. The idea of Karma teaches a Hindu that he is born in a particular sub-case because he deserves to be born there. The actions he performed in his previous incarnation deserved such a reward or punishment, as the case might be. Dharma teaches that a man who accepts the cast system and the rules of his particular sub-caste is living according to his Dharma, while a man who questions them is violating Dharma . Living according to Dharma is rewarded while violation of Dharma is punished, now and hereafter. If he observes the rules of Dharma, he will be born in his next incarnation in a high caste, rich , and well endowed. If he does not observe them he will be born in a low caste, poor deformed and ill endowed". Let me introduce to the reader what Gunnar Myrdal states which could give the true insight for the existence of this what I could infer as man made taboos for his vested interests. "The existing social and economic stratification that is the product of History is supposed by customs. In turn, this custom gets from religion a support that often means that the underprivileged themselves do not question, or protest against their plight but instead look upon their fate as the gods and the whole paraphernalia of supernatural forces. If ever Marx dictum that religion is the opiate of the people is justified it is among the poor masses". I strongly agree with Myrdal and Marx for the caste survived due to its high illiteracy and the great impact religion played on the masses and not for any genuine scientific reason. Let me now come back to subject and see more of the seriousness of the caste taboos amongst the first generation Andhras in Malaya. The religious minded Andhras were not aware of the Karma and Dharma . If they did they would not have left India to work in Malaya in plantations for by Dharma one should stick on to his own occupation as stipulated according to his/her own sub-caste. Though some did understand the concepts, I perceive the caste taboos as stated earlier was accepted even in Malaya in the beginning for it was a more inherited internalised norm. A person of a higher caste tried to stay away from the lower caste. In Bagan Pasir Estate from where I come from, the houses for the lower caste were situated about on third of a mile away from the Shudras and the Vaisha residences. A person of the higher caste never permitted a lower caste into his house neither did the lower caste break the norm. Both understood the norm. It had been a way of living for all. Ages and thus it was not in anyway difficult to practice some of the basic rules. When strictly following caste system one cannot make vertical nor free horizontal mobility but in Malaya though there existed spatial segregation one was free for vertical mobility. However, none of the immigrants then had any opportunity for vertical mobility from his manual work..

From here I shall lead the reader to marriages. Most of the first generation who migrated to Malaysia were earlier married in India itself. Significant number of them brought their wives along, though some did not. Those who did not bring their wives married again in Malaya thus having one wife in India and another in Malaya. The latter either married a widow or a divorcee since very few unmarried ladies migrated to Malaya. Practically all the marriages took  place while the men were between fifteen to twenty years of age and the women between ten to fifteen years. The marriages were predetermined by their parents or grandparents who had a great say then. The couple had no say in determining their own marriage primarily because of the nature of the extended family where the elders make the decision. Secondly, the marriage took place before the younger attains mental and physical maturity. Marriages were normally arranged between first cousins. Only when one has no first cousin for which the probability was small, marriages took place between the nearest closest relatives who generally resided in the same village in Andhra Pradesh. Whatever the situation one did hardly go out of his sub-caste to get married even if he was married in Malaya. Biologically this close marriages were generally proved unsound due to the higher chances of producing less intelligent children but this was never known by the illiterate conservative Andhras. Marriages of this nature took place due to three very important reasons. Firstly, it was to maintain the extended family relationship. Secondly, it was for the security of the elders for they felt that if the daughter-in-law was their niece, they could still hold their supremacy in their house. After all the son had no say in the house. Thirdly they felt that whatever wealth they accumulated should be enjoyed only be their closest relatives. Everyone felt the same even though they had very little to be called wealth. Thus we could say the parents of the first generation of Andhras were very shortsighted selfish and less understanding. They never encouraged marriages outside their family circles even of the same subcaste. The ones getting married too did not resent for they were convinced that everything was predetermined by god. Some old folks even till today, they say, "Antha mana thala ratha" –Everything depends on our own fate. Marriages were held in a ‘Pandhiri’ in front of their residences. Only the nearest of relatives and villagers were invited. The marriages also acted as a meeting place for many relatives to decide on future marriages, for the atmosphere was most conducive and ideal for marriage discussions. The poor Andhras were unable to have lavish weddings. It was simple as for the rituals, they did not knowingly miss any. The same rituals were carried out in Malaya when marriages took place. It is worth noticing that none of the marriages that took place between the first generation Andhras in Malaya were registered.

