He remembers vividly that fateful day when he threw his 6m-long turban into a river to pull to safety a Malay teenager, who had fallen into Sungai Kerian near Parit Buntar in Perak.
The then constable Sohan Singh Sidhu said he was walking along Sungai Kerian on the evening of Jan 23, 1965, after work.
“As I was taking in the sights, I saw a teenager casting his line into the river to fish. Unfortunately, he fell into the river while doing so.”
Sohan said he dashed to where the teenager fell.
The youngster was bobbing up and down, and struggling to stay afloat.
“As I could not swim, I removed my turban and threw one end of the cloth towards the boy. Thankfully, he grabbed hold of it,” Sohan, 71, said in Taiping, Perak, recently.
After pulling him to safety, Sohan, then 21, gave the teenager a tongue-lashing for endangering his own life.
“I remember him begging me not to tell his parents,” he said, adding that the boy identified himself as Abd Malik.
Sohan said the boy then left and he tied his turban up again, even though it was wet.
“I continued with my walk
before returning to the police quarters.”
He said it was lucky for the boy that his turban was not starched, hence, it could roll out once the pin was removed.
News of the Punjabi policeman saving the Malay boy with his turban spread and pressmen hounded him the next day.
“The reporters came and asked me if it’s okay to publish the news and I said ‘why not’,” he said with a smile.
Sohan became an overnight superstar when news of his quick thinking was splashed in major newspapers on the third day.
“That report drew the attention of my district police chief and the inspector-general of police,” he said, adding that he received a commendation letter three months after the incident.
After Parit Buntar, Sohan was transferred to Rawang in 1966.
He rose up the ranks, from constable to inspector, before retiring as assistant superintendent in 1998.
After his retirement, Sohan was seconded to the Film Censorship Board in Kuala Lumpur for three years. Due to his vast knowledge, the Seremban native also became a human resources manager in a factory in Taiping.
“My children asked me to stop working in 2006,” he said, adding that as time passed, news of him saving the teenager was gradually forgotten as it got overtaken by other events.
“Now, I share it only occasionally during family gatherings,” said the father of two boys and a girl.
Sohan, who is married to Serjeet Kaur, 64, spends his twilight years meeting friends and praying at the gurdwara in the morning.
“I return for lunch before having my afternoon nap.”
Sohan keeps active by going for walks in his neighbourhood in the evenings.