REMEMBERING SABAPATHY ALAGIAH

REMEMBERING SABAPATHY ALAGIAH

A. SABAPATHY – PIONEER TO MOZAMBIQUE
20 September 1938 – 30 August 2009

Here is a brief story of Sabapathy Alagiah, who allowed  himself to be carried as a leaf in the wind from the day he accepted the Faith. Sabapathy, lovingly known as Saba to friends constantly served the Faith with unflinching vigor. He underwent untold sufferings and trials throughout his pioneering days, and yet soldiered on relentlessly, all because of the unshakable love he had for Bahá’u’lláh. History would portray Saba as a rare kind of pioneer.

Saba labored for the growth of the Cause within Malaysia during the early 1960s, and became one of the most distinguished and illustrious servants of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. His exemplary spirit shall always be fondly remembered. 

Saba, the eldest among nine siblings comes from a family of strict Hindu tradition. His father, Mr. Alagiah Murugan was very much involved with the Hindu Association that propagated Hinduism in the town of Seremban in the state of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.  His mother Mrs. Selvajothy Alagiah was also an ardent follower of Hinduism. This family was very well known in the circle of friends in the Hindu temples and Tamil schools in Negeri Sembilan for their strong attachment to both the Hindu religion and Indian traditions. Going to the temples every Friday and attending Hindu religious classes at the Swami Vivekananda Hall each Saturday became part of their life.

The Bahá’í Faith came to Saba in 1960. Saba was a schoolmate and very close friend of S. Satanam in the Anglo-Chinese School in Seremban. They were teammates on the school hockey and football teams. Satanam accepted the Faith in 1960 and through him some 10 of his classmates accepted the Faith, including Saba.  Soon a set of 16 vibrant youths emerged in Seremban, including Jack Tan, Alan Tan, Isaac DeCruz, Pauline DeCruz, Nit Singam, K. Krishnan (Postman Krishnan) and Annamalai. With these youths the Seremban Bahá’í Youth Section was formed in the same year with Satanam as Chairman and Saba, its Secretary.  In 1961 the town of Seremban had one of the most active youth committees in Malaya.

From the day Saba accepted the Faith, he was actively involved in Bahá’í activities and spent his time in the company of youths in the rented Bahá’í Centre in Birch Road. Saba’s active involvement in the Faith became noticed and reported to his parents.  When Saba’s Hindu parents heard that he had accepted the Bahá’í Faith, they expressed their strong dissatisfaction on his departure from established traditions in the family.  Saba was sad and started to pray for Bahá’u’lláh to open the eyes of his parents.  Although his parents were against Saba attending the Bahá’í activities, they did not bar his friends from coming to their home to visit Saba. Each time the Bahá’ís visited Saba in his house, they recited Bahá’í prayers, often in the company of his parents. One listening to the prayers his parents were slowly convinced that their son was moving with prayerful people representing some good cause.  These prayer sessions won over the hearts of his parents, who gladly gave him full permission to go for Bahá’í activities.  Saba was on cloud nine and started take his younger brothers Ratnam (the late Dr. Ratnam Alagiah who passed away in Canada on 21 January 2013) and Sethupathi and his sister Leela to the Bahá’í Centre which was by then the house of Yankee Leong in Rahang to attend children’s classes and Bahá’í meetings attended by children from the Chinese, Indian, Orissa and Asli backgrounds.  In these classes, they learnt about the Bahá’í Faith.  Ratnam, Sethupathi and his sister Leela later accepted the Faith.

Saba began his career as a Technician in the Telecommunications Department in Seremban. He then attended courses and later became a  Telecommunications Technician. As a full-fledged Telecommunications Technician, Saba was well respected by his colleagues, subordinates, and superiors in his work place, who came to know that Saba practiced the Bahá’í Faith.

With the full found freedom that his parents provided Saba spent much of his time in the Seremban Bahá’í Centre, with a keen zeal to do something for the Faith. Saba was one of the active youths of Seremban, involving in all kinds of local and regional activities.  That was a time when the Faith needed much manpower to take the Faith to various parts of Negeri Sembilan state. Saba joined the teaching teams that went daily to the rubber plantations in the state of Negeri Sembilan.  S. Satanam was one of his constant companions in the teaching field. All these teaching trips were carried out each day in the evenings after office hours, and throughout the days on weekends. At that time no believer had any car. There was one Major Harry C. Charles who worked with the British troops in Seremban in the early 1960s. He accepted the Faith in 1961 and, before leaving the country, donated his car for the Seremban believers. This car was used for some time before it was sold off and the proceeds given to the funds. Occasionally Saba’s father used to let him use the family car to take the friends teaching. Yet public transportation was the chief means of reaching the people.  

For Saba, field teaching was the favorite area of service.  He was an exemplary teacher in many ways. He was always patient with his enquirers and answered all their questions after giving a listening ear.  Patience, utter humility, and simplicity were his virtues that Saba cultivated as a believer and these very virtues attracted many to him, and through him to the Cause. Apart from teaching in the rubber plantations, he had also undertaken a few teaching trips to the aboriginal villages in the deep jungles of Malaya.  He showered sincere love to those aborigines that the old timers still remember him to this day.

In 1962 Saba was elected on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Seremban and served as its secretary.  As an effective secretary, he sent out a constant flow of letters to individuals in Seremban and other Local Spiritual Assemblies providing them with the latest update of events taking place at the Bahá’í Centre in Seremban. 


Saba at extreme left with his peers at Seremban Bahá’í Centre, 1962. Yankee Leong is at the extreme left in front row. Second from right is R. Mariappan,  and third from right is Isaac DCruz.


Seremban Bahá’í  Centre, 1963.  Saba, Yankee Leong, Margaret Bluett, Noel Buett, Lily Ng, (unknown). Margaret and Neol visited Seremban on their way to the First Bahá’í World  Congress. (Photo credit: Margaret Bluett)

Saba’s knowledge in the Cause came from the Holy Writings, while his strongest inspiration came from the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Muhajir.  Saba’s love and respect for Dr. Muhajir were so profound that he obeyed him without any question whatsoever.  On several occasions, Saba himself had undertaken teaching trips with Dr. Muhajir.  In 1962 Saba joined Satanam and K. Krishnan in traveling in a car for a teaching trip to Teluk Anson (Teluk Intan today) in the company of Dr. Muhajir.  Saba always used to mention that going for teaching in the company of Dr. Muhajir was an experience where he had learnt so many lessons. The advice and guidance that Dr. Muhajir gave, the concise answers he provided for his questions as a new believer – all these added up to his firmness in the Faith.  It was on the encouragement of Dr. Muhajir that Saba and other Bahá’ís undertook teaching trips to the East Coast states in the early 1960s, at a time when that area was not opened up for the Cause. Heeding to Dr. Muhajir’s call to develop the East Coast, in March 1963, S. Satanam, Alan Tan and Saba undertook a two-week teaching trip to Pahang state.  As a follow-up, Saba had also teamed up with Satanam to travel on a motorcycle to the East Coast and on a few occasions escaped death on those rough roads.

It was on the request of Dr. Muhajir that in later part of 1962, Saba went as a homefront pioneer to another town called Kuala Pilah.  It was through a dramatic event that he left for Kuala Pilah. In one of his trips to Seremban in 1962, Dr. Muhajir saw that Seremban had a good number of believers and he felt some should relocate themselves elsewhere to spread the Cause.  Dr. Muhajir spoke to the Bahá’ís of Seremban to go home front pioneering to other areas in Malaya. Saba and Satanam were present in this gathering. Some of the Bahá’ís responded saying, “We have families to look after.”  Dr. Muhajir immediately asked, “How if you die tomorrow?”  This statement of urgency opened the eyes of those who heard him.  Satanam and Saba who felt the urgency from the tone of Dr. Muhajir ’s response requested for a transfer out of Seremban. That was how Saba went off to Kuala Pilah in 1962 and Satanam went off to Jelebu in the same year as home front pioneers. While they were away from Seremban they still continued to give assistance to Seremban or join in their activities.  Transferring out of Seremban to Kuala Pilah was the first move for Saba, not realizing that he had in store a final destiny out of the country, and far away in a remote corner of the globe.

During Saba’s stay in Kuala Pilah from 1962 to 1967, remarkable achievements and victories were brought for the Cause, with a surge in Bahá’í activities resulting in large scale enrollments.  At the time when Saba came to Kuala Pilah, the town was given a “Group” status for the period 1962 to 1963, according to the  Bahá’í World (1954-1963). Saba brought some of his colleagues in the government service in Kuala Pilah into the Faith.  Several other strong believers both in Kuala Pilah and in the neighboring town of Bahau soon joined Saba in spreading the Cause. Chief among them were Jami Subramaniam in Rompin town, Rama Naidu a teacher who moved into Bahau from Gemas town, G. Appala Naidu (G.A. Naidu) a teacher in Bahau, and N. Nagendran who came to report as a government servant in Kuala Pilah.  They formed a harmonious teaching team in taking the Cause to the surrounding areas. These Bahá’ís brought in hundreds of people into the Faith. By mid-1960s the little hill town of Kuala Pilah had a substantial number of Bahá’ís.  The Faith was also taken to all the neighboring estates surrounding Kuala Pilah.  They organized the visit by Mr. Hushmand Fatheazam, member of the Supreme Body to Glendale Estate in August 1965 on the occasion of his visit to Malaysia.  More than 200 friends from the town and the surrounding areas joined in the celebrations of Naw-Rúz in Kuala Pilah in 1966. Kuala Pilah was named as one of the earliest communities to have celebrated Naw-Rúz on a grand and befitting scale. Thus the mid-1960s became a period of dynamism in Kuala Pilah area.


