Who gives a toss about thosai?

We should not only give a toss about thosai but also other things that represent the interests and concerns of other minority groups

Thosai, a popular dish in Indian restaurants in Malaysia, is often cooked by migrant workers - WIKIPEDIA

It looks like caretaker Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is one person who does give a toss about the traditional Indian crepe-like cuisine, if his recent publicised attempt to make thosai is an indicator.

Ismail Sabri was reported to have tried to make thosai in the presence of the Indian community in his parliamentary constituency of Bera in Pahang.

It was the kind of effort that many shrewd politicians would consider worth making in the run-up to the next general election. At the very least, it was aimed at gaining political mileage from a photo-op.

Incidentally, Ismail Sabri was not alone in taking interest in thosai.

Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) also jumped into the frying pan, but with the result of raising the temperature among many from the Indian community in the country, who felt that their right to determine and define their own culture has been ignored, if not trampled upon.

Tasked with managing and developing Malay language and literature, DBP has ruled that thosai should be spelt “tose” in the national language. That did not go down well with many ethnic Indians.

To be sure, DBP is no stranger to controversy. Last year, it angered the Indian community when the institution referred to it as “keling”. The derogatory term was subsequently replaced with the word Indian.

But the thosai-making in Bera was not the only thing that made headlines, nor was it the only factor about the Indian community and culture that Ismail and other politicians profess to care about in the heat of election fever.

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Ismail reminded the Indian community that Budget 2023, which was tabled in Parliament on 7 October, provided various initiatives for the community, such as the RM100m for Indian entrepreneurship development under the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit.

In addition, there is an allocation of RM25m to be given to the Indian community entrepreneur development scheme under the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives.

He also pointed out that allocations were also given for the development of Tamil national-type primary schools, plus an additional RM5m to make it RM25m in allocation for AIMST University, an MIC-owned private university.

These are some of the goodies that were promised to the Indian community that Ismail hails as part of his conceptualised “Malaysian family”, although some in the community, just like many other minorities, feel that they have been treated more like stepchildren for years.

Indeed, the interest in and concern of politicians and political parties across the spectrum for the wellbeing of the Indian community has become overwhelming as we approach the polls, given that their votes do count in certain mixed constituencies.

Such expressions are made in the face of many ethnic Indians who feel that they have been discriminated against and marginalised on certain fronts, such as in education and poverty-eradication initiatives, over the years. Economic vulnerability haunts them.

Political coalition Perikatan Nasional, to give another example, also courts the minority Indians, with a promise that it would not sideline efforts to “empower the community” if it comes to power after the general election.

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It is important to ensure that the concerns for the welfare of all Malaysians, particularly the poor, the disadvantaged and the minorities, must be consistent and expressed vigorously at all times – not only during the election.

Development funds and promises that are apportioned according to different ethnic communities are also a sad testimony to a mindset that is still trapped in racial politics.

As a result, the benefits of poverty-eradication initiatives and development projects, for instance, are not adequately and evenly felt by certain ethnic or cultural groups, such as the Orang Asli.

Such endeavours should be all-encompassing to benefit and focus on the poor from all ethnic and religious backgrounds so that no groups are left behind.

For the benefit of all Malaysians, we should not only give a toss about thosai, but also other things that represent the interests and concerns of other minority groups as well. – The Malaysian Insight



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