A new book documents the Malayalee community in Singapore, narrating their journey from Kerala to here in the early 1900s during the British rule.
It also includes stories drawn from 130 interviews of the members of the community here, along with more than 400 photographs and documented family trees.
Titled as “From Kerala To Singapore: Voices From The Singapore Malayalee Community”, the book contains a comprehensive history of how the community from the southern Indian state migrated to then British Malaya and Singapore in 1900s till today, the Straits Times reported today.
The book is a passion project of Anitha Devi Pillai, a non-resident Indian (NRI) teacher at the National Institute of Education here.
The 340-page book is an extension of her master’s thesis on the Malayalam language, which she completed in 2002 at the National University of Singapore, it said.
But Pillai herself does not speak Malayalam as it is not offered as a language subject in Singapore schools. After completing her PhD, she started writing the book in 2012.
According to a 2010 census, there are about 26,000 Malayalees in Singapore, making up for roughly 7 per cent of the Indian community here.
“When I was doing my master’s, I realised that there was not much documentation of the community. Then I realised how massive the project was. It wasn’t a matter of talking to 20 people. I wanted to give a composite picture of the Malayalee community and provide different narratives,” the Straits Times quoted Pillai as saying.
She roped in Australia-based NRI Puva Arumugam as a co-writer and five of her students as research associates to work on the book.
The interviews includes one with Vilasini Menon, whose late father V P Menon, came to Singapore in 1906.
Menon’s late brother-in-law, M S Varma, was the king of Pallakad, his hometown in Kerala, but resided in Singapore for the most of his life.
Pillai is a third-generation Malayalee on her father’s side and a fourth-generation on her mother’s side.
The community practises both matrilineal and patrilineal systems.
(With inputs from PTI)