This is Rani Doraisingam an English Teacher with an American accent.
When I first met her in Sibu I was struck by her openess and her brilliance albeit quiet nature. We taught together in the Methodist School. Perhaps we had both graduated from MU so we clicked immediately: we laughed at the same thing and we thought similarly about many things. Her children were very young and I had just a small daughter.
I walked down memory lane with her and another friend in Bintulu this week. One of the first things she told me as we went to all the different places in Bintulu was this " She was supposed to be in Sarawak for 2 years. But she stayed for 22 years."
She and I taught in the same school twice in Sibu and in between she went to other schools in SArawak - following her husband who was later Divisional Medical Officer. She stayed the longest in Sri Aman and Kuching.
One of her favourite schools was SMK Bintulu. Bintulu was a small town then. There were only two doctors in the government hospital- one was Dr. Demong and the other her husband: Dr. Doraisingam. The road to the school was the longest in Bintulu then - ending just where Medan Jaya today.
Two operations were memorable to her : Her husband and Dr. Thaddeus Demong(now in Canada) saved the life of one man who came in with 50 perforations in his intestines caused by one single bullet . Years later this patient came forward to shake Dr. Dorai's hands. But he knew that Dr. Dorai could not remember him. So he showed the stitches on his body to Dr. Dorai who remembered immediately who he was. Another one was the expat who was burnt almost 80% in his body by an explosion. He could not be saved and she and her husband were so sorry and sad about it for days. But they could really not do anything.
Their amah cooked their lunch by timing the cooking with the landing of the plane in the old Bintulu Airport as their house was just next to the old hospital. The daily plane would land at exactly 11:30 a.m. and she would start cooking. Should there be a delay in the flight the Doraisingam's lunch would be delayed too.
There were only two rows of wooden shops. And she was there when the big fire occurred. She too heard about the story of how Tua Pek Kong appeared at the end of the burning shops and used a fan to stop the fire from spreading to the kampong. This was the reason why the 4 million ringgit Chinese Temple built at that spot is so huge and beautiful.
The teachers during her time in Bintulu developed a great esprit de corps. The few teachers teaching in the school lived in quarters like the one in the photo above. Whenever there was sports practice in the afternoons she would stay over as the dirt road was daunting and she did not have a car herself which was really unnecessary at that time. (Her husband walked to work and in times of emergency borrowed the gardener's bicycle) . She and the other two teachers Miss Jacinta Insol (now Mrs. Igai) and Miss Angela Chung would have a lunch of rice and tinned fried dace.
Father Heery was a wonderful principal. It was in this house that she had many wonderful parties with the other teachers. Father Heery being a good educationist with great leadership skills made sure that the teachers had a good relationship and joy in teaching. Rani came down from the car just to have a good photo taken of this house and other places in the school. She had fond memories of Fr. Heery and her ex-colleagues.
This was the old woodwork shed now a store. It was more wire fencing in her days. Furthermore during her time most of the buildings were wooden and one storied only. Today more than 35 years later many more concrete buildings have been erected to accommodate the large number of students. So much changes have taken place.
Wherever Mrs. Doraisingam went she would impact the lives of many of the youngsters she taught. Not too long ago a former student now 50 years of age reminded her how much her advance understanding helped him and his classmates understand the importance of democracy and developing a critical mental attitude. As a senior manager today he insisted on thanking her over and over again for her sincere interest in their social maturation besides academic achievement.
Another student from SMK LImbang made an effort to come all the way to see her in Sibu after she was posted there to thank her and even came again for more counselling. This only showed how caring a teacher she was especially to the rural students.
When she was in Miri every weekend her house was the social centre for her Limbang and Bintulu students who had come to be in Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang for their sixth form. She would cook a huge pot of curry and extra rice for them.
One of the many modern buildings in Bintulu - a far cry from the two rows of wooden shops and 3 miles of dirt road from the town to the end of the town in the early 70's.
Meeting up and going down memory lane with her in Bintulu was such a heart warming experience. It brought back our good memories of teaching in Sibu and a renewal of a good friendship.