REMEMBERING SOBHANA KUMARAN

REMEMBERING SOBHANA KUMARAN

29 May 1959 – 10 April 2003

Here is the story of  Miss Sobhana Kumaran, an ardent Bahá’í youth whose short life was spent in service to the Cause with great dynamism, eagerness and enthusiasm. She set a fine example as to how one has to spend youthful days in a balanced manner – not neglecting the Faith while striving for excellence in the education field, and at the same time not setting aside education while serving the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. In the end she tasted success in both these fields and has left indelible traces that shall always be admired and appreciated for generations to come. Perhaps only those who would come after us will be in a position to appreciate in fuller and greater measures the contributions of this noble and precious soul.

The family moved from Selangor into Seremban town in Negeri Sembilan in 1960. In 1961, Mr. P. E. Kumaran, a clerk at the Seremban British Army Camp in Paroi area of Seremban accepted the Faith through Mr Appu Raman from Alor Star. Kumaran gave his best to his family within his humble means.  When Muralydharan was born on 10 February 1961, his religion was entered as “Bahá’í” in his birth certificate, something considered a rare novelty in those days.  Through the strong encouragement from Kumaran, his sons  Jayakrishnan, Suresh, Sivapragasam, Muralydharan, Prem and Navin and daughters Sobhana, Sathy, Suguna and Shashi attended the Bahá’í children’s classes. As they reached the age of maturity, they all accepted the Faith in stages. It was Madam Lily Ng, daughter of Yankee Leong, the first believer in Peninsula Malaya and the immediate neighbour of the family of the Kumarans. They never missed any Bahá’í meeting held in the Bahá’í Centre in Seremban at 333, Rahang Road, which was just a stone-throw distance from where their rented house at 333-B, Rahang Road, a house owned by Yankee Leong’s younger brother Paul Yan Sim Min, a well-known millionaire architect. Kumaran’s wife Ambiga Shanthappa Rao also accepted the Faith in 1984. Kumaran himself passed away in January 1993 and was laid to rest at the Bahá’í burial ground in Seremban.  Muralydharan  became a graduate and passed away in a motor  car accident on August 24, 1986. By this time  Sobhana  had became the tower of strength in the family and faced life with strong fortitude. It would not be difficult to guess that the real and inner strength came from the matchless spirit of the divinely propelled Faith.


Sobhana, a budding spiritual giant, at age three.

Although Kumaran introduced the family to the Faith, it was his eldest daughter Sobhana who was the prime motivator in the family. Even when Sobhana was as tender as three years old, Kumaran detected the great potential in her and told his wife Ambiga that Sobhana would play some great role in guiding her younger siblings.  True enough, as Sobhana grew up attending children’s classes, she herself became a children’s classes teacher in Seremban. With the full blessings of her mother, Sobhana guided and encouraged her siblings to rise up to serve the Cause and do well in their studies.  Sobhana was also a strong and responsible force to ensure the family was closely knit. The family turned to her for guidance and advice, and she often served as a model for them. Most of the family members are now actively serving in various capacities in Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Germany  and Australia.


Mr. P.E.Kumaran (left) listening to the talk by Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Taráz’u’lláh Samandarí at the Vivekananda Hall, Seremban, July 1966. Seated at centre, right is Yankee Leong, with a bow tie.


The Siblings.  Back Row,  L- R: Sivapragasam, Sobhana and  Jayakrishnan(Hari). Second Row, L-R: Suresh, Sathy and Muralidharan. Sitting, L-R:  Shashi, Prem and Suguna. (Missing is Navin)


As they grew up. L-R: Prem, Sobhana, Sathy and Navin.

STUDIES AND CAREER

Sobhana was a bright student from her early days with outstanding achievements in academic field and co-curricular activities. When studying in the form five arts medium in the Convent secondary school, Sobhana was topping in her English literature to the amazement of her class teacher who would call upon the other students to take Sobhana as a perfect example of excellence in the subject. She was a good hockey player for her school too.  She was the first in her family to gain entry into a leading local university when she pursued a degree in English literature at University Malaya in 1979. This academic exposure moulded her into  a good speaker, a prolific writer, and an excellent Master of Ceremonies at large gatherings.

