KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — For Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it was Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali’s strength of character that swept him off of his feet.
Speaking to CNN in an exclusive interview, the 93-year old said he fell in love with her after learning about her dedication to pursue tertiary studies at a time where females are less open to the idea of higher education.
“Actually there were not many girls in those days and she was the only girl taking the medical course who was a Malay.
“So naturally we gravitated towards the only girl in the group and eventually, well, I suppose I fell in love with her.
“In those days, not many women went to the university, and she was determined to get a university education. That, I think reflects her strength of character,” he reportedly said.
The duo met in 1947 while studying at the King Edward Medical College in Singapore, where their friendship turned into romance.
Dr Mahathir had volunteered to tutor Dr Siti Hasmah after the latter scored a low grade in English.
As for her father’s request, the pair tied the knot in 1956 after graduating and completing their housemanship.
Now, over six decades later, the couple are still happily married and going stronger than ever.
Dr Mahathir said while he was initially smitten by her perseverance, it was their shared views and Dr Siti Hasmah’s loyalty that kept him by her side.
“She feels in the same way about the kind of things that I believe in — about loyalty, the country, about working for the country and all that.
“She accompanies me wherever I go and she is, in a sense, quite as dedicated to this idea of loyalty, patriotism that I have,” he said.
This, however, he said does not mean that they constantly see eye-to-eye.
“We learn to tolerate each other. Initially, of course, we quarreled quite often. I am very strict about time and all that and she takes a lot of time, is late and all that.
“We used to quarrel over that but I realised that I could not change her and she could not change me, so we accepted that we are different,” he quipped.