 Bahá’í Gathering in Kuala Pilah, February, 1966. Squatting extreme left is Jack Tan, and squatting extreme right is late Sabapathy. Seated extreme left is R. Mariappan, at centre is K. Rajah followed by Lily Ng and  Steven Manoharan to his right. Jami  is standing fifth from left, G.A. Naidu seventh from left. Satanam standing in white right in the centre. Nagendran is standing thirteenth from left.

The Malaysian Bahá’í News magazine was published with its base in Penang, having regional correspondents in several parts of the country.  Saba was the regional correspondent for the Kuala Pilah area and sent several news of interest to the magazine.

OFF TO PIONEER

Meanwhile, Dr. Muhajir was actively monitoring the development of the Faith in South East Asia, and saw the need for manpower in some countries. Dr. Muhajir had always seen the potential of the Malaysian Bahá’ís. In 1967 when he decided to send a group of pioneers out of Malaysia, Saba who was serving as Chairman of the National Teaching Committee of Malaysia was identified as one of them.  During a visit by Dr. Muhajir to Malaysia on Naw-Rúz day in 1967, he encouraged Saba to pioneer to Indo-China, specifically to Laos where manpower was needed in abundance. Saba instantly obeyed the revered Hand of the Cause and resigned as Technician in the Telecommunications Department. By tendering the resignation letter, Saba was acutely aware that there would be no pension to keep his life going at his last days. In those days securing a government job was seen as most prestigious. He received instant and abundant criticism from his colleagues for the most shocking decision he had made. But Saba felt he was right on all counts, and knew what he was doing when he made up his mind. When leaving the shores of Malaysia for Thailand in 1967, he had told his close friend Satanam, “I am  starting a journey of no return, and I desire to have my bones buried in the country where I pioneer.”

Saba then said good bye to his family and friends and left for the Summer School held in Songkhla, South Thailand in mid-August of 1967.  Saba’s original intention was to pioneer to Laos. But fate changed when Saba attended that Summer School.  Some members of the National Spiritual Assembly of Thailand and Firaydun Mithaq who was a Counselor and pioneer to Laos held a consultation and observed that Thailand had urgent needs of pioneers. After consulting with other members of the national institution of Malaysia who were also attending the Summer School, it was decided that Saba should remain in South Thailand.  With that Saba became the first Malaysian pioneer to Thailand. At the Summer School itself, a tribute was paid for Saba for the example he had set.  In South Thailand, Saba was employed in the Klubpet Suksa High School for a few months, where the principal and a few teachers were Bahá’ís. He helped elect the Local Spiritual Assembly in Songkhla.  With the flow of other Bahá’í visitors from Malaysia, he was assigned to help strengthen the Faith in South Thailand. 


At Klubpet Suksa High School, Thailand.

INDIA- NEXT DESTINATION

While  Saba was serving in Thailand, a call came that Saba was needed urgently in India.  Saba moved to the Mysore Teaching Institute, in Karnataka State in India.  It was Dr. Vasudevan who brought Saba to stay at the Tuba Palace in Bangalore owned by Mr. Soorosh Yaganagi and his family. Dr. Vasudevan himself pioneered to India in May 1967.  Several international pioneers, travel teachers, Counsellors, and Hands of the Cause of  God stayed or passed by or stopped for a meal at Tuba Palace.  Saba stayed back in the Tuba Palace in Bangalore while Dr. Vasudevan went away to serve elsewhere in India. While in Bangalore, Saba was appointed Secretary of the Bahá’í Teaching Council of South India, and he also served as Secretary of the Area Teaching Committee of Mysore and Bangalore. Saba started off his services by going to different villages in and around Bangalore to teach the Faith.

The believers of Karnataka state chartered a full train coach to attend the Intercontinental Bahá’í Conference held in New Delhi from  October 1967. Saba was one of those who were on this coach and the journey enabled the believers to get to know Saba better. He easily got himself assimilated into the community in Bangalore.

THE ILLUSTRIOUS YAGANAGI FAMILY

In 1968, Saba got married into the Yaganagi family in Bangalore.  A word must be said about the illustrious Yaganagi family, which is one of the leading families that produced several pioneers. Mr. Soorosh and his wife Mrs. Firoozeh Yaganagi accepted the Bahá’í Faith through Mr. Zainulabbadin, an elderly Bahá’í living in Pune, India.  The beloved Guardian wrote to the believers in India to disperse to other parts of India.  Heeding the call of the Guardian this family moved from Pune to Bangalore in South India in the early 1940s with their three oldest children. They have instilled a pioneering spirit in their children from their childhood days. Their eldest son Dr. Anayat Yaganagi initially pioneered to Sri Lanka before pioneering to Bhutan, in 1961. He married Lingshay Foning from the Lepcha tribe of Darjeeling. He passed away in 2015. Lingshay is still serving the Faith in Bhutan.

Their second son Farrage pioneered to Laos in early 1971 with his wife Hamra Fazil and their children for three years and had to return to India to help his aging parents. Farrage continued to teach the Bahá’í Faith in various parts of India and passed away in 2018.  Hamra is still serving the Faith in Bangalore. Their third son Faiz pioneered to Laos in 1967, married Muengma Sayavong, a local Lao believer and is still at his pioneering post in Laos. Their youngest son Attapur married Sheela Subbaiyya who is from a Brahmin family, and both pioneered to Bhutan from 1980 to 1987 and returned to India and settled in Bangalore. Attapur passed away in 1989, but Sheela is still serving the Faith in Bangalore.

Among the daughters, Tuba and her husband Mohan Munje pioneered initially to Nepal in 1967, then to Calcutta as home front pioneers and again to New Delhi and finally to Gwalior where Mohan passed away in 2012. Tuba is still serving the Faith in Gwalior.  Qudsiah Vajihe Yaganagi is their second daughter of whom we shall read below. Missaghiah, their third daughter initially pioneered to Tanzania in 1972 where she married Bahman Rowhani in 1973. They then pioneered to Laos for two years, and in 1980 pioneered to Sharjah city in the United Arab Emirates. In 1985 they settled in the USA.  Their last daughter Nazanin married Adib Bidenjeri and they pioneered to Dubai city in the United Arab Emirates.  Adib passed away in Dubai in 2017, but Nazanin is still serving the Faith in Dubai. Mr. Soroosh Yaganagi passed away in 1991 in the United Arab Emirates, while Firoozeh passed away in 2002 in Laos.  The Yaganagi family have taught the Bahá’í Faith and have seen many people confirm their belief in Bahá’u’lláh. These great believers are now serving in several corners of the globe.  It was into this illustrious and one of the premier Bahá’í families in India that Saba had established an alliance by getting married to Qudsiah.  Qudsiah was studying Bachelor of Science in Maharanis College and later Bachelor in Education and  Sociology as well. Qudsiah first saw Saba when he came to stay in Tuba Palace. When the Bahá’ís of Bangalore went to the Intercontinental Conference in New Delhi in October 1967, Qudsiah, her sister Missaghiah and her mother Mrs. Firoozeh were also traveling on the same train with Saba.  

Saba and Qudsiah liked each other. The parents of Qudsiah granted their permission. Saba wrote to his parents in Seremban seeking their consent and blessings. His parents sent a telegram to Saba, “APPROVED WITH BLESSINGS.” The marriage took place at Kalayan Mandap near Maharani’s College, Bangalore on 15 December 1968, with the ceremony performed by Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga. Dr. Vasudevan who by this time was already appointed Counselor was at the wedding and related that the very presence of the Hand of the Cause of God transformed the whole atmosphere into one that was spiritually charged. That was the first Bahá’í bond between a Malaysian Bahá’í of Indian origin marrying a Parsee Bahá’í lady from the Zoroastrian background. That was also the day when Mr. Farrage brother of Qudsiah married Miss. Hamrah Fazil. There was a double wedding with both sister and brother getting married on the same day.   

This marriage fostered the cementing of the two hearts in every way.  They were indissolubly welded and joined in heart and soul, becoming one soul in different bodies, and living for each other and for Bahá’u’lláh.  The marriage was a sweet beginning of many great examples they set for many early believers. Throughout their lives, they consulted each other on every matter, shared each other’s pain and joy.  They had one single mind, one thought and one aim in life-making Bahá’u’lláh the center of their very existence. Many saw and admired them as an ideal couple.   