Even in her conversations or in writing letters, she employed that  striking mastery of language. In a letter  to her friend she wrote in a poetic style:

Always remember that….

Happiness is something

That’s neither bought not sold

Its price is more than rubies

Its value more than gold

It’s one of God’s  great blessings

And we can keep it only

By giving it away

All the best,

Soaps (as she was fondly addressed among close peers)


Sobhana squatting at extreme left was on the Hockey Team of the  Convent School at Birch Road, Seremban in 1975.  Next to her is Susan Chung, who is married to Gunendra and pioneering in Timor Leste at the time of writing.


Sobhana with her fellow student Amrit Kaur in 1978 during her sixth form at  the King George V, Seremban. In 1979 Amrit studied law while Sobhana did her bachelor degree in Arts.

As a postgraduate, Sobhana started her career as a teacher with Maktab Rendah Sains MARA or MARA Junior Science College in Kulim town in the state of Kedah in 1983 and was subsequently posted to MARA Junior Science College in Balik Pulau town in Penang island in 1985. Sobhana secured a teacher’s post with the Language Centre at University Sains Malaysia in Penang in 1987, and that position added lustre for the Faith in Penang, and by extension in Malaysia in many ways.

Sobhana believed in excellence. In 1993, she was awarded two scholarships to pursue two degrees  at the Royal Holloway College, University of London – the British High Commissioner’s Award  or what was called the British Chevening Scholarship for a master’s degree in English Literature,  and the Ashes Scholarship  from University Sains Malaysia in Penang  to pursue her PhD.  With that she pursued her master’s degree from October 1993 and completed it in September 1994. When her family visited her for the convocation ceremony in London, Sobhana placed the convocation cap upon her mother’s head to cheer her with her own child-like heart.


Sobhana with her mother at the convocation ceremony in London.

Upon completion of the master’s degree, she started with PhD program in the same field of English literature. But as Malaysia went through a financial crisis, the Malaysian government called all  its students abroad to return to Malaysia  and continue, to cut cost. The Malaysian government introduced capital control to cut cost at every angle and this was yet one more step. In  November 1998, she returned to University Sains Malaysia in Penang  to continue her work. Sadly, it was at this point that she discovered that she was stricken with cancer, which shocked the members of her family. She had to give up her PhD studies to concentrate on medical treatment.

While any average person would have crumbled with this ailment,  Sobhana showed great bravery and courage in facing her challenges. She first took two years of medical leave to receive treatment in Kuala Lumpur and upon completion of her treatment, returned to work in Penang in January 2001. When she suffered a recurrence of the disease, she again took medical leave in February 2002 and returned to live with her family in Kuala Lumpur. That was about her academic excellence. And to her sisters she would say, “Always reach for the stars.” Her outstanding scholarly pursuits has inspired many other devoted youths and students of Malaysia to follow in her exemplary  footsteps.

Meanwhile, knowing that her life on this earthly plane may not last long, in October 2000, Sobhana was moved to visit the holiest spot for Bahá’ís on this earth  to bow down her head at the sacred threshold of the Blessed Beauty, for perhaps the only time. She took along her mother who too was longing to visit the Holy Land, along with  her sister Shashi and her husband. From the Holy Land they  travelled to Germany to stay with Prem and  Navin, and their next destination was Scotland to visit Shashi and Crawford. Sobhana said that trip was the best  time in her life.


Overlooking the Bay of Haifa from the front of the Shrine of the Báb. L – R: Sobhana, Madam Ambiga, Crawford and Shashi.


With Hand of the Cause of God Mr. `Alí-Akbar Furútan at the Pilgrim House. Sobhana is second from left. At extreme right is Crawford with his wife Shashi next to him.

