An in­domitable spirit

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Heart & Soul - By ADRI­ENNE P

I STOOD by teacher Oh Kim Leng’s bed­side and had a most in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion with him. He gave me a short but lu­cid in­tro­duc­tion to the term patah lagu ,a melodic or­na­men­ta­tion in singing tra­di­tional Malay songs. I was not fa­mil­iar with Malay mu­sic but Oh in­tro­duced me to patah lagu with a short vo­cal demon­stra­tion as well.

Al­though he was ham­pered by his in­abil­ity to make op­ti­mum use of his lung ca­pac­ity, the re­sult was still re­mark­able and en­light­en­ing.

For the past 30 years, Oh has been con­fined to a bed, un­able to move. He has only lim­ited use of this hands.

But he is still ca­pa­ble of hold­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, and on a topic as in­ter­est­ing as Malay tra­di­tional mu­sic.

Oh graduated from the Lem­bah Pan­tai Teach­ers Train­ing Col­lege, Kuala Lumpur, in 1983.

While in col­lege, he ex­celled in prac­ti­cally all the ar­eas that is re­quired to make a good teacher.

Aca­dem­i­cally he was ex­cel­lent. His com­mand of English and Malay was ex­cep­tional. At the same time, he ex­celled in sports, mu­sic and or­a­tory (in Ba­hasa Malaysia and English). In ad­di­tion, he pos­sessed a nat­u­ral flair for in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tions. In short, he was a “born teacher”.

After grad­u­a­tion, Oh was posted to Kuala Le­mai, Sarawak, a vil­lage with lit­tle ameni­ties. But the hard­ships did not at any time dampen or af­fect Oh’s ded­i­ca­tion and en­thu­si­asm to teach. He re­ally en­joyed and loved teach­ing the chil­dren of this vil­lage.

One day, Oh went to join his pupils for their usual bath in the river. He dived into the river but did not sur­face. The chil­dren who were with him quickly told their headmaster who dived into the river and found Oh ly­ing at its bot­tom. He had bro­ken his neck and there­fore could not move.

The tragic event was 30 years ago and Oh has been paral­ysed and bedrid­den since then.

Oh’s wife, who was his “steady”, in col­lege sac­ri­ficed ev­ery­thing to be with him all through the years. Per­haps it is wrong to use the term “sac­ri­ficed” as it was an act of love and she wanted to be with him and be part of his life, no mat­ter what.

When I heard the news, I was dev­as­tated. I wept for Oh, a per­son with such po­ten­tial. But it is not in Oh’s na­ture to take things ly­ing down.

Al­though bedrid­den, he has been lead­ing an ac­tive life. He gives tu­ition de­spite his dis­ad­van­tages. His many hun­dreds of stu­dents, who are on Face­book, al­ways com­mu­ni­cate with him and thank him for their suc­cess.

He also con­trib­utes a lot to the Per­anakan com­mu­nity of Me­laka.

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