, Malaysia s paradigm cache of educated, ambitious PMEBTs
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