 Let me now touch on the festivals that were celebrated by the immigrant Andhras. As most of the Andhras who migrated to Malaya were Vaishvas they set up Sri Rama Temples wherever they could and this is quite significant in the Lower Perak district and to some extent to the estates in Kedah. Every year around August, they had Grand Rama Festivals. The temples were also used to hold ’bajanas’ and ‘Chiratulu (stick play)’. The bajans and Chiratulus were performed with devotional songs which gave the Andhras their village atmosphere and serene feeling. As to an elder, every villager would wait anxiously for the weekend to participate in such activities. The performance got started in the evenings and ended late at night. Other forms of entertainment was completely nil. Other forms of entertainment was completely nil. This to some extent led the innocent Andhras to toddy drinking habits though fortunately they did set their limits due to their responsibilities. However, the Planters Association of Malaya saw the social and physical harm it did to the labourers and thus in 1916, they requested the government to impose controls over the sales of toddy but the government was more interested in the revenue. Hearing stories and songs from the talented people at the village, had been a common past time in the evenings then.

Before concluding on the first generation I wish to mention on their attitudes towards family size and collective bargaining. They desired to have large families and their family size in general was never less that five children. They felt that the greater the family size, the greater the security. Every additional member in the family meant an additional income and moreover during that time a child above ten years was eligible for employment in the estates. Every additional child born was assumed to be gods desire and not the result of any human action. They say ‘Antha Bagavanthuru Dhaya’ (It is all gods desire).

They were practically inactive in their bargaining for higher wages. They had a terrific feeling of inferiority complex and they were never able to face the management. Moreover, paternalism of the labour department, their estate staff and their recruiting agent (Kangany) hindered any such growth. They were passive and never got organised for promoting and defending their interest. As Jawaharlal Nehru once said "The really poor never strike. They haven’t the means nor the power to demonstrate". *4 . The laborer who settled in estates were very immobile both vertically and horizontally. They stick on to only one estate until their agreed period. After which most of them emancipated from the death trap and returned to India though some did remain in Malaya. There was also fresh inflow of labour from Andhra Pradesh. However, the outflow was generally higher than the inflow. The outflow reached its maximum during the depression in 1930. In brief the first generation was of a transitionary nature.

* Gunnar Myrdal- Challenge to World Poverty – Pg 75.

Until now I had been discussing on the first generation. Now I shall attempt to discuss on the second generation and the developments they had undergone.

 The Andhras who fall in the second generation have most of the characteristics of the first generation though they did undergo some changes. As their ancestors, most of them migrated to Malaya under the Kangany system and they got settled in estates where there were already Telugu immigrants. Unlike their ancestors, these people were received into a slightly better environment but yet with intolerable conditions. In some estates, the housing conditions were improved as in 1935, the Labour department and health authorities condemned barrack houses. Cottage type houses with four rooms were built. Each unit was meant for two families and a garden was provided around it. These cottage houses were up to improve hygienic and social life of the labourers and also to avoid public quarrels and health hazards. Suprisingly, until recently, we could find the barrack houses, especially in Lower Perak, where a large Telugu population have settled. Thus a significant portion of the second generation too had to live under unhealthy living conditions as suffered by their ancestors. Health was slightly improved as practically every estate had a dispenser by 1935. However the dressers were unable to do such as the budget allocated for health in estates was very limited. This was because the planters were purely profit orientated. They did not recognize that better health could contribute to better and efficient production.

Though insignificant, the second generation did make some progress in their education. Two people worth mentioning here are Mr.Nethiti Duragian PPN, and Mr.Y.B. Naidu. With their primary education, they set up a Telugu school in the early 1930’s in Lower Perak and by 1936 they prepared some forty Telugus to join the teaching staff. Of all the Standard 5 educated Telugus, about thirty of them were absorbed into teaching profession wherever they were demanded, areas mainly in Lower Perak . Most of them started teaching while they were about fifteen years old. The planters reluctantly gave these young people the jobs with an ulterior motive of attracting more Andhras to their estates. The early teachers were paid exceedingly low and their social status was depressing. Though they received about fifteen dollars per month, they accepted the job for it was less exploitative than the labourer’s job and secondly these youths had a deep hidden thought of uplifting the status of their conventional, non liberate, uncritical Telugu brethren. Their personal misfortunes coupled with the intimidation and oppression by the British provoked them to give his later generation a better life. Certainly their dreams did come true today. In 1932, grants was obtained from toddy sales in the estates.

By 1940’s there had been effective demands for Telugu schools from other parts of Malaya i.e. especially from Kedah,Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Thus the educated from Lower Perak ,migrated to occupy teaching positions wherever there were demands. From 40 students in the early 1930’s , the student population shot up to 1400 by 1950. Though the number was relatively small, it was significant for it gave an initial stimulus to the later generation. It must not be forgotten that the Telugu education suffered during the Japanese occupation. In the year 1946, there was provision to teach English in all schools i.e. including Telugu schools but it was not implemented. The subjects taught in the Telugu schools were reading, writing, dictation, arithmetic, geography and history. A table is followed showing the student population of the Telugu schools.
 


