PETALING JAYA: For most people, “Bapa Malaysia” Tunku Abdul Rahman, is a fixture of history books, but for Sharifah Intan Syed Hussein, he is the warm, generous grandfather who would whisk her from school for short holidays around the country.
For many, he is seen as a model statesman and leader for his role in achieving independence and the formation of Malaysia. “My grandfather used to say he had devoted 75% of himself to the country, but saved 25% for his family,” Sharifah Intan recalls.
“He always loved being surrounded by children and the family. When I grew up and had children of my own, he would always be so thrilled to see them at Hari Raya when we’d have all four generations together,” she told FMT.
But after the guests had left, he would reveal a non-traditional aspect of himself.
“In the evenings on Hari Raya, when it was just the family around, we’d all sit down and have roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner. He was very much an Anglophile: as many people know, he spent a lot of time in the UK.”
Sharifah added that her grandfather was also a highly generous man, almost to a fault.
“There’s this old story he’d tell about him and his finance minister Tan Siew Sin, who was always very reluctant to take leave.
“He once said to Siew Sin ‘go take a break, I’ll take care of the finance portfolio while you’re away,’ to which Siew Sin replied: ‘That’s what I’m afraid of’,” she laughed.
“Siew Sin was worried that my grandfather would be too loose with the country’s purse strings, he was just that kind of person. If somebody said they needed help, he would give them money, even to reporters who would interview him over the years. He always wanted to help if he could.”
The lucky prime minister
Sharifah said her grandfather also had a lucky streak, which on a few occasions may have saved his life.
An avid sportsman all his life, he once took his speedboat out into the ocean, only for it to suddenly spring a leak.
“Lucky for him, he was on a sandbar at the time, so even though he was out to sea the water only came up to his knees.”
On another occasion, he came within inches of disaster after installing a lift in his Penang residence.
“The doors opened as he was about to ride it down, but just as he was about to step in, the car crashed right in front of him.”
According to Sharifah, his luck extended to eerily precise dreams and premonitions.
“There was the time in 1941 when he abducted his father en route to Penang. My grandfather had a dream a few nights earlier of his father calling for help and falling from a tree, which he took to mean his father could be in danger.
“A week later, when he was told that the British were bringing his father to Penang, he hatched a plan out of concern for his father’s safety. The day his father left, he managed to intercept his father’s car and have it turned around to Kedah, much to the dismay of the police escort.
“On the way back to Kulim, however, they got word that Penang was being bombed by the Japanese. How lucky is that?”Internet Explorer Channel Network