December 8, 2009

Mrs. Doraisingam and Stories of Bintulu

 (Photo : Mrs. Doraisingam - having coffee at Li Hua Cafe in Bintulu)

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. The Police Complex wasn't built yet. (There was a privated doctor : Dr. Ong)

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.


Anonymous said...

i think teachers and a small town go together well. teachers in big modern cities aren't as warm and will not have an impact like how this teacher has on students.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for visiting.

Teachers mean more to small town people actually. I think some teachers like Mrs. D. are special and therefore they are appreciated.

In some small towns teachers are consultants and imparters of knowledge. They are respected and honoured....

But I am sure there are lots of very good teachers in big cities too.

Jay said...

I still remember during my early years of service, Dr Dorai was a deputy Direction of Health, Sarawak ( I asssume he is the one as mention in your writing). He is a respected person who contribute a lot for the health services of the people of Sarawak.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

How nice of you to remember Dr. Dorai.

I will let him and Mrs. Dorai know.

The DMO's house in Miri opposite the government quarters is still there. She was so touched when she saw it. She took a photo of the Last Castle Still Standing.....
But she is pleased with the rapid pace of development in Miri especially.

Still on hols?

God bless.

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Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

In my short time experience in a small Binatang town and Kuching. I experience a vast difference.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for stopping by...All the best.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I love all those years I taught in the small towns. These students still keep in touch with me.

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