Dr Shalini Paramaswaran was driving home when an old Malay pakcik (uncle) skid and fell from his motorbike when attempting to make a U-turn.
She rushed to his aid, noted his deformed right leg with bone exposed and heard that he was unable to feel his feet.
“I introduced myself to help him,” she said, “and pakcik responded in a rather shocking way.” In front of the crowd that had gathered, he shooed her away with the words, “Aku tak nak keling datang dekat aku, tolong aku ke, banyak orang boleh tolong (I don’t want a ‘keling’ coming near me, or to help me, lots of people can help me)”.
‘Keling’ is regarded as a derogatory term referring to a person of Indian origin.
Members of the public then asked her to move away.
The shell-shocked doctor obliged and proceeded to call an ambulance. Upon arrival of the medical unit, Dr Shalini debriefed the paramedic who attended to the injured victim.
After ensuring that the Malay man was attended to, she was about to leave the accident site when the paramedic called out to her, asking if she had examined the man.
She replied, “No, he didn’t want me to touch him. So I called an ambulance instead and waited to ensure no one moved him.”
Overhearing the exchange, the man then smiled and said, “I didn’t know you were a doctor. Doctor can touch.”
Expressing her disbelief, she ended her post with this poignant remark, “Before knowing I’m a doctor, I was a disgusting ‘keling’, cannot touch. After knowing, all the smiles n sorry…”
What’s obvious is that the story struck a nerve with everyday Malaysians of all races. Most thanked her and some apologised for the man’s racist rant.