Murthi’s ‘fixer’ is a young Indian man, named Siva, who had been working for organized crime gangs and local businesses. Siva, as far as he was able to tell, was born in Malaysia, and grew up here. He had never known any other place aside from KL, having been left as an orphan from a very young age.
“Annae (Big brother), you want to write about my story… it’s very sogam (sorrowful). I hear you always write about these other (migrants), why not about your Tamil brothers? We’re also migrants, too, no? I can tell you my story… my takkapan (father), I never knew… probably some drunk, wife beater who fucked my mother and left the next day. My mother was a whore, that much I remember. She dropped out babies as often as she took a shit, with all the men she was with. I stayed with her for a few years, me and all my siblings. I don’t even remember how many anymore. And we had no money, whenever we went to ask her for help, she would tell us to go away, or tell my sisters to go sell their bodies for money. Whenever we needed money because someone was sick and needed medicine, two of my sisters would have to whore themselves out just to make a bit of money. They were maybe 15, 16… We used to stay behind, in the slums in Kepong, when I could remember, but never in one place. There, I still remember, every evening she would bring all these men back to the flat, even with all of us children in the house, she would still do it inside the room. They would use her like a toilet. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I left with one of my annae, and we decided to join a gang, which was letting us work and make money selling protection. That was, amybe, 7 years ago. I was 13, or 14… I don’t remember. Brother, I actually don’t know when I was born. No birth certificate. Ammakari (mother) probably gave birth to me in a toilet…”
Siva’s not the first young Malaysian-born Indian boy I knew who was in the type of situation he finds himself in. This is a story that I come across often enough for it to strike home in a very personal way. The only difference between Siva and me is one of fortune and relative privilege – of being descended from grandparents who had slightly more presence and status as indentured laborers from South India. I’m the lucky one – my grandparents had not died from working the plantations, leaving behind orphaned children to fend for themselves. Siva is from the countless young people who have become the generation of tragic orphans that Belle writes about – effectively several generations of stateless South Indians born and living in Malaysia with little representation and recognition. Only the kind hand of fate and fortune prevented me and members of my family from sharing the same life as those like Siva. The term ‘big brother’ was more than just a simple way to refer to each other, it often felt like a plea for help and guidance, laced with bitterness and perhaps even slight contempt at the fellow Indian, whom despite his success, doesn’t seem to be much helpful to his fellow Tamilians. I could understand that.
“Thambi (little brother), have you been working with the gang since then?”
“No, annae. I am in the gang, but I work other things too… not all is crime or bad. I also try to do clean work whenever it’s possible, like I would help work for the local temples, they would sometimes give us money for buying supplies and carrying things, so I try to do that. It’s also good work, maybe it will balance the bad work I have to do. I have some of my young siblings who are staying at an ashram (orphanage) now, since they can’t stay with that whore anymore. They are better, they are safe and get a lot of things they need. And I like to go visit them, bring them gifts, food… that sort of thing.”
“The work I do for the gang is out of necessity, brother. I don’t have a choice… you won’t really understand, you obviously come from a nice family, you have education and a nice job. But you know why I didn’t have a choice, besides not having a good family? We don’t have birth certificates, so we cannot get I.C.s (National citizenship cards), so how am I supposed to find proper work? The only people willing to hire is the gang, and they pay decent money to help us get by, so of course we join… Brother, you believe this, don’t you? If we all had the kind of chance and opportunity you had, then none of us would be doing this karmum (nonsense)?”
“Of course, brother… I know. I wouldn’t be here talking to you if I didn’t believe that…”
“When people look at us boys doing this work, when they see my sisters whoring out, they think we’re all good-for-nothing. They look and spit at us. They don’t think or treat us like people. What can we do? I’m telling you, if we could, don’t you think we’d want to go to school too, or study well and become professionals? Like you? But what’s the point? They won’t even let us go to school… at least my younger siblings are getting some schooling at the orphanage. Maybe they will be luckier than me…”
I stood with Siva under a tree in the corner of a parking area while we conversed. He was leaning forward on his motorbike – a kapchai (scooter) immensely popular in Southeast Asia, with a cigarette in his hand. Siva had long, wavy hair, combed back, and a gold stud in his right ear. He was at work, technically, looking after the parking zone for the men who were visiting the district in search of sex. Along the same street, other young Indian boys like Siva were also present, likely doing the same job.
“We’re all being paid by the Chinaman, there… he’s the khozhi thalai (head pimp). Our gang does the protection around this area, and he pays us to run his business. We get discounts with the girls, too, not that we can afford to have a lot. These girls are expensive, even though they are all filthy Vietnam and Myanmar whores. Trust me, brother, they look very nice on the outside, with their dress and make-up, but they’re all completely dirty, especially down there (gestures between his legs). If you try with them, guarantee you’ll get itchy for months in your balls. Just ask Rao over there… dey, kamnati (yells at his colleague standing across the street from us), how are your balls doing? Still itchy from fucking that Vietnam lady?” Siva laughs loudly, as Rao gestures an obscenity back at him.”
“Where else do you work, brother?”
“Here and there. I sometimes go help a cousin of mine who works in Kepong for one of the big gangs there — a lot more money. I’ve been thinking of joining them but they do a lot more dangerous work. They work in that Selayang area, where there a lot of these Myanmar gangs who are really scary. There was once me and a few other boys went to Selayang to just for fun, to look for pussy, cos there’s a lot there. But when we got there, and tried to have some of the Burma girls, suddenly these guys started coming with parangs (machetes)… and we got really frightened and started running away on our bikes. We’re used to being the ones doing the scaring, but those Myanmar fellows, they are truly intimidating, brother. They don’t care about what happens, if you mess with them or their people, they will chop you up. My cousin has told me stories about how they like to cut off your kunji (slur for penis) if you try to fuck one of their girls. He has friends who got caught like this…Not sure if I want to be working in an area like that…at least here, the worst I have to worry about is police raid or some asshole trying to mess with the girls a bit too much.”
“Brother, if I’m honest, I don’t want to be doing all this work forever. It’s the only way I can make money, buy food, and help my siblings. What I really want to do is start my own business, maybe scrap metal, bottle recycling… then I can change into a clean line of work, maybe buy a house… of course, I also want to marry a nice girl, have children. Don’t know if that will ever happen.”