At the Bahá’í House of Worship in Frankfurt, Germany. L-R: Navin, Madam Ambiga, Sobhana and Prem.

SERVICE IN THE CAUSE

Sobhana was a Bahá’í who served the Faith in numerous capacities from her childhood days until her tragic passing, and always brought in rich harvests for the Cause. Her involvement in the Faith started with Bahá’í children’s classes in Seremban, where Lily Ng was her children’s class teacher and a source of great strength to her. Sobhana also had the privilege of receiving much love and guidance from Yankee Leong. Lily Ng recalls that Sobhana displayed many talents and leadership qualities even as a child, often taking the lead in organising children’s class activities. She was a keen reader of Bahá’í books and was able to understand the Faith beyond her peer group even at an early stage in life. As she matured, she herself started conducting children’s classes in Seremban and in nearby communities like Mantin. As a youth, Sobhana was a very active member of the Local Bahá’í Youth Committee of Seremban that won the Rose of Ridván award for several years as one of the outstanding youth committees in the country. She was in the forefront of Bahá’í activities and was seen in the Bahá’í Centre almost daily  to offer any assistance that was needed and took terrific efforts to assist visitors to the community. She, along with her siblings found coming to the centre the greatest joy, consolation and comfort during their early days. Throughout her stay in Seremban, Sobhana  proved to be a great asset to the community.


With the youths  at the Seremban Bahá’í Centre, 1976.  Front row L-R: Ritchie Anand, Sobhana, Wee Pang Lian, Vasudevan and Thock Kia Fang. Back row L-R:  Giam Chin Chai, Chua Teck Mean, and Wong Ah Loong.


Winners of the Rose of Ridvan Challenge Trophy, 1977. Sobhana is in the centre, right.


Sobhana taking charge of the children class at the Summer School held in Port Dickson in 1977.

Early on in her life, Sobhana showed a desire to serve in challenging areas. While in Seremban, she was involved in organising local and regional events, and paid articulate attention to every minute detail. Even as a student, she volunteered to be on the organising committee of the South East Asia Bahá’í Conference held in Singapore in 1977, and graced by Counsellor Florence Mayberry. Having developed a special affinity for the training of Bahá’í children, Sobhana volunteered to be a coordinator at the first Regional Children’s Institute and Regional Conference  held at the Stella Maris bungalow in Port Dickson in August 1978. She also served as an Assistant to the Auxiliary Board member during this time, and travelled to some communities to conduct Bahá’í children’s classes.

Sobhana served as an active  member of the University Malaya Bahá’í Society and was actively involved in activities in the communities of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. She was a member of the National Bahá’í Youth Committee and contributed towards the consolidation and strengthening of youth in this country through numerous projects and activities. When residing in Penang, Sobhana served as a long-time Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Penang, and when in Kuala Lumpur was the Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuala Lumpur for a brief period while receiving treatment for her cancer. Even during her studies in the United Kingdom, she served as Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Runnymede in Surrey. She was also elected to the first Regional Bahá’í Council for the Northern Region of West Malaysia in 2001. Her academic excellence and deep knowledge of the Bahá’í Faith made her a natural choice for serving in the Association of Bahá’í Studies, the Centre for Bahá’í Studies and the Holiday College Board.


Sobhana, seated second from right with the believers of Sungei Petani.


Sobhana squatting fifth from right at the Leong Tat Chee Teaching Institute, Malacca, 1981.

Sobhana was also a notable figure in the wider community. While in Penang, through the guidance of the then Counsellor Mrs Shantha Sundram, Sobhana became the Founding Secretary of the National Council of Women’s Organisations in Penang. In this capacity, she represented the Bahá’í community in various Non-Governmental Forums on issues such as women, education and peace.


In Penang. L-R: Sobhana, Jeyabalan, Counsellor Dr. Chellie J. Sundram and Auxiliary Board member Mrs. Shantha Sundram.