TABLE 3:Facts of Telugu Schools


Year
No. of Telugu Schools
No of Students
No of Trained teachers
1920
-
-
-
1930
2
40
-
1935
30
400
-
1940
40
600
-
1950
50
1400
-
1960
40
1200
10
1970
30
1000
30
1973
25
950
30
1981
10
500
30

Source: Telugu Association of Malaysia

 

 
 
 

The very conventional attitude of the parents and the discouragement received from the estate staff, resulted in high dropouts. Most of them did not complete even four years of education thus not attaining much functional literacy. All those who did not finish their primary education joined the labour force. It is worth noting that the females were not sent to schools at all. They were deprived of education just to look after their babies at home. The very few children who received expressive support from their families finished their primary education successfully. Most of them became teachers in other parts of Malaya and some of them became Kanganys in estate. They stopped with their primary Telugu education as they had no further opportunity to further their education due to lack of secondary schools for Telugu in Malaya. One could have sent his child to an English schools, where a brighter future was assured. Unfortunately the English schools was a dream to the poor estates Andhras as it was too expensive for them. The Telugu education was more of the one room one teacher type, where a teacher had to teach six standards. This must have been too hectic for anyone. None of the teachers were trained and then their method of teaching was very disorganised. Except from the teachers the students did not receive much expressive support from their parents and relatives. Even if the student was interested to do some extra readings at home, the conditions were not conducive for studies as most of the estates then had no proper power supply. With all these conditions, it was inevitable for the products of the Telugu schools to be of low quality. The first generations literacy rate was nil but the second generation did attain about 10% literacy. Though the literacy rate was small, it did act as a backbone to the illiterates including higher aspiration level. Thus the insignificant progress was just beginning for the brighter future.

The Economic situation of the second generation was equally poor as the first generation i.e. especially till mid 1940’s. Their wages over period read as follows:-
 
 

TABLE 4: Wages and Holidays from 1936 to 1981 for Estate Workers
 
YEAR MEN WOMEN YEARLY PAID LEAVE SICK LEAVE HALF PAY
1936 40 cents 32 cents - -
1938 50 cents 40 cents - -
1946 90 cents 70 cents - -
  TAPPERS FIELD WORKERS    
1948 $2.15 $1.45 3 days -
1950 $2.40 $1.60 3 days -
1951 $3.00 $2.30 3 days -
1952 $2.90 $2.20 3 days -
1953 $2.50 $2.10 3 days -
1954 $2.40 $2.05 3 days 14 days
1956 $2.60 $2.60 10 days 14 days
1959 $3.00 $2.60 10 days 14 days
1962 $3.05 $2.90 16 days 60 days
1964 $3.55 $3.10 19 days 90 days
1965 $3.55 $3.10 19 days 90 days
1968 $3.10 $2.50 19 days 90 days
1971 $3.20 $3.20 19 days 90 days
  Plus Bonus Plus Bonus    
1981 $10.00 $8.00 27 days 90 days

Source: National Union Plantation Workers, Kuala Lumpur.
 
 

Till 1946, the wages depicted the very nature of the British. In 1948, the price of rubber did only rise from 41.87c per Ib. in 1946 to 42.15 c per Ib. There was a remarkable 300% rise in wages for tappers and about 200% rise in wages for field workers. Thus wage rate reached $3.00 in 1951 when the rubber price fetched $1.00 to $1.50 per Ib. . However after 1951, the waged slowly fell till, when the National Union of Plantations started with the collective bargaining power, the wages slowly began to rise. The wages earned was barely sufficient to have a balanced diet and for other expenditure on necessities. Then this second generation people had to find alternatives to earn more money. They set up vegetable and tapioca gardens to reduce their expenditure on food. Fortunately in some estates, the labourers were permitted to rear some livestock. The hardworking Andhras took the opportunity to rear cows, pigs, goats and even sheep to earn additional income. It no doubt had many defects on the people. The already exhausted labourers gave no rest to his body even in the afternoon and evenings. Apart from the parents, the children too got involved in the livestock rearing. This indirectly affected the child’s education. Whatever money earned from their laborious jobs, the Andhras continued their traditional role of continuing to send their excess to their parents and close relatives in India. The greedy relatives in India requested the Malayan Telugus to send them money on the pretext of buying property for these unestablished Telugus but whatever that was sent was utilised to purchase their own property. This unfaithful nature of his kinsmen in India slowly diminished and their frequency of sending money to India was abruptly lessened by 1960.. After 1960 the second generation was able to accumulate some wealth but they did not invest their money in Malaya until the early 1965 as they were undecided whether to settle in Malaya or to return to their homeland, India. However, after 1965 many Andhras became citizens of Malaysia deciding not to become ‘birds of passage’ anymore and those still undecided made up their decision with the strict employment legislation for the non citizens in 1969. Thus the so called Andhras who became Malaysians began to invest their wealth on land. To bring to light the economic well being of the Telugus my personal findings will be helpful. When four estates (Rungkup Estates, Arcadia Estate, 178 acres of Bagan Pasir Estate and Teluk Bahru Estate) in Lower Perak were fragmented some years back hundreds of acres were purchased by the second generation Andhras. Practically every second generation Andhra of Bagan Pasir Estate has at least 1 ½ acres of land which will currently fetch him about $15,000.00 to $50,000/- per acre depending on the locality. There are labourers who even own ten acres of land which will fetch them about $200,000.00 . This Phenomenon is very uncommon among the Tamil labourers, who were given equal opportunities in the estates. Ho then was the Telugu able to make such Economic progress. In simple words, it was all due to hard work coupled with their thrifty nature. Some say ‘Antha Aa Gongora Mahima’ i.e. it is all the gift of Gongora. Though the second generation Andhras had prospered significantly in property possession there are still many in extreme poverty. Inequalities of this kind are totally universal and thus it will be difficult to visualize any society where everyone's economic situation is the same. However in the Malaysian context, generally the Andhras Economic problems are no as grave as the Tamil labourers.

