This local ‘hero’ who gave Malaysia its only casino was a family man who loved his children and was considerate of others.
A TEACHER or a writer for that matter, has the power to influence and be influenced.
A case in point is what happened to me a couple of years ago.
For the life of me, I cannot remember this student’s name but he left a mark on me.
Barely 13, he was a bundle of ebullience. His father spoke good English and therefore, so did the boy.
As for his mother, he communicated with her in Hokkien and with his sisters, all of whom attended a vernacular school, Mandarin.
Allow me to call him Xie so that I can continue with the story. I do think this beautiful syllable was part of his name but I am not sure.
Anyway, I taught him Civics. As all teachers know, this subject is not tested in any major public examination.
I liked teaching it as it presented me with an opportunity to leave a positive impact on my young charges and enlighten them about the true meaning of civic consciousness.
One of the assignments I set my students was this: Which local famous hero would you like to emulate and why?
I knew it sounded like a “Miss Universe” contest question but I warned my students that I wasn’t interested in them regaling the string of awards their role model had won.
Instead, in an oral presentation session, I wanted them to tell me in a conversational tone, the most interesting thing they had learned from the local exemplar.
In my classes, the code-word is “acceptance”. Children, I believe, develop best when their mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process and their honest endeavour appreciated.
We ended up having a good session, with them taking turns to speak engagingly about the achievements of Datuk Nicol David, the squash champion; Datuk Lee Chong Wei, the badminton ace; Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the astronaut; Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin, the singer; Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, the actress and Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the entrepreneur.
Honestly, they did a commendable job. For instance, one student told me that she admired Nicol’s mental strength.
I commended her for this observation because if there is one quality I associate with Nicol, it is her ability to use mind over matter to stay focused on her game.
Another shared that Dr Sheik Muszaphar’s book Journey to Space: A Memoir of Malaysia’s First Angkasawan had been an eye-opening read because he learnt how much grit, determination, intelligence, maturity and resilience are needed to make it to outer space.
It was Xie, however, who stood out. This was because he chose to talk about the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, the far-sighted businessman who gave this country its Genting Highlands.
Speaking in simple English, there were four things Xie told us he had learnt from Tan Sri Lim: to cherish and respect one’s mother; to be unafraid to talk to people; to believe in oneself and work hard; and to forge true alliances.
I was intrigued. It was an unusual choice and a departure from the obvious.
I asked Xie later: “What made you choose Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong as a man to talk about?”
Xie’s answer was equally frank. “I owe it to my father,” he said.
According to Xie, when he had told his parents about the assignment, his father had taken him to the community library and said: “Let’s look for someone very few people know about but who has contributed a lot to this country.”
I never met Xie’s father but he left this impression on me. A man who goes to so much trouble to educate his son is a father after my own heart.
He could have treated the assignment cursorily as many do when a non-examination subject is involved.
But this father saw the opportunity it offered to give his son some valuable insights into the importance of principles and virtues.
Staying true to his culture, he also chose a successful man of his own race whom the son could identify with and possibly, emulate.
In case you are wondering how Xie affected me, it’s this; after I heard Xie’s explanation, I was curious enough to go to the library and borrow Lim’s 2004 memoir.
Simply entitled My Story, it describes his journey through life.
From being a bashful migrant from Anxi, China to being the affable man who not only built Genting Highlands but also the Kemubu Irrigation Scheme in Kelantan, the Ayer Itam Dam in Penang, the Sanyen Paper and Power Plants in Selangor, Asiatic Plantations, Star Cruises, the Chin Swee temple and of course, the town of Gohtong Jaya.
Written as it was in a succinct manner, I finished reading it within two hours!
The story is of a visionary man who worked really hard, was astute, seized opportunities whenever they arose yet stayed down-to-earth and considerate of the needs of others.
Based on the notes I made at the time, here’s something I’d like to share with you from the book.
The late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong had six children with his wife, Puan Sri Lee Kim Hua.
She focused on bringing up the children and Lim would often take the whole family out on many wonderful outings.
Years later, when Genting Highlands became a reality, and it was decided that an appropriate Chinese name be given for it, the first name suggested was Yin Ding (Silver Top).
Some detractors, however, thought it “vulgar and not reflective of a mountain top”. It was Kim Hua who quietly suggested the name of Yun Ding which means “Cloud Top”.
Thinking of him as a father, I believe Lim will always stay on top of the clouds in the eyes of his children because he provided them two of the greatest gifts a father can ever give his child: love and education.
A friend of mine joked: his properties and wealth too! Here’s to fathers who provide and inspire — Happy Father’s Day
Note: Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong passed away on Oct 23, 2007 and was buried at Gohtong Memorial Park. The Black Eyed Peas were performing in Genting on Oct 26, 2007 and rapper Will.i.am paid Lim a tribute by saying: “A man died recently who was responsible for the place where we are today. I’d like to ask for a moment of silence to honour his life and legacy.” NITHYA SIDHHU The STAR Online Teacher Talk Sunday June 16, 2013