 
Hand of the Cause of God  Mr. Enoch Olinga blessing the couple.

     
With Mr. Soorosh and Mrs. Firoozeh.

In 1969, Mr. Kannaiah Adaikkalam from Malaysia joined Saba in Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu. They, with the support of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Coimbatore, organized a historic Teaching Conference in August 1969.  The conference attended by many friends from Mysore, Madras, Salem, Coonoor, and the neighboring Kerala state was graced by the presence Counselor Dr. Vasudevan. The conference received good publicity for the Cause and appreciations from the Supreme Body.  The conference took place at a time when the Faith had not emerged out of obscurity in Tamil Nadu.  Saba was noted for his individual initiative in teaching the Faith with such an obsession seldom witnessed in those days. As a pioneer, Saba was very motivated, enthusiastic, encouraging, and ready to share the message of Bahá’u’lláh at any time with anybody. Saba made it a point to somehow introduce the Faith to passengers sitting next to him in buses within five minutes of conversation. This gesture was well admired and emulated by several other teachers.

On 8 May 1970 his first child, a daughter Nedah was born in Bangalore, Karnataka. Soon after the birth of Nedah, Saba left with his family to Laos to help with teaching work there. During their stay in the capital city of Vientiane, Saba and Qudsiah helped in the organizing of the filing system in the National office and conducted deepening classes for the friends. It was around October 1970 that Saba brought his wife Qudsiah and daughter Nedah who was five months old to Malaysia to be introduced to his parents at their residence at Bland Road, Seremban, just next to the Anglo Chinese School. Saba’s parents, siblings, relatives, and friends were overjoyed. Of this family reunion, Saba’s younger brother Sethupathi says, “Qudsiah was such a beautiful, kind and a loving person who won over the whole household within a short while.  Her cooking was super. More importantly, her attitude and presence projected as if she was the shadow of Abdu’l-Bahá in that house. She was the one who thought me how to say Baha’i prayers.” They then returned to Laos.  Saba attended the historical Oceanic Conference held in Singapore in January 1971. There he met Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga who at once remembered attending his wedding in Bangalore.


Oceanic Conference, 1971. Saba greets Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Enoch Olinga. Appu Raman is next to Mr. Olinga. Mr. Olinga recollected gracing Saba’s wedding.

After Saba’s second child, a baby boy Nemat was born in Laos on 11 July 1971, they left for India, passing through Malaysia. In India, they stayed in the Bahá’í Centre in Madras (Chennai) city in Tamil Nadu.


Saba carries Nedah while Qudsiah has Nemat on her lap.

Qudsiah went to the home of her parents in Bangalore to deliver the third child, a baby son Nabil. He was born on 10 October 1972 in Bangalore.  Sometime after the birth of Nabil,  Saba rented a small house in Madras.  Dr. Muhajir had the habit of visiting pioneers that he produced to give them encouragement.  During a visit to Tamil Nadu in 1972, Dr. Muhajir saw Saba having three children with very short age differences, and asked him in jest, “Saba, have you heard of family planning?”  That brought so much laughter to Saba, Qudsiah and Dr. Muhajir. 

The year 1972 was a crucial moment in Tamil Nadu.  It was from 1972 that organized teaching came to be introduced in Tamil Nadu, and with that, the Faith was taken to many parts of Tamil Nadu. Saba served as a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Madras from 1974 to 1976.  Saba concentrated in large cities like Bangalore, Mysore, Madras, and Pondicherry, focusing on college students. One of Saba’s great achievements was teaching the Faith in secondary schools in Mysore state, and giving talks on the Faith over the All India Radio in Pondicherry State. 

Life was not easy for Saba in India.  With his limited income as a pioneer, he had to make ends meet. Saba enrolled himself into a college to study computer keyboard practice in order to be more marketable in the job market in the private sector. He used to feed his children smashed biscuit in milk for dinner, and the innocent children enjoyed eating that, calling it ice cream. Despite his sufferings, Saba was always pleasant and there was always a calm smile on his face. Qudsiah was his constant companion, shield, and support under all situations, and that brought much consolation to the sincere heart of Saba.

It was during these difficult days that Saba came for a visit to Malaysia in mid-1975. His coming coincided with a Regional Bahá’í Youth Conference held in Seremban in July 1975.  Saba was requested to be a speaker at the conference. Saba moved many when he spoke on the topic of “Sacrifice.” He drove home the cardinal message that it has always been the case where the Faith had and would continue to grow only with selfless services and sacrifice. Saba was not a dynamic speaker as any audience would expect. Yet his soft-spoken nature did create penetrating influence in the hearts of the listeners. After the conference, he stayed on in Malaysia for some months.

While in Malaysia in 1975 Saba underwent a period of heedlessness, not knowing what to do next. That was the time when Saba could not secure a sound career in India to sustain his family.  Foremost in his mind was the education of his children who were growing up.  He was looking for a stable job in Malaysia if that would work, but that was not forthcoming.  Basing himself in Seremban, he used to come to the National Bahá’í Centre in Kuala Lumpur often. The National Bahá’í Centre in Kuala Lumpur was the address to which his wife wrote to Saba from India or make telephone calls at a mutually agreed time.  Saba would come to the Bahá’í Centre weekly to check for letters and used to sit near the phone waiting for calls from his wife. During those days Saba was very down in spirit. He was fortunate to have an exceedingly kind-hearted friend in Kuala Lumpur- the immortal Inbum Chinniah. On many evenings Saba visited Inbum Chinniah who was an Auxiliary Board Member then at his home for dinner and to get the needed strength to move on with life.  After several prayerful attempts to secure a job in Malaysia met with failure, he realized that  Bahá’u’lláh must have a reason for closing all doors. Saba then returned to Tamil Nadu.

MOZAMBIQUE – THE FINAL DESTINATION

When Saba was in Tamil Nadu in 1975, Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal. Under the Five-Year Plan, two international pioneers were needed in Mozambique. Mozambique was one of the pioneering goals for India. A call came for pioneers to serve in Mozambique.  Saba rose to the occasion and went alone to Mozambique in 1976.  There was no assembly when Saba arrived in Maputo. It has to be mentioned that the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh was present in Mozambique since the early 1950s but was not enabled to come out of obscurity owing to domestic situations. But the liberation of the country in 1975 saw the coming of new pioneers. Around the time Saba entered Mozambique,  a few other pioneers arrived, and they all played their part effectively. Ms. Charlotte Pinto, an American pioneer was in Mozambique and served as a caretaker of the Bahá’í centre in the later days. With Saba going to Mozambique one of the two pioneering posts was fulfilled.  There was still one more post to be fulfilled. When Saba decided to move to Mozambique he contacted  Miss Yaw Kam Sim, who was the Manager of the National Bahá’í Bookshop in Malaysia to pioneer to Mozambique. She was hesitant. Saba spoke with Lizet, another Brazilian pioneer in Mozambique to get a job for Yaw Kam Sim. Lizet took up the matter with her boss who was a local Chinese and owner of a big Department Store in Maputo. He offered her a job through Lizet.  Saba sent that letter to Yaw Kam Sim in Malaysia. She resigned her job at her school, went home to tell her parents, and prepared for her trip to Mozambique. Saba had been encouraging Yaw Kam Sim to go pioneering from the time he visited Malaysia in 1975. Finally, she joined him in Mozambique. Saba, Lizet, Lizet and  Yaw Kam Sim used to eat dinner together as they lived in the same apartment building. Saba occupied the fourth floor which cheaper, all because it was still unfinished. Lizet occupied the third floor while Charlotte occupied the ground floor. By the time Yaw Kam sim arrived Charlotte was preparing to leave the country and so Yaw Kam Sim took over her tenancy. These pioneers were like a big family, eating together, having fun together and taking care of one another. There were not many teaching activities going on. Saba and Yaw Kam Sim were trying to learn Portuguese. It was very unsafe to travel out of the city as there was still sporadic insurgency fighting in the country.  Every month the pioneers traveled by bus to Swaziland on a 6 to 8 hours journey to pick up letters and other information from the National Spiritual Assembly of Swaziland.  The basic Bahá’í activities these pioneers initiated were the celebration of the Holy Days and the 19-Day Feasts with the Mozambican Bahá’ís from the surrounding villages. They rented a house for those activities. Things got worse after the country became independent. There was a complete shut down of the Bahá’í activities for some time.  A Portuguese pioneer with his wife and two young children went back home. The company Yaw Kam Sim worked for was sold off and moved out to Portugal. Lizet moved with them to Portugal. Yaw Kam Sim stayed in Mozambique for a little over a year and then left for Vermont to marry Mathews Wagner. They are now settled in New Mexico, USA.  Saba rented a house and was applying for his family to come over.


Cheering each other, 1977. L-R: Yaw Kam Sim, Charlotte Pinto and Saba with other friends.