Let us now look at the complex caste system and see whether any considerable changes have taken place or not. The rural, orthodox Andhras of the second generation were unable to change much i.e. at least until the 1950’s . The spatial segregation was maintained. They accepted cooked food and water from members of the same caste or equal or superior castes. Food cooked by a member of a lower caste was not eaten because it was felt that such food defiled the men belonging to a higher caste. "Mutual acceptability of cooked food denotes equality between the castes concerned, while the movement of food in one direction only indicates that the acceptor is inferior to the giver". (*5) The second generation Andhras as any other conservative Hindu accepted or rejected any cooked food having known the place of cooking, the caste of the person who cooked it and the kind of food that was cooked. There was also a general correlation between diet and status and this is strictly followed even today. The Vaishnavites and Shudras who were permitted to take eggs and meat of certain animals such as goat, apart from vegetables, do still adhere to the rule. The beef eaters were considered the lowest caste- untouchables. The consumption of toddy too should be a practice of the very lower castes and I presume that most of the Vaishnavites in Malaya are ignorant of this fact. However after the 1950’s there were conflicting claims, to superior rank and often it had been impossible to reach a consensus. With about 2,000 sub castes (jatis) it will certainly be very hard to establish ones rank in the list. This kind of ambiguities did permit a certain degree of mobility. Their ethical culture made some minute adjustments from its normative culture. Though mobility was relaxed between sub castes the mobility between the upper caste and the untouchables showed a clear segmentation. The upper caste would not wish an untouchable to enter his house and if ever they allowed they were only allowed reluctantly by the back doors. Some of them were even asked to wash their legs before they entered the back door and even this is a recent phenomenon. Food was and is never served on a plate to a lower caste by the second generation upper caste. The lower caste gets his food on a banana leaf which he is expected to throw away after eating. Endogamy was strongly practiced and thus if anyone married a person from a lower caste he must have been prepared for isolation from his caste. Man strongly believes that mankind is gods creation and yet he is unable to accept and respect another of mans creation.

Let me now touch on the entertainment and games enjoyed by the second generation. Unlike the first generation who hardly had any form of entertainment, the second generation Telugus had the privilege of Radio entertainment. Apart from that intermittently Telugu films were imported to Malaya to be screened. Whenever the films were screened in the nearest towns hundreds if Telugus will flock to the respective theaters to have a rare glimpse of their favorite actors and actresses on screen. Transport to towns for such occasions was sometimes provided by the estate management. As for games some of the estates provided facilities for football and badminton though it was only after 1950’s more facilities were provided for field games in estates.

Marriages for the second generation were either held in India or in Malaya. If in India, marriages took place amongst very close relatives.. There were hardly any opportunities for love marriages. Almost every marriage was arranged. In Malaya due to the small Telugu population, sporadically marriages did cross the boundaries of their own relatives but within their own sub caste Marriages even between sub castes of the same status were not welcomed. The caste taboo were so rigid that in circumstances when one was unable to get a bride or bridegroom of the same sub caste, he or she was taken to India to find a partner. Marriages of the second generation Telugus were simple and none of those marriages were registered. One condition of the marriages amongst Telugus is worth mentioning here. Every Telugu family has a surname and anyone with the same surname is said to originate from the same family or roots. Thus the surname serves one function of seeing no marriages between people with the same surname takes place.

