Very long time ago, in my youthful days I had a dream, the spiritual meaning of which I could only understand several years after becoming a Bahá’í. I hail from a little town called Tanjung Rambutan, which today has the largest Mental Hospital in the country. My parents were staff of this hospital and we were living in the staff quarters of the Hospital. I married Miss Sundramball, also known as Sundari 26 March 1967. It was just one month after my marriage that I accepted the Faith.
The path to my spiritual birthday began when my friend Ramalingam told me of this new Revelation. During my visit to his home in Tanjung Rambutan, I inquired him about the portrait of Abdul-Baha that was hanging on the wall of his house. He told me about Abdul Baha and taught me the Baha’í Faith. He also informed me the impending visit of the Hand of the Cause of God, Mr. Tarazu’llah Samandari and his son Dr. Mehdi Samandari to Malaysia. That was in early 1967. Sometime later another friend of mine by the name of Sri Gandan, working with the Telecommunications Department as a Trainee Assistant took me to the house of Madam Theresa Chee in Canning Gardens, Ipoh. Here I was once again taught about the Bahá’í Faith, and was handed a large form to sign to indicate that I have accepted the teachings of Bahá’u’llah. I signed the form with a feeling of utmost joy. I could feel abundant blessings showered upon me by all who were around, especially Mrs. Theresa Chee. The date was 14 April, 1967. At the time of accepting the Faith of Bahá’u’llah, I was serving as a soldier with the Royal Malaysian Armed Force. I was just transferred from Batu Caves Army Logistics and Supply Depot to the 2nd Platoon Army Logistics and Supply Camp in Ipoh. My first area of activity was teaching the Faith. In the early days of my acceptance of the Bahá’í Faith, we Bahá’ís from the Ipoh community undertook and organized many teaching trips to many estates and neighboring towns. Sungei Siput was one of the towns we frequented. We carried out street teaching and even knocked from door to door to give the healing message of Bahá’u’llah. At times doors are slammed at us, but we persevered in the name of Bahá’u’llah. It was a wonderful experience altogether.
While I actively pursued my spiritual journey with my new found Faith, I lost touch with Ramalingam who first introduced me the Faith, and Sri Gandan. Sri Gandan drifted away from the Faith probably when he got his promotion as a Traffic Controller. But I remain ever thankful to these two for having guided me to the Light of the Age.
In the year 1969 I was transferred to Labuan, Sabah. My wife accepted the Cause through Vishnupatham from Kota Kinabalu in 1979, when he gave the Faith to her in his visits to our residence in Labuan. Here I met with another wonderful soul in the Faith of Bahá’u’llah, Mr. Gopala Krishnan who was working with the Laundry Department of the Army Camp. My wife and two children joined me in Labuan after some time. In the course of my stay in Labuan, I made myself constantly acquainted with the teaching of Bahá’u’llah by reading the Writings. It was in Labuan that I resolved to say my Long Obligatory Prayer. A few Muslim colleagues of mine observed this and asked me if I was a Muslim. That gave me an opportunity to briefly explain the Bahá’í Faith to them. They loved the reverence with which the Bahá’í s offer their obligatory prayers. In this act of constantly keeping myself occupied with the Writings of Baha’u’llah and learning the inner essence of His mighty teachings, I was awakened to a new spiritual life.
During the course of my service with the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces, I was constantly transferred to many parts of the country. One of those memorable transfers was to Kuching, Sarawak. Here in Kuching I met another wonderful soul in the Faith of Baha’u’llah who became my close friend and brother, who rekindled my Faith in Bahá’u’llah. It was none other than my beloved friend Choo Yeok Boon, who was tragically killed in an helicopter crash on the 26 of April, 1976 in Kedah. We served together as members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Batu Tujuh, Kuching, Sarawak. Another wonderful soul I met here was Dr. John Fozdar who presented me a copy of the ‘Light of Guidance’.
Naw Ruz celebrations in my home in Kuching, with late Counselors Yankee Leong and Vic Samniego.
My next transfer was to the town of Taiping in Perak in 1977. My family was living at the Bahá’í Centre in Taiping Gardens from 1977 to the early 1980s. Here too I served as a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly together with Mr. Wong (now deceased), Mr. G. Perimal, Mr. Shanmugam (now deceased), Mr. Sukumaran, Mr. Kaniappan and a few other friends who were actively in pursuit of the expansion and consolidation efforts of the Faith. The closely knit community of Taiping was always engaged in activities for the promotion of the Greatest Name. Teaching trips were organized to Chersonese Estate, Kalumpang Estate, Trong Estate, Ulu Sepetang and even as far as Selama Estate in North Perak, bordering Kedah. The Bahá’í Centre was always filled with activities. It was in this healthy environment that my children grew. My son Rabbani (now deceased) was born here in Taiping in 1978.
In 1980, I carried out travel teaching in South India, and also visited the New Era Bahá’í High School in Panchgani, Pune, India. The exciting journey took me to several places in South India and a little of North India as well.
