24 November 2012

Munshi Abdullah and his thoughts

"I have a strong desire of great consequence which I wish to make known to you, as well as to all present." On this the Sultan asked what it was. Mr. Raffles then said that the son of the Sultan and the son of the Tomungong, together with two or three companions and followers, sons also of chiefs, he wished to send to the Governor-General of Bengal in order that they might learn English, writing, arithmetic, and other kinds of knowledge, in order they might not remain ignorant, like other Malays who were not fond of study; arguing further, that while they were young they could learn quickly, and so that in four or five years they would be finished; -'thus in times hereafter' (addressing himself to the Sultan), 'when your son becomes Sultan, he will be one that is accomplished above all others.' He added, 'See, O Sultan, in Singapore, in all the races there are merchants, excepting amongst the Malays. This is owing to their not learning the more important duties; first, they do not understand accounts, nor writing; now if the sons of sultans were clever in these, the same would be entered on by other Malays. Now, I would be glad if your people could elevate themselves in this respect.' The Sultan was silent for a moment and did not answer, at length he said, 'Very good, sir. Wait a little till I think it over; in a few days I will give you an answer.' Then said Mr. Raffles, 'Don't be concerned about the passage money, and the other expenses, for I will make it known to the Governor-General, and he will have a nice house prepared, with clever tutors, who will teach your children, whereby in after times they will be able to understand and gain acquirements, experience, judgment, and knowledge.' On this the Sultan and Tomungong arose and left for their homes, accompanied by their chiefs and followers.
.... But my greatest anxiety is to advance the Malays, by easy degrees, in their own language -- otherwise, let each race have its assigned place, and all this without expense, but let the teaching be gratuitous; the country will increase in population in time, so if there be such an institute, its fame will spread to all races. What do you gentlemen think of my proposition -- is it good or not?' The Sultan and Tomungong replied that the proposition was excellent, as their children would thus be enabled to obtain instruction. All the European gentlemen also expressed themselves as approving of the scheme. Then said Mr. Raffles, 'Let us settle the matter by subscribing .to the erection of the edifice.' To this all replied assenting. On this Mr. Raffles took pen and paper, and by way of precedence to the East India Company he wrote down 2000 dollars, himself adding from his private purse the same sum. Then he asked, with a smile, what the Sultan would give; shall it be 2000 also? But he replied, with a loud exclamation and a laugh, that he was a poor man, so where would he get 2000 dollars? To this Mr. Raffles argued that he should give more than he gave, as the undertaking was of immediate utility to the Malays, and greatly more so than to the English; but let it be 1000 dollars. Then he asked the Tomungong to give 1000 dollars, Colonel Farquhar the same, Dr. Martin 200, and Lady Raffles 200. After this the various European gentlemen gave their quota, the whole amounting to 17,500 Spanish dollars."
Excerpt from the famous Munshi Abdullah's Hikayat Abdullah. More text can be found here.-The Chukai Insider

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