Thursday, 21 February 2013

Mr Samat, the man with thousands of daughters!

It's the Chinese New Year season in Singapore right now. Usually, I love this season, as Chinese New Year is always a fun time. I get to shop for new clothes for everyone in the family, there are gatherings with family and friends. There's lots of delicious snacks and tonnes of mandarin oranges for me to devour... But this year, amid the usual new year cheer, there is a nagging unease and sadness in my heart and mind.

My teacher is in hospital, you see. In a coma.

You may have seen the article above in The Straits Times on February 2nd, 2013. That's my Sir, my secondary school teacher, Mr Samat. He got seriously injured recently, in a freak accident in school while supervising some students throwing the shot put. Mr Samat is, and has always been a very careful teacher - he is very mindful of safety procedures, sticks to them, and makes sure that we understand what we're doing and that we follow safety procedures as well. I should know. Coz I was in Track & Field, and I am a thrower. Javelin, Discus, Shot Put - I threw them all. And I know that Sir would have taught the students well, on safety procedures, just as he taught me 20 years ago.

I'm a Crescent Girl, a Crescentian. Mr Samat taught at Crescent for more than 30 years, retiring 4 years ago from Crescent. He must have started teaching part-time again coz he's the active and restless sort who likes to keep himself busy. He was also incredibly fit and healthy.

If I'm not wrong, over the 30 plus years at Crescent, Sir taught mainly Malay Language and Physical Education (PE), and coached the Track & Field team, and the Hockey team as well. Over an average Crescentian's four years in Crescent, one would have almost definitely been taught by him before; though it's probably the Malay girls, Track & Field girls, and Hockey girls who were the closest to him. 

He would always call us his daughters. 

"My daughters, my daughters, what do you think you are doing? Don't think that by hiding here, you can escape PE okay!? Go and change into your PE attire now!" 

He was more than a teacher to all of us - he was like a father to us.

Regardless of language, race or religion, he treats us all as his daughters. It didn't matter whether we were Malay, Chinese, Indian or Others, whether he still taught us that year, or that he had never taught you before - he would talk to each and every one of us. And he would listen. When we get into trouble, or if we hurt ourselves, we would go and look for him. 

"Oh shit. How?! Let's go look for Mr Samat!"
"Urrrghh, sprained my ankle again. How?! Let's go look for Mr Samat!"

I remember, when I was in Sec 4, and I saw some of my seniors (who have already graduated) in school. They went to look for Sir, sat talking to him, and one of them started crying. And the rest of the girls, were so distressed, that they too started tearing. Later, I found out, it was some BGR (boy girl relationship) issue, that they had returned and confided in Sir about it. That was the first time it really struck home to me, that not only does Sir treat us as his daughters - we treat him like a father as well.

In Crescent, and the years after I graduated, sometimes, when I feel down, I would go look for Sir. And hang around talking to him. He would know if something was bothering me, and he would ask. But if I didn't want to elaborate, he would be okay as well. I would ask him about what he was doing, and he would entertain me by telling me about how track practices were going or about something funny or exasperating that the girls did... distracting me from whatever it was that was bothering me. But just before I left, he would ask:"You okay, Pam?" and I would say:"Yes, Sir, now, I'm okay."

Limited edition Crescent Bear that was sold in 2011 to celebrate Crescent's 55th Anniversary.
This particular Crescent Bear now has the honour of being that Crescentian that can jaga Sir day and night!
Thanks to social media, the news about Sir's accident spread fast, and wide. Some of us had set up private whatsapp groups updating each other about Sir's condition once any of us visited him. Crescentians were asking each other whenever we met, about Mr Samat's condition. It was very good that his son, Hisham, quickly set up a Facebook Page entitled Sir, Cikgu, Uncle, Father Samat as a means to provide quick updates to all those who care for Mr Samat. 

As a result, I have been checking that fb page everyday for updates. I have also been using google's online translator quite a bit, to translate what the Malay girls have been saying, into English. There's a lot of us who have been talking about our experiences with Sir when we were in school. The things he says to us etc. It's amazing how all of us have our own stories to tell. And how varied they are! But there's a similar vein through it all, how he treats us all as his daughters.

Reading all the stories on the fb page, brought back memories of my own experiences. And the things I remember - it's quite funny - coz it's so varied too! 

I remember, during my four years in Crescent, that Mr Samat didn't have a car. For at least most of those four years anyway. I think he might have had a car during the early years of my Sec 1 days, and perhaps towards the end of my Sec 4 days. But in between, no car. He sold it. 
"Sir, why did you sell your car?"
"Because my sons were getting too fat."
"Too fat. We take the car here, there, everywhere. Never walk. Too fat. So I sell the car, exercise is good. Wait till they slim down, then maybe I will buy a car again."

And so during my time, Sir took the bus and the train with us everywhere. And somehow, it would always stick in my brain, and made me aware how having a car can make one fat. Recently, on my first trip to see Sir in hospital, I saw his two sons, both Hisham and his brother. And you know what? They were NOT fat at all! See, Sir knows best!

