The front page of The New Straits Times on Saturday, 31 August 1957.
The front page of The Straits Times on Saturday, 31 August 1957.

We know him as Malaya and Malaysia’s first Prime Minister. But here are some lesser known facts about Tunku Abdul Rahman:

1. The Tunku liked his power naps, with a half-hour sleep after lunch every day.

2. He was physically fit. As a young man, played football for his school and college team as a winger.

3. He was also quite flexible. When he became Prime Minister of Malaya, he impressed a journalist by standing in front of his desk and bending backwards until his head touched the desk.

4. He sought Allah’s advice before important events such as conferences.

5. He also had a superstitious side: he never cut his nails or hair on Jumaat. However, he considered 13 his lucky number.

6. He failed his Bar Exams and only returned to England to get his law degree after the second world war, at the age of 42.

7. As a student, he was “fond of fast driving” and he notched up 28 traffic offenses in 10 years.

8. His mother was the sixth wife of Sultan Abdul Hamid. She once intervened on behalf of the Sultan’s Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal, saving the Keeper from execution by telling the Sultan that she was pregnant, even though she was not. Because of the superstition that a husband should do nothing evil during his wife’s pregnancy, the Sultan cancelled the execution. Shortly after, his wife became pregnant with Tunku Abdul Rahman.

9. The Tunku’s first wife was Chinese, his second wife English and his third wife was Malay.

10. He was known for cooking a good curry.

And one more:

11. Despite being a prince, he considered himself a man of the people: “I am here to serve them”.

Sources: The Straits Times (Arkib Negara) and Time Magazine.

UPDATE: The original article included information on the Tunku’s children. This has been removed because of conflicting sources (29/08/2014).