the other day... a movie that I had only seen snippets of until a week ago. Based on the Conrad novel the major part of the action is set in the part of the world that a few of us originate from. I enjoyed the movie. It was cool to be able to understand what the "natives" were saying. I remember watching "Swiss Family Robinson"
as a kid and being thrilled that I understood what the "pirates" in that movie were saying.
That elation was soon replaced with insult.
"How dare those Mat Salleh film-makers make pirates speak Malay
!" Of course, this was the precious mind of an 8 year old who has since discovered that Malay is one of the oldest pirate languages in the world... and that entire cultures of pirates still troll the waters in that region to this very day. I've actually come close to an encounter with them... but thats another story... nevermind... anyway.
I do have to admit that I'm a little partial to "guy" movies made in that era... "Bridge on the River Kwai,
"Lawrence of Arabia
" etc. O.K., truth be told... I love big epics. I actually own quite a few of them on DVD. Biblical epics! Adventure epics. All manner of epics. But thats not why I began this post.
Lets get back to "Lord Jim." ... and the title of "Tuan." It was used several times in the movie... Tuan Jim - a title of respect.
The Malay word "tuan" has many conotations. Master, Sir, Lord or Gentleman.
Tuan, was the name the neighbors in the old 'hood' called my dad. He was "tuan" and my mother was "missy." These terms were hold-overs from the old colonial days... "titles of respect" primarily used to address the British masters and their wives. My father and mother were locals.
And another thing, we lived in "government quarters" in the Kampung Pandan area. As I recall, these were "class 4" quarters. My father worked as a "chief clerk" in several government departments over his career... middle management at best. So, the title of "tuan" did not come from a "class" perception.
I concluded some years ago that in the case of my parents, "tuan" and "missy" were respectful terms of endearment that they had earned through action and interaction.