Unlike the first generation , the second were able to assimilate with the society around them. They were also able to accept the Hindu deities of the Tamils and they participated in the functions of every religious festivals. The festivals were carried for four or five days. During these days the Andhras performed their ‘bajans’ and ‘Chiratalu’(stick play) and they performed sketches termed as ‘Velakolaalu’. Those sketches were comedies depicting on any of the activities of another of their countryman in the estate. There will be great excitement during this period. I was privileged to watch a few of the comedies while I was young and I truly could get the true Indian atmosphere. I feel that their activities during the festival days will bring back their memories of their past like in India . During the festivals, food will be served in the temples and one noteworthy thing here is that the cooking and the serving should be done by the upper castes. The lower castes were not permitted to involve in these activities but they were permitted to take their meals in the temple. Lately there had been some commotion over this issue, in many estates. In many estate where the lower castes insisted that they should do the cooking and serving. The upper caste resented if their population was in big number but if they were found to be weaker, they alienated themselves from such functions. Apart from temple festivals, Sankranthri, Ugadhi (Telugu New Year) and to a lesser extent Diwali are celebrated by the second generation Telugus.

I now wish to discuss quite generally on family planning and collective bargaining. Like their ancestors the second generation until recently believed that their getting of children is purely a will of god. One interesting phenomena is noted in this aspect. Most of the Telugus prayed to a particular deity for children and they made vows that if a child is born, he or she will be named after the deity. If they had prayed to Sri Rama for a child and if a boy was born, the child will be later named either Rama Rao Chandra, Ramulu, Ramanaidu or Ramanujan but if it was a girl they retain Rama but add some letters to the name to make the name sound feminine i.e. if it was a girl the child was named Ramulamah. In some cases where the manipulation in the structure of the name was difficult the same name was given to boys and girls. Names that fit into this category are ‘Simanchalam’ and ‘Paidithally’. From these we can know why the names of the first, second and even a large portion of the third generation Andhras are centered around the names of a few deities. Some children were also named after their ancestors for their remembrance. Incidentally, I am of this latter procedure for my grandfather passed away just before my birth. Not surprisingly my grandfathers name which is my name too is a name of a deity quite popular in Vishakapatnam district. From my informal talks with many elder Telugus I gather that they prefer to have larger families for security during old age. One elder told me this "Pathimandhi Kodukulunte andhulo vokandaina manalanu kapaduthadu kani vokadu leka idharunthe mana ganthi yemitli cheppagalama" (If we have ten children at least one will give us a hand but if we have one or two we cannot say our security is assured). There is some rational in these people'’ attitude but if we look into this matter with greater insight we can reject this attitude to be quite irrational. If a laborer had ten children it would have been very hard for him to feed and educate the children and thus eventually the children will likely end up as labourers.. By becoming labourers they will be unable to contribute much to the welfare of their parents. On the other hand if the family size was smaller, with proper diet the children could be provided better education. This will eventually lift the social and economic status of not only the children but the family as a whole. Some parents also feel that having one child or ten children is purely gods will but the preference is for large families. Even Telugu teachers of the second generation had more than 5 children generally.. But with the instituting of extensive family planning programs some parents began practicing to have smaller families.

As to Andhra participation with union activities for collective bargaining for better wages and amenities it can be said that they remained passive supporters of of the National Union of Plantation workers until the 1950’s. However after 1960 they understood their rights and knew how to get them. They did not take anything for granted as said by the higher authorities of the estate.

Having focussed on the first two generations of the Telugus in malaysia let me now delve into the third generation of Andhras in Malaysia on whom much hope is placed.

Practically all the third generation Telugus were born in Malaysia and very few of them had ever visited India. The third generation Telugus decided to settle down in malaysia as the situation in India was not very promising. Unlike their ancestors, every Andhra of the third generation is a citizen of Malaysia. As to the 1970 census the official Telugu population in Malaysia was 29,531 but it is strongly felt that this figure is under represented. The main flaw is that the Statistics Departments enumerators most of whom were either Malays, Chinese or Tamils assume all Telugus are Tamils and they mark them as tamils even without asking the respondent for their ethnic group. This impression is supported by my observation of some enumerators who came to my area. Giving allowance for this and based on the estimates of the Telugu association of Malaysia we can say the Telugu population in Malaysia to be 10 times the official figure i.e.. within the range of 200,000 to 250,000

Unlike the earlier two generations, the vertical and horizontal mobility of these third generation Telugus who were born between 1940 and 1960 was very significant. There has been a significant mental revolution amongst youths coupled with greater opportunities for progress. Their attitude on ways of living and even dressing was more modern from their parents. Life was seen from a wider perspective. The Telugus apart from occupying positions in the estate sector they did also move to occupy positions of higher social status. Let me highlight on the progress achieved, in greater detail.