It did not take long before Saba realized that the opportunities to serve in Mozambique were plenty.  He saw a new door- a bigger one had opened for him in that country. Wisdom dawned upon him as to why his arduous efforts to stay on in Malaysia did not work out.  He first worked for the Railways Department in 1976 and then in the Agriculture Department from 1985, in his own specialist field of telecommunications. While in the Ministry of Agriculture he served under the Mozambique- Nordic Agricultural Program (MONAP)  that took him to Norway where he sat for an examination and emerged full-fledged Engineer.  This position enabled him to travel to different states in Mozambique to set up communication links.  He used this opportunity to teach the Faith and set up Local Spiritual Assemblies in different communities. While in the capital city of Maputo Saba visited the National Bahá’í Centre daily to provide assistance in cleaning the Centre. His commitment to maintaining a very simple, clean and dignified Bahá’í Centre reflected a very high level of commitment and dedication of this truly responsible servant of the Faith.  Saba soon picked up the local language and was at one with the masses. With this added language he moved even closer with them.  


With the local believers

When Qudsiah and her three children joined Saba in 1978, they started to live in a neighborhood where they were the only foreigners and the rest were locals. Yet it did not take long before they made friends with the local community and gained their trust and respect. They were loved and respected by the believers and non-believers alike. In the beginning, Saba did not have a car. The family had to walk to the Bahá’í centre every Sunday for prayers and devotional meetings. After some time Saba got a small jeep which for all intents and purposes was used for the Faith. The jeep took them to several places. One of the first African Bahá’ís in Maputo, Mr. Papa Duna built a Bahá’í centre on his land and donated it to the Faith.

Life in Mozambique was not a bed of roses either.  It has to be noted that while Mozambique gained its independence in 1975, the country was still plagued by a long and violent civil war from 1977 to 1992. During this period each family was given a ration card, and every month they were only allowed a limited amount of rice, oil, flour, and sugar. Availability of these at the shops was not a guarantee either. Eating meat was a luxury during those days, and the availability of meat was also not a guarantee. Every morning someone had to stand in a long queue to get bread for breakfast, which too was not a guarantee. Coupled with this there was a scarcity of electricity and water supply. There were long periods when there was no water, and people had to go to certain zones to fill drums with water for cooking and washing clothes. Saba toiled with patience in all his sufferings and was pushed to the hardest living conditions.  At one time Saba and his family were forced to live a very simple life in a small house, at the most time denied basic necessities and conveniences of life. Yet he never hesitated to give up everything he had to provide the best hospitality to visitors to the extent of depriving himself and his family of even the basic comforts. The Supreme Body knew the predicament of Saba and was gracefully given a choice to leave Mozambique if he wanted. But the relentless Saba stayed on, impelled by the excessive love he had for the advancement of the Faith in that country. Although the difficulties were arduous, Saba was able to bear every suffering and ordeal with unflinching strength and absolute faith in his Creator.


Summer Camp in Swaziland. L-R: Nemat, Nedah, and Nabil.

Under all these stress and strains, Saba soldiered on in serving the Faith.  Taking the Faith to the villages was uppermost in the mind of Saba.  Every weekend he used to drive with his family to remote villages to meet the Bahá’ís, despite great risks posed by the rebels.  One miscalculated move could have landed his family in greatest of perils.  On many occasions, the local military that was guarding checkpoints had advised him against going beyond certain border points, but Saba felt that with his life in the hands of  Bahá’u’lláh, nothing could easily imperil his safety. On some occasions, the military guards would escort him with a convoy until Saba reached a safe zone. At times Saba would drive on, and at other times the family would walk for miles, depending on the approach roads. Qudsiah cooked and packed biryani rice on their family teaching trips to the villages. The risk they took and the persistence with which they journeyed into those villages always paid off handsomely. When they reached the villages by jeep the children would run next to the car shouting “Allah-u-Abhá.” Most of the times the family visited a few villages in a row and return in the wee hours of the night. In Matola Rio, one of the Bahá’ís donated a piece of land to be used to build a Bahá’í centre. Saba’s family took upon themselves to build the centre painstakingly, with the help of the local Bahá’ís, and with very limited funds. Saba’s three children carried bricks in their car for the construction works. Among other places, the family visited Costa de Sol, Boane, Namahasha (border town next to Swaziland) and Infulane.

The beginning of 1981 was a distressing period for the family. Qudsiah suddenly fell sick and had to go to India to have a scan done. It was discovered that she had a pituitary tumor and the only option was surgery.  She went to Kanpur and received treatment by Dr. H. M. Munje, the famous Homeopathy doctor, and a great scholar well versed in Hinduism.  After two years another scan was done and there was no sign of any tumor!  During the time Qudsiah was under treatment she also gained knowledge on homeopathy from Dr. Munje. While Qudsiah was in India, the three children were sent to study in the famous New Era High School in Panchgani from 1981 to 1982.  In these two years, Saba had to be all alone.  With Qudsiah having fully recovered, she and her two children returned to Mozambique and joined Saba.

FEW MORE CO-WORKERS

Two other prominent believers from India pioneered to Mozambique. Saba and Qudsiah were instrumental in Mr. B.S. Prabhu pioneering to Mozambique.  They arranged his visa and travel arrangements. When Prabhu arrived in Maputo in June 1982, he stayed with Saba. Saba spoke to Sr Dinis, a Director in the Mozambique Railways and secured a job for Prabhu in Anfrena, where he worked for 5 years as internal auditor. This experience enabled him to set up his own accounting practice and tax consultancy. He had served as Auxilary Board Member and on the National Spiritual Assembly. He is today rooted in Mozambique.  Likewise, each time Saba visited India from Mozambique he had encouraged Mr. Sankararaman Krishnamurthy of Tamil Nadu to pioneer to Mozambique. Through the efforts of the Continental Pioneering Committee of Africa, Sankararaman pioneered to Mozambique, with Saba facilitating visa for him.  Sankararaman arrived in May 1982 and secured employment as a Textile Engineer.  Sankararaman had served as Auxiliary Board Member. He had to return to India in 1990 owing to the health problem of his children. 

In 1985 the believers in Mozambique saw the dawn of a new day with the election of its first National Spiritual Assembly. Saba was serving on the Administrative Committee of Mozambique. He was also an Auxiliary Board Member from the early 1980s and therefore wished not to be elected onto this first National Spiritual Assembly. Qudsiah was elected along with Prabhu on this first National Spiritual Assembly.  In later years Qudsiah and Saba were both elected onto this august institution and attended international conventions.


Auxiliary Board Member Saba addressing at the first National Convention.


Eighth International Convention. Back row L-R: Saba, Jandira R. Lima, and Hugo R. Raja. Front row L-R: Qudsiah and Mrs. Bharathi Prabhu.

WIDENING THE CONTACTS

Teaching the Faith in Mozambique was not always easy.  The domestic environment did not allow full freedom for the propagation of any religion.  The believers took cognizance of the Master’s advice that under all conditions the Message must be delivered. When Saba and Qudsiah found that direct teaching method was not that easy, they decided to get involved in the Non-Governmental Organizations that were aligned with the spirit of the teachings and also involved in inter-religious activities.  The couple registered unprecedented success in this effort,  as they managed to make the Bahá’í Faith known in every nook and corner of Mozambique.  

Saba was instrumental in bringing all the religions together in Mozambique when he formed the Religious Council of Mozambique (COREM) and served as its President for several years, representing the Bahá’í Faith. Saba also helped initiate the World Religion Day celebrations in Mozambique which still goes on every year.


Religious Council of Mozambique (COREM)                                            


World Religion Day             


The celebration of World Religion Day at the Bahá’í Centre of Maputo, 2003.  Saba stands at extreme left and  Prabhu stands third from right.

Though limited in his financial resources, Saba on his own initiative completed two classrooms for a school in a rural area.  He and his wife formed a Non-Governmental Organization and secured some funds for education for women, and they ran several projects for women in various villages from stitching to pottery classes. 

Qudsiah played a pivotal role in the education of underprivileged children. She became the founder of Escola Ntwananu, a non-profit organization that promoted free education for underprivileged children and developed programs to empower rural women.  Qudsiah often visited nearby villages on the outskirts of Maputo accompanied by Saba to help the poor and the needy. During their visits they saw many rural children unable to go to school, owing to lack of means.  Qudsiah herself did not have sufficient money to educate them or build a school for them. In 1995 she started her first free educational class for the children of the village under the shade of a big tree. Several dignitaries heard of this successful and visited the school.


Wife of the Chinese Ambassador standing next to Saba, and another official visiting the school.
Over a period of time, through her relentless efforts and donations received from friends that the small class operating under the shade of a tree developed into a fully functional primary and secondary school, attracting more than 1,000 students. Some of the students who studied under the tree grew to serve as teachers in the schools.  At the time of writing this story, there were some 400 students getting formal education and another 50 adults undergoing adult literacy at the Escola Ntwananu. Saba’s daughter Nedah is the Vice Director of this school.  The Faith is so closely associated with the school that the local people call this “Bahá’u’lláh School”.  


