| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 9 Aug 2017 | Asia Samachar |
By Balan Moses | The Malay Mail
One late evening 60 years ago, a young Sikh and a Malayalee colleague set out on a whim on motorcycles from Siliau, Negri Sembilan, to Kuala Lumpur to watch the independence tableau unfold at the field at Jalan Raja.
It was an easy ride for Sangat Singh, then 24, and A.J. Menon, 25, on their Norton 350 cc two-wheelers from Siliau Estate to the heart of the federal capital to witness history in the making.
The two did not mind the journey on narrow and poorly-lit roads even as day waned into evening.
The fast friends had wanted a first-hand view of Tunku Abdul Rahman and leaders of the Alliance Party at the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Malayan flag.
Sangat and Menon, who had made several trips to Singapore on their trusty mechanical steeds – NA 698 and NS 697 respectively prior to that – decided on the spur of the moment to make the trip.
They had meet just months earlier as members of the Guthries cadet planter programme and were game for trips together.
“We were young, and bachelors to boot, and riding to KL to be part of this historic event was just something we decided to do that Friday evening,” Sangat said.
He said they threw caution to the winds as they “flew” towards Kuala Lumpur realising that they had to be in the city for an hour or two before making the 75-minute trip back.
A staid and sober 84-year-old today, the man best known for leading the ham radio fraternity around the country for close to six decades, was by his own admission a speedster in his younger days.
This came from daredevil rides on estate and trunk roads with many a story to tell of escapades on the road.
“We rode the powerful machines easily to KL, arriving well before the festivities began at the padang,” he said in a recent interview at his Bangsar home, Sangat said they parked their motorcycles near the field and stood with thousands of others to watch the Union Jack come down and the Malayan flag go up.
They left for Siliau soon after as they had to catch a little sleep before muster at 5.30am the next day.
“I will never forget that day. It was the symbolic beginning of the process of me becoming a citizen,” said the first Sikh planter in the Guthrie’s group who received his Malaysian citizenship in 1991 followed soon after with similar status for wife Upkar Kaur, 79.
Reflecting on the decades that he was a non-citizen, he rued the fact that some Malaysians still failed to realise what a gift they had in their citizenship.
For him, citizenship was the end of a journey that began with being born in 1933 in Dijkot in present-day Faisalabad in Pakistan.
After getting his college degree in India, he moved to Singapore in 1954 to work in textiles, a profession he left not long after to start a career as a planter across the Causeway.
“I am still asked to provide my consultancy services to some estates,” said Sangat whose vocabulary obviously does not include the word ‘retirement’.
On his exploits on his trusty Norton in his younger days, one episode stands out that the raconteur never fails to regale audiences with.
“I was once returning to Siliau from Singapore when a lady driver refused to allow me to overtake her car. I sped and overtook her finally but my turban suddenly flew off,” he said with a hearty guffaw.
Sangat had to stop and ride back a mile to retrieve his turban.
Davinder Singh: Singapore’s first Sikh parliamentarian (Asia Samachar, 20 Aug 2016)
Contribution of the Sikhs in Malaysia (Asia Samachar, 21 July 2017)
Singapore’s inimitable rugby captain (Asia Samachar, 14 July 2017)