As far as I know, the first Baha’i I met, although unbeknown to me at that time, was a form six classmate. For some reason best known to him he never revealed to me that he was a Baha’i during the two years we were together. A few years later, after I had left school, started working and had become a Baha’i, I met this former classmate. I remember asking him why he did not reveal himself to be a Baha’i during our school years but do not remember the answer. Perhaps the time was not right; perhaps Bahá’u’llah decided I was not ready to receive the message.
In 1971 I left home to start work in the Rubber Research Institute in Ampang Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur. Within a few days of work, just as I was preparing to go home after work, a colleague came to me and casually asked if I had heard of the Baha’i Faith. My first thought was that this must be one of those Hindu spiritual movements. Here I must digress a bit and talk about what made me think that this was a Hindu movement.
I was brought up in a home which had a small altar in a corner of the house. My father was the one regularly using it for prayers. After he had taken his bath in the evenings, he would, still in his towel, offer his prayers in that corner. Besides this, there was a temple in the place where I lived which I used to visit on occasion, and which was my main connection to religion, if it can be called that. Then there were the usual Hindu holy days, especially Deepavali and other festivals involving chariot processions, creating a lot of excitement. This environment was the backdrop for whatever religious beliefs I had developed at that time.
Later, in my teens, a friend and I started reading about Hinduism and used to discuss its greatness. These discussions rather ‘deteriorated’ to the extent it made us fanatical about Hinduism. We looked upon all other religions with disdain. This friend and I later became involved in what was known as the ‘Divine Life Society’. This was a hindu based religious community. There were many such movements at that time. Once a week we went to this mission and there was singing and devotional sessions going on. Soon after, I went to Kuala Lumpur to work and when my colleague introduced the Baha’i Faith I straight away thought it must be one more of those Hindu movements.
The colleague, Mr. Balasekaran, God bless him, then told me that it was not the case and that it originated from Iran and was a proper religion. But what he told me next during the conversation provoked my thoughts. He said Baha’u’llah was the return of Krishna. Here I must go back to my teen years and talk about some of the discussions I had had with another friend. It was around the middle sixties and there was war in Vietnam and in the Middle East. One of the thoughts that popped into our mind was about the return of Shri Krishna as promised in the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu Holy Scripture. In the context of world problems, remembering the promise of Sri Krishna, I reprimanded Krishna for spending his time with the Gopikas and not paying attention to the problems of the world. Even as a child in the late fifties and early sixties I clearly remember thinking about the world as it was and then remembering religious figures like Krishna, epics like the Mahabharata and even Jesus Christ and thinking that these people would never come back to a world in its current form. Here too a little background information on how the topic of the return came about.
My brother in law was a Tamil school teacher. My mother who was working as a rubber tapper had to leave me as a child with my sister who was just married and had no children of her own then. My brother in law used to teach me the Tamil language in those days in his usual way, which was to twist my ears and drive the Tamil language into me. It did work! Although I went to an English school at age 6+, the little Tamil I had learnt not only stuck with me but developed over time. By the time I was twelve I had started reading Tamil weeklies and other books. One of the books I read at that time was an abridged version of the Mahabharata, one of the two epics or ‘itihasa’ of the Hindu religion. It is from reading this Mahabharata that the idea of a ‘return’ came about. This and some movies based on the Mahabharata themes reinforced the idea, thanks to one of the movie actors, viz. Mr N.T. Ramarao. He portrayed the character of Krishna in Tamil movies like Maya Bazar and Karnan in such wise that I was convinced nobody else could have brought out the characterisation like him. I was wondering if an actor could have that much impact on me, what more could have been the real spiritual power that could have been generated by Lord Krishna Himself.
So, what dear Balasekaran said at that time in answer to some questions I asked was that Baha’u’llah was the return of Krishna. Until then nobody had even distinctly told me such a thing. I did not say anything. From that moment it caught on and I started reading books on the Baha’i Faith, like Baha’u’lah and the New Era, Renewal of Civilization, Wine of Astonishment, Thief in the night, God Loves Laughter, Release the Sun and a few other books. Not sure when I started reading the Dawnbreakers. It could have been before I became a member of the Baha’i community of Kuala Lumpur. At that time Ampang Jaya was under the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuala Lumpur until 1974.
From here on I do not remember the talks I had or meetings attended. I remember one of those who taught me was the late Mr. Stephen Manoharan. I vividly remember Stephen telling me, “This is a new Light for mankind.” Of course there were many others but it is now 45 years. On 20 June 1971, I went to the Baha’i Center in 32 Jalan Angsana, Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. A Chinese Teaching meeting was in session where Mrs. Shantha Sundaram was addressing that meeting. I was taken to the back room where late Mr. Selvaraja, God bless his soul, talked to me about the Faith. At that moment, about one month after hearing about the Faith, I was inspired to sign the declaration card.
I never had any doubts about who Bahá’u’lláh was from the moment I heard that Blessed Name. Exactly when I might have accepted Baha’u’llah in heart as the Manifestation of the Day cannot be pin-pointed to a particular time. It is certainly between the first time I heard that blessed Name and the time of officially signing the declaration card and thus those questions and thoughts within me since childhood finally found rest.
With the Kuala Lumpur friends in 1975. I am in the back row, right in the middle