Book Review: One-Legged Football and Other Stories

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Dato’ Dr Lim Kee Jin, a portrait published in this book

In loving memory of her husband, Dato’ Dr Lim Kee Jin, Datin Patricia Lim Pui Huen has compiled a collection of short stories and published a charming book titled, One-Legged Football and Other Stories. Born in 1923, Dato’ passed peacefully in 2015.

Datin Patricia, or Datin Pat in short, is a professional librarian and historian who has authored several historical books including, Wong Ah Fook – Immigrant, Builder and Entrepreneur (Times Editions 2002) and Johor – Local History, Local Landscapes 1855 to 1957 (Straits Times Press 2009).

We also know Datin Pat as the great-grand-daughter of Wong Ah Fook and her research into Johor history has given her clear insights into the social life of Chinese immigrants and their role in the development of Johor Bahru from virtually a jungle into a thriving township.

Book Review: One-Legged Football and Other Stories
Hardcover book, One-Legged Football and Other Stories

While she has earned a strong reputation as a historian and author of academic books, Datin Pat also ventured into writing short stories, one of which was published in the Southeast Asian Review of English (SARE), No.50, a special issue on Malaysian and Singaporean Literature to celebrate SARE’s 30th anniversary.

Dato’ Dr Lim was posted by the Ministry of Health to the Johor Bahru General Hospital (JBGH now known as Hospital Sultanah Aminah) as the Consultant Physician in 1958.

While Dato’s assignment in JBGH started as a short-term government placement for a few years, it turned out to be life-long attachment because he found much satisfaction in training young doctors under his supervision and moulded many into respected medical professionals.

In fact, the first post-graduate medical centre in Malaysia was established in the JBGH in 1969 by three medical pioneers, Dato’ Dr Lim Kee Jin, Dato’ Dr T Sachithanandan and Dato’ Dr Sam C E Abraham.

On his retirement from government service, Dato’ established the first private hospital in Johor Bahru, Johor Specialist Hospital, a hospital that had developed into present-day, KPJ Healthcare Group, a leading healthcare provider in this region.

Book Review: One-Legged Football and Other Stories
The back cover blurb with three review comments

Meanwhile, Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation or JARO, is a registered charitable society established in 1952, where the disabled are given opportunities to be gainfully employed in the sheltered workshops for bookbinding, basketry, tailoring, and handicrafts.

Dato’ Dr Lim was elected Chairman of JARO in 1962 and was popularly re-elected from 1962 to 2007 to the role which he held for the next 46 years.

When he stepped down in 2008 due to health reasons, Dato’ Jimmy Low Boon Hong took over as Chairman of the JARO Management Committee, while Datin Pat continues to be a committee member.

My family and I are regular customers at JARO and are familiar with its proud heritage. It is an established brand for quality products that are handmade by people with disabilities and every JARO product is special because its quality and workmanship is matched by the effort and determination put into its creation.

In April 2013, I had the privilege to witness the official renaming of the JARO building, the Lim Kee Jin Wing, as a tribute to Dato’ Dr Lim’s commitment and contribution to JARO.

For the many years of training and employing the disabled and helping to give these artisans dignity in their lives, the social work by JARO was recognised by the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) as the recipient of the prestigious Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Iskandar Malaysia Ultimate Social Hero Award in 2014.

Book Review: One-Legged Football and Other Stories
Sculpture IV which Dato’ and Datin’s sons call, The Crouching Boy

With JARO as the inspiration, One-Legged Football and Other Stories, has a collection of eight short stories that reflect the humane values and compassionate spirit of the late Dato’ Dr Lim. These stories include the heart-warming tale of, The Wind in his Face, which was first published in SARE.

Published by Areca Books, the Foreword in One-Legged Football and Other Stories is by JARO Chairman, Dato’ Jimmy Low Boon Hong, while the Introduction is written by Professor Koh Tai Ann, a Senior Associate with the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Besides medicine, Exploration in Wood will give readers a glimpse into the other passion that Dato’ Dr Lim had in wood sculpturing – a self-taught skill that yielded beautiful creations. Photographs of his wooden sculptures are inserted in between each story.

Datin Pat has skilfully woven interesting stories around fictional characters based on her experience with people who are differently abled, characters who have the same desires and aspirations as you and me.

Except for Habibah’s Wedding, all the stories are fictional pieces, each written in very readable language, rich with respect, sensitivity, and a touch of pathos.

It is an eye-opening read to better understand people with disabilities who also cope with everyday problems like love, marriage, family, work and even looks, and how they rise above them.

I got to know them one-by-one as the stories kick off with Dol Tongkat in One-Legged Football, Jaya and Her Beautiful Eyes, Zul with The Wind in his Face, the deaf-mute in Ripples, Joo-Nee in a Daughter or Daughter-in-Law, the blushing bride Habibah at Habibah’s Wedding, the double-life of May Lan in Black Cat, and the moving legend of Si Badang.

With Johor as a picturesque backdrop, the familiar names mentioned in the stories evoke a sense of belonging and the nostalgia of a bygone era because many of these places no longer exists or have been developed into something different.

It is easy to connect with the stories and picture the scenarios at familiar places like the Causeway, Lido Beach, Bukit Jepun, Bukit Chagar, Princess Elizabeth School for the Blind, Holiday Plaza, Selat Tebrau or the Johor Straits, and even our famous, Yong Nasi Padang!

In keeping with Dato’s legacy of care and compassion, Datin Pat and the Lim family will donate to JARO, the proceeds from the sale of this book.

Priced at only RM38, this 104-page hardcover book, One-Legged Football and Other Stories, is truly a labour of love.

One-Legged Football and Other Stories is available from Areca bookstores, online from arecabooks.com and from Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation (JARO) located at No. 18 Jalan Sungai Chat, 80720 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia. Tel: +607 – 224 5632.

 

For more information on Areca Books and JARO, please visit webpages: arecabooks.com/product/one-legged-football-and-other-stories and jaro.org.my.