When I was born my mother had sent my almanac to some famous astrologer in India. He had replied that through me the family would see some “new Light,” At first she could not figure out the New Light, but as time went by she had understood the Faith as the New Light predicted by the astrologer. It was during the late 1980s that my beloved mother who had seen changes in me over the years since I became a Bahá’í accepted the Faith. Upon accepting the Faith she herself was actively promoting the Faith to our neighbors, my other siblings and to all whom she came in contact with. From our house gardens, my mother would grow jasmine plants and sell the flowers to the Indian ladies in our village to raise money for the Bahá’í fund. Jasmine flowers are favorites among the Indian ladies, especially for temples ceremonies or special cultural occasions. The acceptance of the Faith of Bahá’u’llah by my mother caused deep uneasiness among my traditionally strong Hindu siblings. But my mother persevered in all those challenges, and till her very end, it was the name of Bahá’u’llah that came from my mother’s lips. She passed away on 18 December, 1996, and was given a befitting Bahá’í burial. Her final resting place is at the Ipoh Bahá’í Memorial Park.
From Taiping I was transferred to Ipoh in 1980, where I finally retired after 22 years of service with the Armed Forces. Upon my retirement I rented a road side stall and engaged myself in the sundry and coffee shop business. I also had video center which was popular in those days. When the business took a down turn, I resorted to driving a taxi. As a taxi driver, meeting many new faces almost every day provided me the opportunity to teach the Faith to many people. Many of my passengers have disembarked my taxi after hearing the name of Bahá’u’llah. It was with this income I educated my children. However, in all my endeavors I always relied on prayers to attain my own spiritual well-being and of that of my family members.
I was had the privilege of serving in the Local Spiritual Assembly of Taiping, Ipoh, and Tanjung Rambutan. I was also serving as the Assistant to the Auxiliary Board Member, Mrs. Chee. The Local Spiritual Assembly of Ipoh appointed me to produce the Ipoh Bahá’í newsletter, an activity in which I was engaged for almost 7 years. The community of Ipoh was a broadly based one, covering large areas including Buntong, Ipoh Gardens, Menglembu and Tanjung Rambutan. The community undertook many teaching trips to all it’s neighboring communities and estates. Notable among them was the “PROJECT 1,000”, where the entire community, ranging from old to young, man and women, youth and children were engaged day and night in massive teaching activities. Those were the blissful days.
Life was never easy for me. I had undergone many tests and trials in my life, but had always kept my Faith in Bahá’u’llah. I was very firm and strong despite all those challenges that I had faced.
Our marriage was blessed with four children, my eldest Villasini, second Vijay Saravanen, third May Max Well and fourth Rabbani (now deceased). I lost my youngest son Rabbani who was just 14 at the time of his death, from a lightning strike on 11 August, 1992. My family was deeply disturbed and distressed. He was the first one to be buried at the Ipoh Bahá’í Memorial Park. My wife succumbed to multiple strokes immediately after her heart bypass surgery in 2010. She was bedridden for a year. On 21 April 2011, I lost my beloved wife whom I was married to for 44 years.
As I write this I offer my eternal gratitude to Bahá’u’llah for guiding this unworthy self into accepting the Bahá’í Faith. The Bahá’í Faith gave me a clearer understanding of the meaning of life. I dropped out of school at form three, partly from family problem when my father re-married. With this incident my family fell apart, and it was difficult for me in concentrating on my studies. It was after becoming a Bahá’í that I realized the importance of education. I had striven to equip myself with a lot of knowledge from the Holy Writings of the Bahá’í Faith, it’s history and many other Bahá’í books. My personal interest was always in divine philosophy and metaphysics. I have a personal library with a large collection of Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í books. To adjust to lonely life left with the passing of my wire, I am keeping myself occupied with updated world affairs by television news.
Sometimes before before becoming a Bahá’í, I frequently had the same dream. In the dream, I saw myself floating in a higher ground and people were walking below me on a lower ground. They raised their hands and tried to pull me down. But I pushed away their hands and kept moving on. When I recollect this dream today, I am very clear that it was Baha’ullah who raised me above the others, guided me into the Faith and protected me from being pulled into the quicksand of materialism. I can say out of my persona experience that as Bahá’ís we must rise and become independent of others, strive to read the Holy Writings of the Bab, Bahá’u’llah and Abdul-Baha and learn to live our lives according to the counsels provided in the Writings. We should never succumb to earthly advice from other sources. I remember at times when my own mother used to advice me before she became a Baha’i, I respected her advice. But I told her that I must know the truth by myself through the Writings of Bahá’u’llah. When she became a Baha’i she used to advice me in accordance to what she herself had understood in the Writings.
In the hidden words of Bahá’u’llah it says:
“The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbour. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behoveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.”
This verse reminds me of being independent, and encourages me to live the life according to the Teachings of Bahá’u’llah. I am reminded that my character and conduct should be in line with the Bahá’í Teachings. We could always carry out the simplest instructions from the Blessed Beauty, especially in saying the Obligatory prayers, and repeating the Greatest Name 95 times a day. Throughout my Bahá’í life reciting this Long Obligatory prayer and repeating the Greatest Name 95 times has kept me going till this day. In my perspective, as a Bahá’í, every one of us must strive independently to attain our own spiritual well-being and struggle to reach the life of servitude as lived by the Beloved Master, Abdu’l Baha.
All I want to mention is that I am most thankful to Bahá’u’llah to have made me a Bahá’í. He gave a new hope and direction in my life. Within my humble means I have been able to serve the Cause wherever I resided since becoming a Bahá’í in 1967.
When I recollect all these happenings in my Baha’i life, I am proud to say Bahá’u’llah in His infinite Mercy has used me as an instrument to promote His Cause. I am thankful to the Blessed Beauty to have made me a tiny instrument.
Tanjung Rambutan, Perak
20 October 2016