Sobhana among the members of the Bahá’í community of Penang at the observance of the Women’s Day, September 1990


Winter School in Cameron Highlands, November 1991. Sobhana stands below the word Cameron in the banner.


Nothing but smiles at the Second Bahá’í World Congress in New York, 1992. L-R: Shashi, Sathy and Sobhana

AS WE REMEMBER SOBHANA

Sobhana will always be remembered as a firm and constant believer in the Faith from the day she accepted it until her last breath. She believed in doing her best for the Cause. She was a very good organiser of Bahá’í events and modelled her life very closely to the Bahá’í teachings. Some would describe her as a no-nonsense person as she never compromised on Bahá’í principles. Sobhana was very firm in her convictions, but flexible in her ways.

At many Bahá’í gatherings, meetings, and discussions Sobhana displayed a high level of intellectual capacity. It was also a joy to hear her expressing her views at local and national Bahá’í conventions, especially with great frankness, but in the right tone and spirit. Her respect for elders and for the institutions was simply beyond measure. Her obedience to the institutions was implicit. Sobhana was also an artistic person who loved to indulge in the fine arts, especially music, and she took an active part in the performing arts at Bahá’í gatherings and musical firesides.

One of Sobhana’s her greatest assets was her radiant smile and dazzling eyes that attracted many towards her – both Bahá’ís and non- Bahá’ís. She possessed a powerful force, leaving great impact on those who met her, even for the first time. She was always positive in her thoughts and well-guarded in her speech which was coated with love and sincerity.

In the course of her numerous services, there was hardly any community in Malaysia that Sobhana never visited, both urban and rural. In many communities she had left a good impression of her services. Sobhana was a Bahá’í who won the admiration of a wide cross-section of the Bahá’í community. She believed in a clash of opinions, not of emotions, and was always the one to patch up differences following heated discussions.

People enjoyed her company because of the love and concern she showed them. As a true lover of humanity, she always lent a listening ear to people in distress and gave words of comfort and strength. Sobhana was always a balm to souls in distress. Wherever possible, she used to go out of her way to solve or relieve their problems, often unnoticed. She believed in good hospitality and was indeed a good host. She always welcomed guests with radiant spirit and made them feel very comfortable.

Sobhana had the ability to move freely with people from all walks of life including children, youth and even elderly people from both within and outside the Bahá’í community.

Sobhana was a firm and practical person, and she tried to handle life’s challenges objectively. When she discovered that her disease had recurred, and after getting over the initial shock, she commented, “I may have fallen, but I am not finished!” Such was the fighting spirit in Sobhana. She was never a defeatist, but always looked for opportunities to scale hurdles. Even while enduring treatment for cancer, she was singled out by her surgeon as exemplary in her reaction to the disease. Sobhana offered comforting words and advice to other cancer patients who were finding it difficult to come to terms with their disease. Such was her courage in fighting for life, for she retained her brave and radiant disposition to the end.

THE FINAL JOURNEY

Some friends visited Sobhana in hospital during the last days of her earthly life and they were very disturbed when they saw her lying semi-conscious in bed, groaning in pain and grasping for breath. Bahá’ís from all over Malaysia who knew of her condition beseeched Bahá’u’lláh to let the Will of God to be done fast. Within a few days Sobhana’s condition deteriorated rapidly, even to her doctors’ amazement, and she passed away at 2:11 pm on Thursday, 10 April 2003.

A very befitting memorial was given for Sobhana at the residence of her sister Shashi and her husband Crawford. Large crowd of believers and friends gathered to pay their last respects.  A freelance journalist who attended her memorial service realised what a loss Sobhana’s passing meant to the Bahá’í community in Malaysia and commented, “I knew Sobhana from a distance, but never realised that she was such a great person. It must be a real loss to the Bahá’í community.” Naturally, her family and close friends found it difficult to accept the departure of this dear soul, one who was robbed of her life at its prime, and who was given such a short time on this earthly plane.