When looking into the housing of the third generation Telugus in Malaysia, we have now to see the housing facilities for the Andhras who are labourers, the Andhras who are middle class people and the Andhras of the Upper class. For the latter two strata of Andhras one certainly need not say anything as their housing and sanitation conditions would obviously have made a leap. The housing conditions during these people younger days in the estates and their present housing conditions would indicate to them the extreme ends of the lower and upper strata. Some may be disillusioned over the great difference whereas some will be greatly convinced ever his new life. Most of the present middle and upper class Telugus are either owning a home or are in the process of owning a home. For those who still remain in estates and who still form the majority of Telugus in Malaysia, the improvements in living conditions is moderately satisfactory. Fortunately, they have power supply to their houses but the lighting facilities are generally limited from 6 p.m. in the evening till 10 p.m. at night and from 4 a.m. till 6 a.m. in the morning. This system is to see that the laborers get to sleep by 10 p.m. and gets up early in the morning to present themselves at the 6 a.m. roll call. Water supply has also improved by facilitating the labourers with more taps in centralized areas thus avoiding quarrels at the taps. In some estates bathrooms had been built, adjoining their houses, unlike previously, when one had to use a common bathroom, built in a central place.

Moving towards health. The conditions even for the estate people have improved extensively. Every estate has now a qualified Hospital Assistant and a weekly inspection by a qualified doctor is made. The Hospital Assistant makes his daily routine checks on the lines and the treatment of the sick patients is done daily. In some estates, the dispensary is opened twice a day. If a person needs hospitalization he is sent to a group hospital which will be situated within miles from the estates. Incidentally the hospitalized patient is eligible for ½ day pay for a maximum of ninety days. Malaria which affected the lives of hundreds in the estates has been completely eradicated. Generally with modern medicine, introduced even in estates, we can say the present Telugu is more healthier than his previous people. The present Telugu has trust in the modern medicine whereas their ancestors had more faith in primitive home made medicine and they were very superstitious too.

The subject I wish to stress now is on Education and let us see how progress has taken place. The extension of education and liquidation of illiteracy has become one of the goals of the Malayan government after its independence. The government not only aimed to achieve qualitative improvement through education but also to create an integrated nation through Education. Immediately after independence there was an extensive program of building English schools in the rural areas and the existing schools in the rural areas were improved and at the same time many Telugu parents realised the importance of English Education. The social prestige and the comparative material prosperity attached to an intellectual and white collar positions were so attractive that many village Andhras endured greatest sacrifices in order to afford their children the advantages of a reasonably good education. Thus the second generation was goal orientated. In 1958, teaching of English and Malay languages was introduced in all Telugu schools. In the same year, the government introduced the Remove class system whereby children of Malaya, Chinese and Indian schools after having completed their primary education in their respective schools were eligible to join the Remove classes in the nearest English schools. Thus now a student going to a Telugu school gets his primary education in Telugu/Malay/English and secondary education in English and Malay. This system is still quite effective even today. Due to the introduction of Telugu paper in the Sijil Rendah Pelajaran and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (equivalent to O.S.C.) Telugu was taught where there are fifteen or more Telugu students and where demand for such class existed. With the introduction of Malay medium Secondary schools and seeing the great emphasis on Bahasa Malaysia in this country, the Telugu parents now realised the need to send their children to Malay medium schools or to ‘Kelas Peralehan’ (Remove classes) in malay medium schools. However poor the parents were, the children attained at least primary education. Functional literacy shot up to more than 80% (rough estimate ) in the third generation. Though there was great expressive and instrumental support received from the parents, there was quite a high drop out rate for the Telugus in secondary schools. This was due to the domination of examination system at all levels of education. Lower Certificate of Education (SRP) and Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) Examination are great hurdles of the Telugus from estates who have a weaker foundation in English and Malay. Prior to 1969, crossing these hurdles had not been much of a problem but now it has become very difficult with the increased number of conditions for passing. Institutional barriers did hinder most of the early third generation girls education. The Telugu parents having realised their daughters attaining puberty, stopped their education. This irrational attitude of theirs, I presume, must have been due to their feeling of insecurity of sending matured girls out of their houses. Secondly, they did not want their daughters marriage to be hindered by education. Thirdly I perceive that the girls were not given equal support from their parents because the latter felt that educating girls will be of no economic benefit to them as if the former works, their income will go to their husbands or their in- laws. These are the possible reasons why we cannot find many Andhra girls who have completed their secondary education and those who have seen through University education. However, fortunately this attitude has subsided now. Puberty is no more a criteria of determining whether a girl should stop her education or not. The termination of education is now dependent on the frustration attained after continuous failures in Examination. After the late 70’s we are able to see some Andhra girls in the local universities.

The winning of independence and the mass media has made great changes among the Andhras, especially in their outlook for goal achievement . Their competition in Education is remarkable. One factor that is truly discouraging was the method of teaching in Malaysia. The method of teaching, having students listen, read and memorise without encouraging them towards critical thought, an inheritance of colonial period, was even continued after Independence. However, the government has lately taken some interest in changing the education system towards a more understanding, participatory and critical approach.

Looking at the male education among the present generation Andhras, I am quite impressed by their achievements. Many Andhra students have already graduated for various professions such as medicine, law Engineering, Accountancy. Some have entered into academic lines and quite a number into administrative posts.