Students at Escola Ntwananu. Seated in the centre is Nedah, Vice Director of the school

Qudsiah also set up the Association of Alternative Medicine in Mozambique with their house as a centre. The main purpose was to serve the sick who could not afford to go to the hospitals as it was very expensive and to serve people in the rural areas where hospitals did not exist.  Qudsiah herself took a course on traditional medicine, and she was also a Homeopathic practitioner with training provided by Dr. Munje in 1981 and 1982 in Kanpur.  She soon became known to many as “Dr. Saba”. This Association was registered with the government in 2004 and hundreds used to come for healing and treatment.  Treatment was free of cost, there was a container if anyone wanted to donate.  Soon people from all walks of life and all strata of society flocked to her house for treatment. The house became a self-teaching centre with the display of the photo of the Master and the Greatest Name on the walls, and the availability of Bahá’í literature all over. The patients knew from whose hands they were getting treatment and prescriptions- from a Bahá’í.

Saba was the Public Relations Officer of the Bahá’í Faith in Mozambique and developed a very close relationship with the Government authorities. He was the Regional Coordinator of United Religious Initiative (URI) that was set up in 1995 in San Francisco to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. The vision of URI was to create an initiative whereby people of diverse Faiths could work daily for peace. More than a million people in more than sixty countries have participated in URI activities since its inception. Saba was elected to the URI Global Council in 2002, served as the Regional Coordinator for South East African Affairs for the URI for a number of years and was also the trustee of URI for Mozambique. With these positions, Saba organized several activities, which came to be well appreciated.  One of the landmark events was the Awareness event organized in 2008 to mark the  International Day of Peace Vigil for the year.  Through his involvement in URI, Saba traveled for its activities in various parts of Mozambique as well as countries like India, USA, Egypt, and Swaziland promoting the tenets of the Faith.


Global Interfaith Action, Calcutta, India 


URI African Traditionals Encounter in Swaziland with Qudsiah

Saba was also an active member of the Global Family for Love and Peace (GFLP), a body that was affiliated with the United Nations Department of Public Information and worked in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council(UNESCO). Saba organized dawn prayer session at the Bahá’i Centre and the program included prayers and meditation, discussion and readings from the Holy Scriptures and singing songs for Peace. Saba was also the Trustee of the Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, Justice, and Healing for Mozambique in 2005.

Yet one more organization in which Saba was active was the Inter-Religious Campaign against Malaria in Mozambique (IRCMM).  This body had representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, Hindu community, United Methodist Church, the Christian Council, Islamic Council of Mozambique, Islamic Congress of Mozambique, Anglican Church, Assemblies of God, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with Saba representing the Bahá’í community.  

His unique and active involvement in the area of External Relations in Mozambique was undoubtedly unparalleled and unprecedented. He was highly respected in government circles, and well received in public places. During the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Faith in Mozambique, Saba was one of those who was highly mentioned for his sacrifices for the establishment of the Faith in that country.  The couple won numerous sympathizers for the Cause.

LAST DAYS

From the year 1976 when Saba entered Mozambique all his energy and time were devoted to the growth of the Cause. It took the toll on his health. Saba was a diabetic patient for quite some time.  As early as 1991 Saba fell seriously ill due to his diabetic condition and landed up in the Intensive Care Unit in Maputo Central Hospital.  The doctors gave up hope as all his vital signs were failing.  That was the time when both Nemat and Nabil were studying in Malaysia. Qudsiah called Satanam in Malaysia to get his sons to fly back to Mozambique.  Satanam relayed this urgent message to them. Meanwhile, Qudsiah gave Saba some homeopathic medication and prayed, and Saba miraculously recovered.  Saba was back in action in serving the Cause, though still suffering from some ailments. In 2005, Saba had heart surgery and was feeble then onwards. 

The passing of Satanam in 2005 dealt a heavy blow to Saba. Saba was in Sydney when he heard of the passing of Satanam in Malaysia. He quietly moved into a room and spent much time praying in privacy.

Saba made his last trip to Malaysia in 2008  to meet his families and friends. Each time Saba went to Malaysia, he visited his family and his close friends, especially Satanam. He also visited the resting place of his parents to offer prayers. When Saba went to Malaysia in 2008, his health was already failing drastically, and he had wanted to see as many friends and relatives as possible in what he considered the very last trip. Sad to relate,  he could not visit some of those he was keen on visiting for the last time.

Our Malaysian pioneer to Africa, Kamachee and her husband Pierre pioneered to Mozambique from September 1995 to January 1999, after which they moved to Lesotho. Kamachee recalls Saba performing his Malaysian/Thai “joget” dance at a Naw-Rúz feast in Maputo Bahá’í Centre. She passed through Maputo in 2009 and saw that Saba was not keeping well at all. Despite the turmoil that comes as part of a package for most pioneers, Saba pulled up his guts and managed to maintain his spirit. That was the last time Kamachee saw him. Saba had given the Faith to Kamachee’s elder brother back in Seremban.

In 2009, he developed kidney ailment that led him to receive dialysis as an outpatient. As his condition deteriorated, Qudsiah called Nabil who was in  Australia to rush over to Mozambique to assist in looking after Saba. Nabil returned as requested, and looked after Saba as a dutiful son, bathing him, cooking for him and taking him to several gatherings in the last few months. Nedah herself was 7 months pregnant with her last son Yasheen, but that did not stop her from taking Saba to the hospital every other day for kidney dialysis. Qudsiah on her part was serving Saba as a loving wife and resorted to ardent prayers. Nemat was the only one outside Mozambique.  Suddenly Saba’s kidneys were failing badly, and he had to be admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of the Central Hospital of Maputo.  While undergoing dialysis, Saba slipped into a coma. But a few days later he recovered and was fully conscious of the surroundings. On 29 August 2009 Nemat who was in Australia learned of his father’s condition and telephoned the doctor in charge, his mother and father. The doctor assured Nemat that Saba was recovering fast and that he would be discharged the following day,  while Qudsiah said Saba was miraculously doing well. When Nemat spoke to Saba, he urged Nemat to serve the Faith with all his energy.  Saba’s parting words were that he and Qudsiah had done their best for their three children and that they were now old enough to look after themselves.  Although Nemat’s phone conversation gave good hopes, he somehow had an inner urge to fly down to Mozambique, and that too immediately! He informed Saba that he was starting off at once, and made arrangements to reach Mozambique by the earliest flight. Sadly Saba once again went into a coma after the phone conversation with Nemat on the evening of 29 August 2009. Visitors were strictly not allowed. But Nedah managed to smuggle herself into the ICU and spent some time praying for her father. As she kissed her father good bye, she observed tears rolling down his cheeks. She then left, though reluctantly and with tearful eyes and a heavy heart. On Sunday 30 August 2009 at 5:00 am, Saba had a heart attack and his pure soul ascended to the Abhá Kingdom.  None of the family members were near him at the time of his passing. The passing of Saba was immediately relayed throughout the country. The Supreme Body, several National Spiritual Assemblies, and several Non-Government Organizations were informed. Nemat arrived at the Maputo airport on the afternoon of the day Saba passed away, and Nabil received him. Nabil remained silent all along, and Nemat guessed it correct. When pressed, Nabil broke the sad news that Saba had passed onto the Realms of the Unseen that morning.  Saba’s sister Leela, brother Ratnam and nephew Kannan flew down from Malaysia on time to attend the funeral. 

The funeral service started at 1:00 pm on Thursday, 2 September 2009, attended by some 200 Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís comprising Jews, Christians, Muslims, Agha Khans, and the traditional healers. The hall was packed to capacity. Everyone spoke highly of Saba and praised his virtues. Messages of condolences from various individuals and institutions from near and far poured in. The messages were read along with messages from the Local Spiritual Assembly of Maputo and that from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia. There was a special message from the Universal House of Justice expressing sadness, and at the same time assuring prayers at the Holy Shrines for the progress of his soul. Messages from leaders of other religions with whom Saba had associated carried words of accolades on this dedicated servant of  Bahá’u’lláh. It was indeed a funeral of a rare kind in the history of the Faith in Mozambique.  And true to what he preached, his bones are today permanently buried in the pioneering field. Though he faced untold trials and tribulations in several of the countries where he served, never for once did he intend to return to his homeland.


Funeral Program at the Maputo Bahá’í Centre.


Nemat in dark jacket joined by believers and friends in laying Saba’s body to rest.

HIS LEGACY

Saba leaves three married children-a daughter, Nedah residing in Maputo, and two sons Nemat and Nabil, residing and working in Sydney.  Through his three children, Saba left behind nine grandchildren. His three children were born in the pioneering field and shared the same hardship that their parents underwent. Saba’s beloved wife Qudsiah herself passed away on Sunday, 11 April 2014 near Maputo, following a period of illness. While still alive the social services of the couple became a household name in Mozambique and were well acknowledged by the government authorities. Despite the manifold challenges and tests the couple faced, they observed tenacious allegiance to the tenets of the Faith and died firm in the covenant.

