50 years and counting, and a life well spent

‘Doctor On the Move’ is a recording of almost every aspect of Dr Sambhi’s journey in life — his profession, love, marriage and voluntary services

Pic by AFIF ABD HALIM

It was a double celebration — the launch of an autobiography and a 50th wedding anniversary marked by fine dining and an intimate gathering of some 150 families and friends from near and far, at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid —former chief secretary to the government and Permodalan Nasional Bhd — as the guest of honour, in launching the book, lightened the evening with his remarks.

In congratulating the happy couple, Datuk Dr Jagjit Singh Sambhi and wife Datin Margaret, he couldn’t help but speak of his own nuptial history of 55 years with Puan Sri Sagiyah Salikin come December, saying: “In reaching the half-century mark almost unscathed, no scandals (drawing laughter), is indeed a great achievement.”

And he made it obvious he had gone through the book “Doctor On The Move” when he said he had spotted a photograph of Margaret as she was in 1964.

“She looked very, very attractive. No wonder Dr Sambhi did a reverse colonisation by marrying her.”

(Dr Sambhi had met and fallen in love with his wife when he had gone to England to do his postgraduate attachment).

He also drew out the dry wit of Margaret’s father. When Margaret told him of her intention to marry Dr Sambhi, he had said: “Better a Sikh doctor than an English bus driver.”

Ahmad Sarji described the book as epic, a recording almost every aspect of Dr Sambhi’s journey in life — his profession, love, marriage and voluntary services. It contained many humorous situations, anecdotes and events which made for “captivating reading”.

In his 50 years of service as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Sambhi had handled and supervised 50,000 deliveries and had personally delivered about 7,000 babies at his medical centre (in Medan Tuanku Abdul Rahman).

The book also served to provide glimpses of the country in the 1930s, the Second World War, the communist insurrection, indepen-
dence, life in the sixties in the UK and Europe; his pioneering medical work in England, Brunei, Sarawak and in Peninsular Malaysia; and his taste for fine dining and travels around the world.

The title of the book was appropriate. He was still on the move and not just a “doctor in the house”.

The launching ceremony was by way of Ahmad Sarji retrieving a copy, on stage, from inside a small Chettiar’s desk Margaret had bought as an antique in Melaka and had kept for all of 40 years for the occasion she foresaw.

The whole Sambhi family, sons Kasheminder and wife Claire, Robin and wife Mari, daughter Genevieve and husband Paul Harding, and four grand children, Steffen, Naomi, Isabella and Alexander, bore witness on stage.

The book was dedicated to them as well as to Dr Sambhi’s late father and mother, Gurbakhsh Singh and Amarjit Kaur.

Following which Dr Sambhi, in his address, said that it was Margaret who had been the driving force for him to write and finish the book. She vetted, proofread and critiqued it, making it more interesting. She had also assisted him in selecting the final 250 pictures from the “amazing” 26,000 pictures the family had amassed and captioning them.

Son Robin had done the editing and research, and was responsible for the final presentation of the book.

Dr Sambhi also thanked his scribe PC Shivadas and editorial consultant Philip Mathews and the printers, Versacomm and its creative director Ivan Tang, who delivered the book in double quick time.

Dr Sambhi, Margaret and Robin read out excerpts from the book as an appetiser for those present that evening.

At the start though, it was first-born Kashe who introduced his father and Genevieve, the mother, describing them with admiration, and those present were treated to a film recording of the Sikh temple wedding ceremony in Bukit Mertajam where the couple had got married in 1967. It was soundless, but Margaret provided a delightful running commentary.

The book will be available at MPH book shops by the end of the month. All proceeds from the sale will go to the National Heart Foundation.