The less privileged in Education joined the middle strata group as clerks conductors in estates and towns and for teaching posts in primary and lower secondary schools. The new breed qualified for the above stated jobs, mainly after the 1960’s . Currently there will be at least 50 students undergoing tertiary education in our local universities. Most of the Andhra students in Universities get their financial aid from various organizations namely Federal and State government, National Land Finance Cop. Soc. Ltd., South Indian Labour Fund, Rama Subbiah Scholarship Fund, Indian Scholarship fund, MARA and from Andhra Association of Malaysia. Apart from the students in local universities, there are students taking up Chartered Accountancy, Engineering, Law and other tertiary education in the foreign universities. Other than this there ae at least 50 who are undergoing Tertiary education in Medicine, Engineering, Dental, Commerce and Veterinary Medicine in India. Thus one could see the great progress made by the laboring class children. Education has created and is creating a new class of intellectuals and near intellectuals who will occupy a special position in society. Undoubtedly Education will also bring an individualising effect. The total number of those who are undergoing tertiary education may be considered small but one should relate it with the existing Andhra population in Malaysia and one should realise the opportunities with which these students have come up. I presume, the data overleaf which I gathered from my survey in Lower Perak, might to a great extent, strengthen my statements.

There is another section of Andhras who have acquired a reasonable functional education but are faced with unemployment. This is merely a result of mal- adjustment between the education system and the socio-economic needs of the country. Some of those who fell in this group have ventured into small scale businesses, a few into the transport sector as conductors, drivers and tindals and a significant number have migrated to urban centers to work as clerks and factory workers. According to Andhra Association of Malaysia, there are atleast 3000 Telugus in Kuala Lumpur itself.

Table 5: The third generation Andhras of Lower Perak and their educational achievements
 
 
PLACE PROFESSIONALS/PHDS GRADUATES TOTAL
Arcadia Estate
-
-
-
Strathmashie Estate
-
-
-
Melintang  Estate
-
-
-
Bagan Datoh Estate 1
2
2
4
Bagan Datoh Estate 2
1
1
2
Kuala Perak Estate 1
1
1
1
Kuala Perak Estate 2
2
2
4
Blenheim Estate
1
2
3
Bagan Pasir Estate
4
3
7
Kuala Bernam Estate
-
-
-
Teluk Baru Estate
2
4
6
Flemington Estate
1
-
1
Teluk Buloh Estate
1
1
2
Jenderata Estate
2
1
3
Batak Rabit
2
2
4
Teluk Intan
2
4
6
Rubana Estate
2
2
4
Selaba Estate
1
-
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TOTAL
24
25
59
Source: Survey conducted in 1974
 
 

As for Telugu education there were some developments. In 1947, standard 7 Telugu classes ere started to prepare some Telugu educated for teaching posts in Telugu schools. Having obtained sufficient teachers such classes were subsequently abolished in the year 1960. By then about 150 students passed out from such classes.Though there were no trained teachers in Telugu till 1960, after 1960 there were attempts to train Telugu teachers. By 1974 there were 30 trained Telugu teachers. However from table 3 it is noted that the student pupulation and the Telugu schools had been reducing very rapidly. This is largely due to the awareness amongst parents that the children will hold a better future in Eglish and Malay medium schools.  It will be useful to point out here that the Telugu education did bring out some prominent Telugu writers such as Sri madini Somunaidu, Sri.D.V.Sree Ramulu, Sri.Kaseena Ramaniah, Sri Allu Simhanchalam rao, Sri Achutha Ramiah, Sri S.B.Reddy ,Beesetty Nokiah ,Kumari Appiamah and many others.

I did make a study of the vertical mobility of all the Telugu families in Teluk Baru estate and the findings are as in Table 6 below. If Telugus in malaysia can achieve mobility in such radical fashion the bittering labour class amongst the Telugus can be wiped in just one generation or the most in two.

Table 6: Vertical Mobility among all Telugu Families in Teluk Baru Estate
 
 
FAMILY FIRST GENERATION SECOND GENERATION THIRD GENERATION
One Labourer Labourer 1 Masters
1 MBBS
1 B.Econs
1 Clerk
Two Laborer Laborer 1 B.Sc.
Three Laborer Laborer 1 B.A.
1 Telugu teacher
Four Laborer Laborer 1 Telugu Teacher
Five Laborer Laborer 1 Army private
Six Laborer Laborer B.Sc.
Seven Laborer Laborer 1 Veterinary Surgeon
1 Welder
1 conductor
Eight Laborer Tindal 1 B.Econs
Nine Laborer Teacher 1 P.U.C.
1 Teacher
Source: Personal survey 1974

I wish to emphasise that the winning of independence has brought extensive structural changes whereby facilitating the malaysians i.e.. including the Telugus to enjoy the vast opportunities.  The remarkable progress made is due to the following reasons.

