Monday, 28 August 2017 : The stereotype that Indian and Sikh parents want their children to become doctors and lawyers broke down when it came to Datuk Dr Jagjit Singh Sambhi’s parents. When the young man announced his plans in medicine, his mother scolded him and his father’s doctor friends pooh-poohed the idea.
It wasn’t the field they were objecting to, though, it was the specialisation he had chosen: Obstetrics and gynaecology (ObGyn).
His mother said: “Don’t take up obstetrics. I had eight children and I didn’t have any doctor’s assistance, the midwives delivered all the babies. You will starve to death!”
In the 1960s, Malaysia already had many Sikh doctors – surgeons, eye doctors, ear, nose and throat doctors, but no Sikh gentleman had ever taken up obstetrics. And, his father’s doctor friends said, “No other nationalities, or even a fellow Sikh, would want a man in a turban delivering their babies!”
But Dr Sambhi stood his ground.
“I proved them wrong. Thereafter, scores (of Sikh doctors) followed suit,” says the 86-year-old man at this interview, sporting his trademark white turban.
We are at his home in Kuala Lumpur where he lives with his wife of 50 years, Datin Margaret Rowe. He met Margaret at Oxford University Hospital in Britain when he was doing his postgraduate studies. They married in 1967 and have two boys and a girl and four grandchildren.
Recently, the couple celebrated their golden anniversary with a grand dinner and the launch of the doctor’s autobiography, Doctor On The Move: Life’s Journey, which has been three years in the making.
Dr Sambhi’s father, Gurbakhsh Singh, travelled from India to Penang in the 1920s in search of better prospects. Once he established himself on the island, he went back to India to get married and returned to Malaya with his new bride, Amarjit Kaur. A year after Dr Sambhi was born in 1931, his father moved the family to Kuala Lumpur and became the first Sikh to start a provision shop business in Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman).
Dr Sambhi is the second of eight siblings – five boys and three girls.
Perhaps it was fated that he would choose the specialisation that he did because Dr Sambhi was actually a premature baby!
Weighing just a little over 1kg at birth, he was so tiny that his parents could hold him in one hand. He was put in a little box with hot water bottles to keep him warm. Back then, even in the big hospitals, hot water bottles were used for preemies as there were no incubators, he recounts.
“The doctor told my parents that I would survive a few hours or a few days only. If I survived three months, I would survive until adulthood. My mother told me that I cried so much, like I really wanted to live,” he says.
Dr Sambhi jokes about being a preemie whenever the opportunity arises. “I was very keen to come into this world and came early. Since I am here, I am going to stay and live.”
He had his early education in KL, at the Batu Road School and Victoria Institution where he first thought about becoming a teacher; he later took a teacher’s advice and chose medicine instead. He studied at Universiti Malaya in Singapore.
After graduating in 1959, he worked as a junior doctor for a year at KL General Hospital (now Hospital Kuala Lumpur). He was then seconded by the Government to serve in Brunei for six months. From 1963 to 1966, he did his postgraduate studies in obstetrics and gynaecology in Oxford.
“I find obstetrics to be more interesting. You see the miracle of birth,” says the still enthusiastic doctor, who became the first male Sikh ObGyn in the country.
He is also the first doctor to introduce the vacuum extractor delivery method which has now replaced forceps delivery in Malaysia. In another first, Dr Sambhi was sent by the Government to Sarawak, where he served from 1967 to 1970.
Source : Internet