He was a very humble servant with an upright character, who always consulted Bahá’í books for guidance in his life. He believed in practicing what he himself preached.  His constant counsel to the youths of Malaysia was to memorize the writings of the Faith, live a spotless life, and avoid smoking in order to be effective in the Cause. Saba himself was inflexibly opposed to compromising the teachings of the Faith for whatever reason.

Saba loved the company of Bahá’ís and never missed Bahá’í conferences and gatherings wherever they were held. Saba’s love for the Blessed Beauty was so strong that he often spoke of how Bahá’ís could make Bahá’u’lláh happy by picking an area of service and do the utmost to excel in that field.  Saba, throughout his life, loathed backbiting. He would either discourage backbiting or avoid the company of those who were involved in backbiting. His respect and reverence for the elders, in the Faith, was something that his close associates always admired.  He was seen as a shy person who avoided stage and crowd but never failed to rise up as a giant in defense of the Faith. He had a high sense of humor and shared his highly witty jokes only among close friends. One of his greatest assets was his radiant and warm smile. People enjoyed his company for the sincere and warm love that he radiated.  

Saba’s name and his devoted services are eternally engraved in the history of the Faith in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, India, and Mozambique.  Saba has set an exemplary life that deserves to be emulated by the current generation and generations yet to be born.

Saba’s bones were finally buried in the pioneering field, as he had always desired.

 

The Guardian is well aware of the great sacrifices required of the devoted pioneers, and of the problems, they must meet and conquer. This is why he feels that the work of the pioneers is the most important Bahá’í task any individual can perform today—more important than serving on a National Assembly, or any administrative post. While it carries great responsibilities; and difficulties; yet its spiritual blessings are so great, they overshadow everything else; and the opportunities for special victories of the Faith so abundant; the soul who once tastes the elixir of pioneering service, seldom will do anything else.

(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 578)

 

A. Manisegaran
USA
31 December, 2018

©bahairecollections.com

27 thoughts on “REMEMBERING SABAPATHY ALAGIAH

  1. Dear Mani,
    Thank you for this story on Uncle Saba and the beautiful articles that you are documenting.

    I felt emotional while reading, Aunty Qudsiah is my father’s younger sister. You have a lot of research put into this story….very informative.
    Thank you brother Mani for doing such a good job at writing and hosting this blog.

    Best wishes and may God Bless you.
    Geeti Yaganagi
    Bhutan

  2. Mani
    Thank you for another soul stirring story of an early Malaysian pioneer and travel teacher Saba. He will always live in the hearts of believers like us whose sacrifices pale in comparison with his.
    May the Blessed Beauty reward him richly for his sincere, self-abnegating sacrifices in the service of His Blessed Faith.

    Yin Hong Shuen
    Singapore

  3. Dear Mani,
    Another amazing account of a truly valiant soul in the army of Light. Well done brother Mani. Much respect and love to you and your loved ones.

    You must have done lots of research and dug deep into all the real life records of your heroes and heroines. To readers like me who may not acquaint themselves with those heroes and heroines, we still find your accounts interesting and inspiring. Saba is a case in view for me. I read right through and found it compelling and inspiring.
    Thanks again.

    Hua Keng Tong
    Skudai
    Johore
    Malaysia

  4. Dear Mr. Manisegaran,

    Thank you for writing about my brother in law Saba’s beautiful story of how he served his Lord Baha’u’llah with all his strength to the very end of his life. There were many facts I did not know about him…which opened my eyes to what a beautiful servant of Baha’u’llah he was.

    My sister Qudsiah always loved to visit families while growing up in our village Saitpalayam and the neighboring village Kariyanapalya…this trait she carried through her life.

    God bless you for paying this tribute to both of them.

    Missaghiah Yaganagi

  5. Mani
    I remember serving with Saba in South India in 1969. This story brought back the fondest memories of those golden days.

    Only after reading your account I realized that Sabapathy had sacrificed his life more than I imagined. I am sure Baha’u’llah has a special place for him in the Realm of Glory.
    He is a true lover of God.

    Thanks for the article.

    Kannaiah Adaikkalam
    Sitiawan
    Perak
    Malaysia

  6. Dear Uncle Mani,

    Greetings and what a way to start the new year 2019. Thank you immensely for another soul-stirring and invoking story of a great pioneer Mr. Sabapathy. He was a man of his words and I am truly touched with his remarks, “I am starting a journey of no return, and I desire to have my bones buried in the country where I pioneer.” Such promise is not an easy one to keep but in the case of Mr. Saba, it was so true to what he preached, his bones are today permanently buried in the pioneering field. Ya Bahá’u’l-Abhá.

    It is without any doubt that this great soul has made the Blessed Beauty happy in every possible way through his devoted and exemplary life of service – and by giving an opportunity for a person like me to pick an area of service and do the utmost to excel in that field.

    You have yet again done a fabulous job in unravelling many great details on the account of Mr. Saba and his family. Those details are truly inspiring and thought-provoking in every aspect. May the Blessed Beauty bless you for your tireless effort and painstaking service in His path. God bless.

    With loving Bahá’í greetings,
    Vela Gopal
    Phnom Penh – Cambodia

  7. Dear Mani.
    I read your moving story on my sister Qudsiah and her husband Saba.

    I know what a humble, quiet and hardworking person Saba was. I had the privilege of taking care of their three little angels when QUDSI as we lovingly called Qudsiah had to live in Mysore to do her Bed and Med. Mama and I were heartbroken when they decided to leave for Mozambique. Both of us missed the children a lot. Once they were already in Mozambique we got news that Nabil used to get very high fever because of his separation from my Mama. He was very attached to her.

    Reading about Saba and Qudsi’s journey and sacrifices for the Faith, brought tears to my eyes. The story has also made me so proud that they were the soldiers that Baha’u’llah wished to have for His Cause. The courage with which they sacrificed everything in His path has to be a lesson for us to learn and try to be Teachers with the Fire of Love for Baha’u’llah in our hearts.

    Nazanin
    Dubai
    UAE

  8. Dear Manisegaran,
    What a way to start off the first day of the new year!
    As I woke up on the new day I wanted to read something very meaningful to be remembered for the rest of the days in 2019. But then I read the story of Saba that shall remain in my soul forever! As I glanced through the first few lines, I was glued to my seat- oblivious to breakfast that was already prepared on the table. I would say I was pulled into the usual quicksand of your writing. I had never heard of Mr. Sabapathy or his wife Qudsiah. I remember hearing from a friend about Nemat and Nabil briefly in Kuala Lumpur around 1998. All I heard was that their parents were pioneering in Africa and I thought it was one of those pioneering matter. But now I can see how proud the two sons and the daughter would be to be brought into this world through such great souls.

    The story revealed a big truth – when a believer allows the Holy Spirit to lead their life – we can see the will of God operating in their lives. The lesson I have learned is – you may plan your life, but submit your plan to the Blessed Beauty Who would refine it for the best. And Baha’u’llah can never be wrong in deciding what is the best for us.

    And this was the case for Saba from Seremban, who has now made Seremban and Malaysia proud. The narration of Mr. Manisegaran, as usual was a feast for my soul.

    I am amazed with the amount of services Mr Sabapathy and his wife rendered in Thailand, India, Laos and in Mozambique. I am so touched and feel so gifted that early Malaysians have played so many important roles in the history of our beloved Faith. His life was full of nothing but sacrifice and sufferings in His path. He had met nothing but tests and difficulties the moment he left the shores of Malaysia. Yet he is well remembered by us, and certainly by Baha’ull’ah in the Abha Kingdom.

    Again I never knew of the existence of the Yaganagi family. They seem to be more than illustrious, going by what they have done. Almost all the children of the Yaganagis were pioneers within and outside India. Sabapathy has not only got married into this great family. He has bridged the Malaysian community with that illustrious family.

    I am also lost in words in describing how precious the photos are. They substantiate the claims of the researcher, and add colour, weight and meaning to the stories that you write Manisegaran!

    In conclusion I could only recall these words from Bahaullah while thinking of Sabapathy

    …Ye are better known to the inmates of the Kingdom on high than ye are known to your own selves. Think ye these words to be vain and empty? Would that ye had the power to perceive the things your Lord, the All-Merciful, doth see—things that attest the excellence of your rank, that bear witness to the greatness of your worth, that proclaim the sublimity of your station! Bahá’u’lláh -Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.

    Thank you to our dear Manisegaran – please continue your meritorious and matchless services.

    Nehru Arunasalam
    Chicago
    USA

  9. Dear Mani,
    Thank you for sharing the detailed and documented life story and services of our very dear Sabapathy whom I associated with during December 1962-February 1963 when I came to Malaysia for travel teaching. I am deeply assured of the accuracy of your descriptions of Saba’s character and spiritual inclinations, because I had observed the same characteristics in him from whom I learned lessons of humility, art of listening, and avoiding heated arguments to prove a truth, a case when your counterpart is not ready for it.

    Reading your account of how he became a Baha’i and how his family responded, from opposition to transformation, moved me to tears as I felt transported to 333 Rahang Road in Seremban where I had first met with Saba and the group of the youth you have mentioned in your narrative.