First and foremost it is due to the establishment of the Andhra association of Malaysia in 1955 with 14 branches throughout the country. The Association in its monthly meetings always propagated the need for emphasis in education so that the community can progress. the Telugus welcomed new ideas and saw the need for their children's education. Apart from expressive support the Association wherever possible did provide instrumental support for the aspiring Telugu students.

The second reason is conflict. Marx said that we need conflicts so that certain groups will be alienated to better themselves. Certainly alienation of the Telugus has done them some good. Conflicts amongst the Telugus and Tamils occurred especially in estates where the Telugus were a weaker community. Ethnocentrism acted as a  basis for such conflicts. The conflicts arose over language issues or the screening of movies in Estates. Conflicts developed into hatred amongst each other. The weaker Telugu Community alienated themselves from the majority and channeled their attention towards education to prove themselves. Group studies amongst the Telugus children was encouraged and there was a high sense of competition and co-operation. The parents goals have changed from accumulating wealth to educating their children to the best possible. Estates such as Teluk Baru and Bagan Pasir fall in this category for conflicts . Conflicts in these two estates were more prevalent as the Telugus were the weaker section of the estate population i.e.. in terms of numbers. On the other hand conflicts where majority of the population were Telugus such as in Kuala Perak Estate 1 & 2 and Kuala Bernam appeared to be a rare phenomenon. In each of the latter estates where there were more than 30 Telugu families the tertiary educated were far few in numbers and in the case of Kuala Bernam there wasn't any. The graduates produced by Kuala Perak estates were nowhere comparable relatively nor absolutely to Teluk Baru and Bagan Pasir estates where there were far less Telugu families residing there. Thus from my study it is evident that conflicts and alienation have a significant progressive effect on the minority or weaker sections of the parties involved.

Are opportunities a sufficient condition for progress? certainly not. Given the same opportunity to two ethnic groups, one progressed but another remained somewhat dormant. This I am relating to the case of Bagan pasir Estate. The dormant had neither expressive nor instrumental support whereas the progressive group was gifted with these. Motivation and aspiration levels are certainly higher in the latter group. I conclude by saying that progress can be made where there is conflict added with expressive and instrumental support.

I shall now look into the changing attitudes of the modern Telugu population in relation to family size and marriage.. The third generation was fully aware of  family planning and the contraceptives. They were less conservative. They underwent operations to contain their family sizes. Superstition took a back seat. The modern Telugu abstained from naming their children with the traditional Telugu names.

Conflicts over marriage issues are now a common phenomenon in nearly all Telugu families. The elders who still survive with their inherited othrodox attitudes  pressure their children to marry their closest relatives but the children wished more freedom of choice in their marriages. prior to 1965 most of the parents even resented marrying girls even from their own sub caste but as they now see Telugus marrying out the parents seem to be contented if their children marry anyone from their own sub caste or from any other upper caste. If one marries a person from a lower caste or from outside ones ethnic group, the parents, relatives and the conservative Telugus reject the couple.  For an urban man it is accepted but for a rural person he will have to face a lot of social isolation.  I feel  these attitudes are very hard to be changed as they have become the internalised normative culture of the older generation especially.  I am quite sure even the fourth generation will face these problems to some extent as even a large portion of the present educated Andhras are permeated with caste taboos.  However they will be relatively more considerate towards marriage.  Quite likely love marriages will be accepted.  Even if they intervene, I am optimistic they will fail for I am certain that the future will be more obstinate.  Marriages of the present generation are generally held in large temples or Hindu Sabahs in towns rather than at home where everything will be disorganised.  All the present marriages are registered unlike their parents.

The ancestors are beginning to feel that their children have attained better mental capabilities than themselves and thus they either recognise their children's participation in decision making over family issues or the family problems are completely left to the responsibility of their children.  Unlike the older generation who adhere to whatever was said by their elders the younger generation looked for rationality before accepting any advice or directions from elders..  The present generation comes out with extreme views on religion, marriages, caste taboos which the parents could not accept.  Thus frequent misunderstanding arise between the second and third generation Telugus in Malaysia.

Conclusion

The push factors in Andhra Pradesh and the pull factors in Malaysia were the main reasons for the settlement of Telugu population in Malaysia. Though the Telugu population in Malaysia had some trying times and were transitionary in nature the third generation were very different. They found in Malaysia their permanent home as they begin to occupy more respectable positions in society, having achieved vertical mobility both interms of their occupations and financial positions. The largely rural Telugus have now become  an urban population with a far more brighter future for their next generations.  With the declining use of Telugu language amongst Telugu families in the urban areas there has been much concern amongst Telugu families and the Telugu leaders that they may soon loose their Telugu language and culture not very far from now.
 
 

1.1.1974