, Malaysia s par­a­digm cache of ed­u­cated, am­bi­tious PMEBTs

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

THE "core Ben­gali com­mu­nity" is among the most ed­u­cated, aca­dem­i­cally am­bi­tious, pro­fes­sion­ally mo­ti­vated eth­nic PMEBT sub-seg­ments, not only in Malaysia, but in all coun­tries across the five con­ti­nents where the di­as­pora have set­tled, in­clud­ing the UK, the USA, Europe and Aus­tralia/Pa­cific.

The an­ces­tors of most Malaysian Ben­galis em­i­grated from prepar­ti­tion, greater/un­di­vided Ben­gal in eastern In­dia, while still un­der colo­nial rule. This huge state has, since 1947, been di­vided across two dif­fer­ent coun­tries: West Ben­gal (in In­dia) and Bangladesh (ear­lier East Pak­istan 1947-1971). [See de­tailed anal­y­sis on page 6.]

Malaysian Ben­galis re­main a close-knit com­mu­nity, com­pelled to­wards pur­su­ing higher aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions. This in­evitably leads on to skilled high-in­come and so­cial-re­spect, gen­er­at­ing pro­fes­sions like medicine, law, engi­neer­ing, ac­count­ing, sci­en­tific re­search, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search, teach­ing/academia, in­fotech­nol­ogy and busi­ness man­age­ment. Sev­eral in the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion are also suc­ceed­ing as busi­ness­men and en­trepreneurs.

Ben­galis have par­tic­u­larly made a pi­o­neer­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion in

Malaysia. How­ever, they pre­fer to op­er­ate un­der the radar with­out flaunt­ing their aca­demic ku­dos, pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence and af­flu­ence.

Not sur­pris­ingly, their av­er­age house­hold in­come is ar­guably at least three to five times higher than the na­tional av­er­age.

Malaysian Hindu-In­dian Ben­galis con­sti­tute a paradig­mex­am­ple of the suc­cess­ful PMEBT so­cio-eco­nomic class, which ev­ery coun­try/govern­ment de­sires as their cit­i­zens. They are eco­nom­i­cally, at­ti­tu­di­nally and sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from the av­er­age Bangladeshi com­mu­nity. The lat­ter shares a com­mon Ben­gali script/lan­guage, but in Malaysia, is largely em­ployed as labour and work­ing-class, bar­ring a few

ex­cep­tions. theSun in­tends to pub­lish a sep­a­rate fea­ture on Bangladesh and the other Ben­gali com­mu­nity.

While re­search­ing and de­vel­op­ing the con­tent for this fea­ture, this writer was rather sur­prised to learn that most folk did not re­ally know about the Ben­gali com­mu­nity, even though sev­eral of them would have def­i­nitely in­ter­acted with Ben­gali doc­tors, med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers and other pro­fes­sion­als. Ex­cept for a few se­nior ed­i­tors and sev­eral doc­tors (from other eth­nic groups), most col­leagues in our own of­fices, be­sides (Malaysian) friends and in­dus­try col­leagues, had lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of this highly qual­i­fied and af­flu­ent eth­nic sub-group. Some even thought that "Ban­galees" were the Singh (Sikh-Pun­jabi) com­mu­nity. Later, this writer dis­cov­ered how this pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tion arose. In the colo­nial era , most Pun­jabi im­mi­grants used the old Ben­gal steamship and other ships/ steam­ers, which sailed from Calcutta to Ran­goon (now Yangon), thence to Pe­nang and Malacca. So tech­ni­cally, they came from Ben­gal to Malaya and were er­ro­neously re­ferred

to as "Ban­galees". In those days, within the Bri­tish colo­nial do­mains in Asia, one could travel on steam­ers with­out a pass­port, and with just ba­sic iden­tity doc­u­ments pro­vided by the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion/ sub-divi­sional of­fices and lo­cal po­lice sta­tions.

So, it is first nec­es­sary to iden­tify some promi­nent Ben­galis whose names and achieve­ments most Malaysians would be fa­mil­iar with, of­ten with­out know­ing about their eth­nic­ity. Th­ese in­clude: iconic hero Ne­taji Sub­has Chan­dra Bose and cur­rent In­dian pres­i­dent Pranab Mukher­jee; no­ble lau­re­ates Rabindranath Tagore and econ­o­mist Amartya Sen; Dr Bid­han Chan­dra Roy, whom the Bri­tish med­i­cal estab­lish­ment re­ferred to as "the doc­tor who can just smell and di­ag­nose dis­ease/ail­ments, even be­fore reach­ing out for the stetho­scope"; mu­sic di­rec­tors Salil Choudhury, SD Bur­man and his son RD Bur­man; ac­tors Ashok Ku­mar, Pradeep Ku­mar, Ut­tam Ku­mar, Su­chi­tra


Rabindranath Tagore Kishore Ku­mar Pranab Mukher­jee Ravi Shankar Amartya Sen Satya­jit Ray RD Bur­man Sub­has Chan­dra Bose SD Bur­man

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