    Saba’s life of service, and the guidance and blessings he received from the Hands of the Cause in this path, reminds one of the works of the disciples of Christ. Indeed he fulfilled the teaching mandate that `Abd’ul-Baha had issued in His Will and Testament: Saba spent the days of his life “to diffuse the sweet savours of God and to promote His Faith”. He did “not rest for a moment, neither” did he “seek repose”. He joined the legion of the Baha’i pioneers who “dispersed themselves to every land, passed by ever clime and traveled throughout all regions. Bestirred, without rest and steadfast to the end, they raised in every land the triumphal call of ‘O Thou the Glory of Glories!’ ”

    We can continue the quote until the line where the Master says: “The disciples of Christ forged themselves and all earthly things ….Let them that are men of action follow in their footsteps!”

    With best wishes for your further stories for 2019 and beyond!

    Warmly,
    Bijan Bayzaee
    Chicago
    USA

  10. Dear Mani,

    Saba was a rock. It is hard to explain how strong he was. He went to Mozambique long before I did and stayed long after I was there. His hallmark was his strength. He almost never did anything for himself, he did everything for Baha’u’llah. Hunger and money were not an issue to him. The Faith was everything to him. It is hard to say more about him, he was just plain firm in his Faith and always serving.

    Steve
    USA

  11. Dear Mani,
    Whenever I think of Sabapathy all I can remember is an angelic face with sweet and warm smiles. He was a humble being down to earth , lover of Baha’u’llah and an obedient servant of the Cause in all respects. Saba was a restless teacher of the Faith and a selfless teaching companion with great zeal. While he was in Laos, only on a few occasions I had the bounty to walk, listen and talk with him. Saba gave much hope and confidence. He planned and carried out his activities without interruption. I was hopping to work with him longer in Laos and learn from his extensive experiences in the field of service. But God’s plan was different. His services were urgently required in South Thailand where he stayed and served the Cause before pioneering to India, and finally in Mozambique.

    Saba and his wife have done so much in Mozambique that the history of the Faith in that country cannot be written without adequate mention of this blessed couple. It is pioneers like them who add fragrances to out blessed Faith!

    God bless his radiant soul. His life was exemplary to many of young and old pioneers.

    Firaydun MIthaq
    Chieng Mai
    Thailand

  12. Dear Manisegaran,
    Thank you for writing a very beautiful story on my dearest friend Sabapathy. I had to stop reading every now and then as tears from my eyes obscured the vision. As youth we were staying nearby area and after accepting the Faith we became even closer. I was closed to his family too. We used to carry out so many youth activities in the form of teaching, deepening and traveling to the estates for teaching.

    In those days we were youths and did not have much money in our pockets. Our means of transport was mainly cycling, walking and taking public buses – but never taxis. But Saba’s father had a car. Saba used to borrow that car to take us for teaching trips to Kuala Pilah and Bahau towns. These towns were situated high on top of the main range mountains. The return journey was down the mountain slope. While traveling downhill Saba used to free the gear to save petrol.

    When Saba and I were in Seremban we served on the Local Spiritual Assembly.

    When we started working, we followed Dr. Muhajir’s request for us to disperse as home front pioneers and to take the Faith to the East coast.

    When Saba pioneered to other countries I was transferred to Kuantan town in Pahang state, and lost contact with him. Your story has now connected me with him- after decades. Thank you Mani

    Saba really sacrificed so much and became one of the most sincere workers in the Bahai Faith. He set a good example for everyone to follow him in serving the Faith.
    May his pure soul rest in peace.

    R. Mariappan.
    Seremban
    Malaysia

  13. My dear Mani,
    I really enjoyed reading your chronicle on dear Sabapathy. You have brought to life for all the Bahai friends in and outside Malaysia to understand and appreciate the fantastic life of all the Bahai services of this devoted servant of Bahaullah.

    I had known Saba, who used to visit my home to meet up with my husband, Inbum. But after reading your story I really wished I had known Saba better. Your story sums up his life and legacy with so much details. As I was reading this awesome chronicle on Sabapathy, I nearly cried, thinking of all his sufferings and the sacrifices he had made for the Faith. Mani dear, I really don’t know how you did this, but you managed to get so many details about this believer. Sabapathy certainly had left a beautiful legacy for us to read and appreciate and admire.

    Any write up by you on any Bahai still alive or had gone to the Abha Kingdom was always so well written with original research and authority. Your very rare photographs- I do not know how you managed to have so many such photos. They speak volumes.

    As I have told you so often my dear Mani, you are our own precious Bahai historian, writer and author. No one can come close to your capabilities. I am speaking the truth from my heart. I admire you tremendously. I wish I had your talent, but I don’t.
    Please do not stop writing. I am certain all the believers would love to read your write ups and chronicles. I am aware of the hundreds who read, though not all may comment.

    You are always in my thoughts and prayers, dear Mani.

    Lily Chinniah
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  14. Dear Manisegaran
    Thank you for the stirring story of my brother in law Sabapathy. I remember him and my sister Qudsiah who pioneered to Laos around 1970 when I was pioneering there. Both of them served the local community in Vientiane in holding children classes and other activities. They were regular visitors to villages around Vientiane.

    I have read your story many times and have found that Sabapathy and Qudisah, whose pioneering and contributions to the Cause over the many years are fondly remembered. We will pray for the progress of their luminous souls throughout the worlds of the Almighty.
    Faiz Yaganagi
    Laos

  15. Thank you Sir for penning yet another chronicle of a saintly soul who sacrificed his entire life and energy for the Faith of Bahaullah. I have read the story once and am going to read one more time as it is so moving.

    Sabapathy is clearly another piece of gem from Bahaullah. His life offers many lessons to be learnt. We miss such great spiritual giants in our midst these days. Such as Sabapathy are the ones who have left strong and exemplary traces for us to follow.

    JFK Balaan
    Ipoh
    Malaysia

  16. Dearest Mr. Mani,
    There are no words to express my gratitude for choosing to write about my father. The marvellous choice of words and pictures convey the essence of what my father was as a person and his love for the Faith. He was truly a humble soldier of the Cause. There was so much of his life in Malaysia that you wrote about that I didn’t know. Thank you so much for this precious information.

    My dad and mom sacrificed their lives for the Cause. I remember the years of struggle; Nabil ,Nemat, and I were just 6, 7 and 8 years old respectively when we came to Mozambique, and I remember each family had a ration card and we had right to only beans, rice, sugar, salt, soap and oil. The stock was very limited per month and my parents would take the little they got to give the villager’s in the Bahai communities who were hiding from the rebel guerilla fighters. Sometimes we had to walk long distances to find them, some of them would sleep on trees not to get caught.

    We spent our childhood travel teaching, every Saturday and Sunday we were in the villages. My mom would make sandwiches and we would leave early morning and come back late at night. All this hardship made us strong as a family.

    The fruit of their work in this country is seen everywhere. People loved them, my beloved parents functioned as a team for one goal, one aim and that was to teach the faith of Baha’u’llah. People till today cry and lament their passing. They have helped so many people in various walks of life from the poor to the rich. Their legacy lives on in the projects they established, the Ntwananu Community School, the Women’s Adult Literacy and tailoring courses and the homeopathic clinics and the URI.

    My father was a true Knight of the Faith in his services. I am so proud to be their daughter.

    Thank you once again for this beautiful caption on the true essence of who my father was.

    Nedah Sabapathy
    Maputo
    Mozambique

  17. Mani
    Saba, as we used to call him, was a friend to everyone, a youth who unfailingly turned up when there was work to be done in anything associated with the Faith. A friend of few words and ready laughter, he was the team man who moved quietly, the best person to call up the community and set the stage for gathering, conferences, summer schools and the like. I have never heard a complaint or criticism from him in all the years we were together. We depended on him, this mild mannered and self-effacing friend of ours.

    On the eve of Naw Ruz 1967, the magnet of our hearts, Hand of the Cause Dr. Muhajir unexpectedly visited Malaysia and in small meetings called on a few chosen friends to arise and go out to India, Sri Lanka, Sarawak, Taiwan, Soloman Islands etc. In one remarkably short visit to Kuala Lumpur, Seremban and Malacca the Hand of the Cause lit up the hearts of six youths and produced six international pioneers. Saba was among them that spontaneously arose, left their jobs and set out pioneering as was the need of the hour and they went on a spiritually glorious mission to teach the faith.

    The call had come half-way through the Nine Year Plan of the House of Justice. Saba came to Bangalore in South India from where he radiated regular visits to the communities near and far. During the first few months after his arrival, he was involved in taking nearly a hundred believers to New Delhi in a reserved Railway coach to New Delhi, a journey a day and a half then. Managing this trip, the stay for three days in New Delhi and the return was a challenging task as most the friends were from villages. It was during this trip that Saba and Qudsiah came to know each other and love blossomed. They were married a year later in the presence of Hand of the Cause Mr. Enoch Olinga.