Incidentally, there was one time, after I graduated from Crescent, a friend and I went back to visit Sir. And it so happened that that day was the (I can't quite recall) heats, or national finals. And Sir had some logistical problem, something about him needing to chaperone the girls on the bus to go to the national stadium, but then he needed his car later, or something like that. In the end, Sir actually trusted me to drive his car to the national stadium for him! Quite unforgettable, that!

Sir was also very adamant about us drinking hot drinks (teh tarik, anyone?) and taking baths with hot water (instead of cold water). He said that doing these two things is good for our bodies. So even till now, when my husband grumbles about me bathing with hot water (coz when it's his turn to bathe, the water is still hot, and he likes bathing with cold water) - I tell him "Bathing with hot water is good for your body okay!? Who says? My Sir say one! You don't believe my Mr Samat?!"

And he'd back down. Coz he believes. He knows how Mr Samat is probably the fittest person his age in the whole of Singapore. Hubbs is a teacher, not a PE teacher, no, but he's heard of Sir before. And I think probably all PE teachers in Singapore knows Sir. He seems to know everyone! When we are outside with him last time, we would inevitably run into someone who knows him. He'd stop and speak with them, even if only for a short while. And it's not just the thousands of Crescentians that he knows. But people from all walks of life! And in the early to mid 90s, you know what was best? He knows the Singapore national footballers!!! 

We were having Track & Field training at the national stadium and guess what - the national football team was there too! We all had our own favourites: Fandi Ahmad, Abbas Saad, Alistair Edwards, Nazri Nasir... my favourite was Steven Tan the Super Sub, as he was known then. And because they all knew Mr Samat and respected him so, they actually agreed to his request to allow us to have photographs taken with them! The girls were all ecstatic. And Sir was grinning all the way as well, seeing how happy we all were.

Pictures used with permission from Mr Samat's family.
This is a perfect picture of Sir. This is exactly how he looks. His twinkly eyes, laugh wrinkles, and extremely toothy grin. But he's usually in a sports polo tee, track pants, and running shoes. I remember how, every year, he'd bring us all on a shopping trip to Queensway where we would buy our running shoes. He'd teach us how to choose good shoes. Or at least he tries to teach us. Most of us would just choose whatever looks nice to us, and show it to him. He would fold the shoe, look inside, look at the sole, then give us his verdict. Good, can buy. No good, sigh, put back and find another one. And then, coz he knows the shop owner, and coz there were so many of us buying, he'd help us bargain for better discounts.

Sir is also well known for how he points at people. He doesn't use his index finger. He uses his thumb. He holds his hand in a fist, and points the thumb at you. Usually, he will match that with a stern look - his eyes and thumb, in line. We asked him why he does that and he explained that it is rude to use the index finger to point. So he would use his thumb. We used to joke with him that it sometimes looks like he's trying to box someone :p

We joke a lot with Sir. We like to tease him, to karcheow him. Just as he liked to 'father' us with his concern and fatherly advice, we like to 'take care' of him as a daughter should. Different girls would have their own things to say, of course. This is a sample of what we'd say to him:
"Sir, your PURPLE track pants very... happening leh... Plus your bright yellow top. Wah liao..."
"Sir, your teeth very long leh. You must not brush up your gums anymore! Later expose your root then you know!"
"Sir, your hair style so many years never change. Wanna change or not? We help you style?"
"Sir, you comb your hair, once in a while must change parting one leh, otherwise you start going bald along your parting line."
"Wah, Sir! Wear so handsome! Today phototaking ah? Damn retro leh!"
"Sir, you phototaking every year use the same tie one ah? Very boring leh. We buy you a new tie lah!"

As you can tell, teenage girls are a fashionable lot :p

I also remember that Sir came for my wedding. But he didn't stay long, he appeared, spoke to me, congratulated me, and before I knew it, he disappeared. But at least he came. Now, thinking back, I think he must have been very busy attending the weddings of his thousands of daughters. No wonder he could only stay for awhile!
Map taken from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital website
At the time of this post, Sir is currently warded in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. When he first entered, he was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Thankfully, his condition has improved somewhat and he is now warded in a normal ward at Tower A, Ward A51, Bed 25. Visiting hours are strictly 12nn - 2pm and 5 - 8pm, daily. Join this Sir, Cikgu, Uncle, Father Samat Facebook page and keep an eye on it to receive updates on the status of Sir's recovery. Please note that no photography, and videoing, is allowed in the ward.

I wanted to bring the Crescent Bear and give it to Sir the first time I visited him in hospital, but I was too distraught and forgot to bring it. So I went back again last Friday, and gave him the bear. Now, Sir will always have a Crescentian with him 24 hours a day. 

He is in a coma. But the doctors say he can hear us, and encourages us to speak to him. His family also tell us that he is showing little signs of recovery, slight movement hands and eyes. In my second visit there, I witnessed Sir making some jaw movement, like a swallowing action. I saw the movement of his eyeballs beneath his closed eyelid. I saw him cry. He was tearing. I was talking and I couldn't help myself but cry. I think maybe he heard me crying and he cried too. Sir's wife was there, and she said that they have seen him tear before as well. That's also how they really know that Sir is listening, and he is trying to get better.