    India, especially in those days nearly fifty years ago was no easy place to live and work. Finding a paying job for Malaysians was out of the question. One needed to be connected to influential people to land a job. With meager funds and hundreds of newly-opened villages to visit while keeping alive the urban declarants was no mean task. I was away from India at the time when, advised by the Hand of the Cause Muhajir, Saba and Qudsiah pioneered to Mozambique.

    I had lost touch with him for over four and a half decades. My pre-occupation was with schools in India when suddenly news came that Saba was in Bangalore. His son-in-law who was an old student of mine at New Era High School in Panchgani had met with an accident. I managed to get Saba on the phone and when I shared his grief there were few words. He was the same person who seldom shared his difficulties with others, made others comfortable and made them smile and laugh. My friend must have been in great distress but, as usual he was silent about his personal tests, trials and hurts. His words were always gentle, and a comforting companion. He fell ill and unexpectedly passed away at his pioneering post.
    May our love reach him.

    Dr. Vasduevan
    Poone
    India

  18. Dear Mani,
    I read the recollection of our dear pioneer Sabapathy with great interest.

    Saba and I grew up in the Faith together in Seremban, but we separated after 1962 when he went off to Kuala Pilah town. His life has undoubtedly been an exemplary one especially for our youths today. Even in those days Saba was a role model for the youths in Seremban. He worked for the Faith very closely with Uncle Yankee Leong,Satanam,Isaac DCruz and myself. We seldom went for teaching without Saba.

    I have the fondest memories of Saba when he was transferred to Kuala Pilah town as a Technician. In Kuala Pilahhe got together the small group of Baha’is and arranged many firesides in order to increase the numbers in order to form a Local Spiritual Assembly.

    I was fortunate to meet him again after many years when he came to serve in Tamil Nadu. I was pioneering in Tamil Nadu at that time. He and his beloved wife Qudsiah were actively engaged in promoting the Faith in Madras city,Tamil Nadu.

    I am indeed fortunate to read the pioneering activities undertaken by him and his wife. These have been so vividly captured by you. These information of his life are truly inspiring and moved me to tears

    K. Krishnan
    Muar
    Malaysia

  19. Dear Mani
    Thank you for the story on Sabapathy.
    I met Saba at the National Bahai Centre in Kuala Lumpur in 1975 when he just returned from India for good, and was trying to look for a job. I remember he told me about his experience of pioneering in India and his wife and children who were back in India at that time.

    Saba arrived in Mozambique a few months before I did. I was lucky to have a job waiting when I arrived but it took Saba a while to get a job with the Railroad Department in Maputo, the capital city. In the early days, Saba, Lizet, a Brazilian pioneer, and I used lived in the same apartment building. We were eating together and taking care of one another.

    Things got worse after the country became independent. I moved out and married Matt in the States. There was a complete shut down of the Bahai activities. By that time Saba had rented a house and was applying for his family to come over. I didn’t have a chance to meet them as I have left by the time they arrived. I did feel sad that at the end only Saba was left behind to “hold the fort.” Thinking back of my time in Mozambique, it was bittersweet.

    I have great respect and much affection for Saba. He was like a big brother whom I consulted and confided with. He was soft spoken, kind and compassionate. And much loved by the Mozambican Bahais.

    Yaw Kam Sim
    New Mexico
    USA

  20. I read the life history of Sabapathy. It was simply mesmerizing reading about his early days and a life that was a struggle all the way for him. Very few of my generation knew him; let alone some of current breed of veterans. Leaving the country in 1967 and with little comfort, trudged through difficult times in India and later Africa. Only his pioneering spirit and solid Faith in Baha’u’llah kept him in his post and eventually to bury his bones in a country thousands of miles from home.

    Little would I have realized what a great man he was, if not for your article. Thank you for writing about him. You did him great justice. At least to some extent the generation of the 70’s and 80’s have now an inkling of the great Sabapathy!

    Sandran
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  21. I first met Sabapathy when I reported to work in the Public Works Department in Kuala Pilah in 1965. He was working in the Telecoms Department, next to my office. He was a loving person and took me along in his father’s car to go teaching in Kuala Pilah, Tampin, Rembau, and many of the small towns in the state of Negeri Sembilan. It was from him and others that I learned how to teach and to rely on God.

    One of his favorite approaches was to go to anew place and ask anyone he met with if he knew a particular person with the funniest name The man would scratch his head and say that he did know of such a person. Sabapathy would then say that he had come a long way and was disappointed. He would then ask the stranger if he knew anything about the Bahai Faith. The man would answer in the negative and Sabapathy would then tell him about the Faith. The man would become an instant inquirer . There are many such anecdotes he would use to teach the faith.

    I admit in all honesty that your write up on the life of Sabapathy is well researched, and he had truly lived up to the words of the Guardian that ” the soul who once tastes the elixir of pioneering service , seldom would do anything else”.

    N. Nagendran
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  22. Dear Brother Manisegaran

    What a great story! I have heard very briefly of Sabapathy who was serving in Tamil Nadu. And that was all. Your story is a new revelation for me. You have given so many records and events and incidents supported by photographs and dates. His life is nothing but sacrifice after sacrifice from the day he left Malaysia for pioneering. Mozambique was not an easy country. And Saba had to do so many things almost all alone. Yet Saba kept going with full faith in Baha’u’llah. He has set an example for me to follow, perhaps others too. His wife too had been his strongest companion, shield and strength.

    I am aware of the Yaganagi family in India. Only now I came to know that Saba married into this great family. And you have given a fantastic coverage on the Yaganagi family which has produced spiritual giants in the form of pioneers. It is my request you write one separate story on the Yaganagi family. I know some of them personally, but please do consider writing with greater depth for keeping the records forever.

    I would easily say the story on Sabapathy is one of the crowns among all your stories. It is such stories that are needed to inspire the current generation of believers. They were the standard bearers who had truly set the standard!

    Jaya Raju Thota
    Visakhapatnam
    Andhra Pradesh
    India

  23. Der Mani

    I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Saba and family while I was studying in Madras in about 1975.

    He was soft spoken and measured in his words. His spouse Qudsiah was a jovial person, who showed a lot of kindness and compassion towards me. I remember the children Nedah, Nemat and Nabil. Qudsiah used to tell me that her children used to call me Uncle “Chewing gum” – a pun on my name ” Singam” I suppose!

    Shortly after that I had gone to Madurai, another city in Tamil Nadu, and Saba had gone off to Mozambique in 1976.
    I lost touch with him after that, but kept hearing of the foundations he had laid for the budding Bahai community in Mozambique.

    Thank you for the memories.

    Audi Narasingam
    Muar
    Johor
    Malaysia

  24. The story on Sabapathy is very moving. When I accepted the Faith in about 1966 I was in Kilang Lama Estate near Sungei Petani. I did not have the opportunity to meet him.
    The story clearly portrays the kind of dedicated believers of the early days. These are the kind of early believers who have made the Bahai community in Malaysia and the Bahai history proud.
    Its good all good services are being recorded for posterity.

    N. Ramasamy
    Kulim
    Kedah
    Malaysia

  25. Dear Sabapathy had a strong impression on me. Though I had very little contact with him as a person, his indomitable spirit that spurned him to pioneer was a great example to me. His sacrificial activities in India, his patience and resignation in those testing moments of adversities and deprivations, his determination to keep on going , totally relying on God when fresh challenges unfolded in Africa — these were very powerful exemplifying lessons that galvanized other pioneers like me, who followed his footsteps in serving our beloved Faith.

    Joseph Swaminathan
    Cambodia

  26. Thank you Mr. Manisegaran for such an in depth and inspiring story about one of our early Malaysian pioneers.
    I have heard of him since the 60’s and met him briefly at the National Centre in 1975. At that time I was not aware of the sacrificial work done by our dear pioneer. It was after reading this amazing account of his dedicated services to the Blessed Beauty gained an insight into his tireless work for the progress of the Faith in various parts of the world.
    I am very much inspired after reading the recollection of the out dear friend Saba.
    Thank you again for sharing the detailed account of the dedicated services of Sabapathy.
    Paramasivan
    Sabah
    Malaysia

  27. Dear Mani
    I was moved to read with great interest and enthusiasm the services of Sabapathy Alagiah. I accepted the Faith after he had left the shores of Malaysia and the only information I have of him is from this write up.

    Its strange how one could do so well in the counties he lived in- India and Mozambique. He has been constantly on the move and proved to be a tireless worker whose single mind was to make Baha’u’llah happy. He has certainly undergone so much sufferings and yet he sailed on placing his full trust in Baha’u’llah. These are the kind of people who have showed us the path of true sacrifice.

    It is news to me he was married into the illustrious Yaganegi family. I personally moved with Dr. Munje in Calcutta when I was pioneering there. The world is indeed small.

    This story has moved my soul very much. I am not surprised at the number of comments that have poured in for this story. He deserves it.

    Arumugam
    Butterworth
    Malaysia

Leave a Reply

Secured By miniOrange