I said this to Sir when I visited him, and I will say it now again. And again, when I go and visit him again...

Sir, please wake up. We are all waiting for you to wake up. We know you are trying hard and working hard, to get well and wake up. You have to keep trying, okay? Don't give up! We are all waiting for you. I want to introduce my husband to you. He's a teacher, also, you know. And very into sports, you two sure have a lot to talk about. He took over from you - now he is the one that prevents me from getting fat. And I want to show you my three kids! Yes, I have three kids now, never expected that Pamela would have three kids, right? Do you know WQ just had her third boy, three boys! ZD has two kids. XZ has one. MH has two, LY has two also, I think. You see! You have so many grandchildren! Once you wake up we can organise a party! So you must quickly get up!

Don't make us scold you okay. So many people very worried for you, you know. You make all of us cry. So you must quickly wake up, and tell us everything is okay. After you wake up, and get well. It's up to you whether you want to work or not. Don't want to work, also okay. If you want to work, also can. Up to you. What is important now, is that you must wake up. Not so good to sleep for so long, okay? Wake up already, still can rest. We'd make sure we plan a schedule so that we space out all the parties you're going to have with the rest of the Crescentians okay? We'd take loads of photos and have lots of fun.

Please wake up, Sir. We know you can do it!

Linking with:'s Talkative Thursdays


  1. Nice story, Pamela... Did you remember that we used to laugh at mr samat for pronouncing your name as Camera? :) and called us Ah mois? My thoughts are with him too. Pls send him my regards when you next visit him. I may have a tip: when my brother was in a coma after an accident, I brought him a small radio, playing his favorite 933 fm station and he woke up in two days! The familiar songs and chatter can stimulate his brain.... Hugs kailing

  2. Below are the comments that was posted on the facebook page post announcing this post.

    Rachel Tay: I feel so guilty reading your post, Pam. Sir doted on me too but I did not contact him after graduation. He even helped me buy lunch daily at d sch's canteen so that I don't need to queue up as he knows I'm too lazy to queue n will skip my meals n then no energy for training.
    February 21 at 12:01pm via mobile ·

    Mur My-f: Love your blog post! Made me smile, laugh & cry. Hope Mr Samat wakes up soon.
    February 21 at 3:35pm via mobile ·

    Nadiah Mohd Yusof: I was tearing while reading your post... Made me reminisce the times we had with him...
    February 21 at 10:29pm via mobile ·

    Noura Yusoff: Beautiful, beautiful post.. Ended up tearing. Thanks Pamela..
    February 21 at 10:57pm via mobile ·

    Asiah Yahya: A very well-written post. I remember about the soccer players too!
    February 21 at 11:27pm ·

    Lynn Hassan: I don't know you at all, we're from diff batches, but now you've made me feel like all of us feel like sisters. So beautiful, thank you!
    February 22 at 7:00am ·

    Nadiah Mohd Yusof: We are all his daughters.
    February 22 at 8:20am via mobile ·

    Pamela Tan: Thanks guys! I kept tearing while writing it too!
    February 22 at 9:56am via mobile ·

    Maria Marzuki: It's amazing how we're from different class/year/CCAs but share the same lovely memories. Thanks for the lovely post!
    February 22 at 10:56am ·

    Nadiah Mohd Yusof: Hey Maria, you know, when I was in Crescent I have always heard about you. I remember classmates and some friends of friends asking me if I know who is Maria. Then I would say "Which Maria?" "Maria Marzuki la... dunno meh?" Then I said "Hmm... nope."... and 14 years later... Maria Marzuki posted a comment in the same FB thread haahahah... Small world.
    February 22 at 11:34am via mobile ·

    Suryani Piracci: hey Pamela Tan, dont we all want to show Cikgu Samat the loves of our lives & see him beam with pride wish i have a magic carpet to take me back & cajole him out of the coma... if only ... so pray on we must
    February 22 at 12:27pm ·

    Fabrizio Normaninho: Amazingly scripted blog... I nvr tear easily but this article really raise my emotions...thank you crescentians for ur love and warmth.....his inspiration will always be the pillar for all of us!!
    February 22 at 1:18pm via mobile ·

    Hafizah Beevi: Your blog post brought back so many beautiful memories... As long as all of us, his daughters, continue to think and pray for him, I'm confident he'll recover soon. Thank you sis for reminding me how crescent (will always) remain in our hearts! :')
    February 23 at 7:42pm via mobile ·

  3. Mr samat, I am Belinda. U still rememeber me.. I'm the one who always nvr go run. But i promise u. If u wake up, i will run to give u see.. Class 4-1 and 4-2, we miss u. So plz wake up...

  4. I am sad to announce that he has passed away yesterday, 24/4/2015. May his soul rest in peace.


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