As her coffin was placed on stands for the friends to glance at her face for the last time before being lowered into the grave, her mother was seated  beside it, weeping away along with her family members and several youths who had congregated. S. Satanam who loved Sobhana very dearly from the time she was a child spent a long time looking at her face and weeping away. Emotions ran high among those who had gathered at the burial ground.

Thus came to a close a life well-lived, of one who strove, by day and night through life’s challenges, to be an illustrious handmaiden of the Blessed Beauty.  One can  be solaced by this quotation from the Hidden Words, which was one of Sobhana’s favourite: To the true lover, reunion is life and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart had no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his Beloved.’’ She is now with her Beloved.

Yet, she clearly and truly has won the hearts of each and all through her indelible and impactful services rendered in those short-lived years on this earthly plane.  Sobhana Kumaran was one of Malaysia’s most distinguished stalwarts whose exemplary spirit and unshakable loyalty will fondly be cherished for posterity. Her passing is deeply mourned even to this day, not only by members of her own family but also by those who knew of her relentless and exemplary services to the Faith and of the indelible service and legacy she has left behind. The believers who were closely associated with Sobhana feel most keenly for the loss of so precious and faithful a co-worker who provided invaluable assistance to the growth and maturation of the Faith in Malaysia in her own humble way. History would have it that Sobhana was a shining example to the youth in Malaysia. Only those who come after us will be in a position to appreciate the indelible traces left by this noble  and precious soul.

Resting Place of Sobhana at the Bahá’í  Memorial Park, Seremban.

A. Manisegaran

31 July 2021

Copyright@bahairecollections.com

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39 thoughts on “REMEMBERING SOBHANA KUMARAN

  1. Sobhana Kumaran is person for whom I always had high admiration and respect. I have met her several times in summer schools since the 1970’s. However, I got to know her better after moving to Seremban community in 1980.

    She was a soul of radiant smile mesmerizing and energizing others who interacted with her, which was her second nature. Her presence in any gathering will animate, rejuvenate, and regenerate the spirit of the atmosphere with discourses. She is indeed a very specially outstanding soul I have ever met.

    I also had the privilege in going a travel teaching trips twice with her – once travelling by train from Kuala Lumpur to the boarder of Myanmar along with Mr. S. Satanam and her brother Surash Kumaran. It was an exciting travel teaching trip travelling by land on buses and trains reaching the destination to the border between Thailand and Myanmar. It was a very trying trip, but was exciting in diffusing the spirit of the greatest name with the jokes and demeanor of Sobhana keeping us in high spirit.

    The next teaching was to Cambodia in 1993, when we with other Baha’i like Mr. Satanam set sail in a ship from Phenom Phan to KoK Kong. That was a 21-hour over-night trip. Very many interesting incidents took place in this teaching trip which I shall cherish forever.

    Sobhana is a person who could simply electrify the most depressing atmosphere into one of animation and enlightenment. She was really a spiritual asset to the Baha’i community, and one who would have taken the Faith to greater heights. She is always remembered in my prayers. The fleeting moment of her life in this mortal world shall always be cherished and appreciated by those who crossed her path.

    May her radiant soul be blessed all the worlds of God.

    K.T. Maran
    Seremban
    Malaysia

  2. Such a wonderful and inspiring story of the late Sobhana Kumaran whom I knew as a youth. This is a story worth reading again and again. So many details have been covered and written in a very moving language.

    Service to the Faith was her top priority in life. She was a shining example to many during my generation. It is difficult to believe Sobhana is no more with us. This story with so many great photos has brought fondest memories of her, nay her own self into life.

    Thank you for sharing this story

    Sathish Satio
    Sepang
    Malaysia

  3. Thank you for writing about the great Shobana. I hope more on hand maidens who served and sacrificed their lives with their devoted husbands to serve the Cause of God will be written. These will inspire families.

    While the men were serving, the women took care of their families. The second generation of Baha’is are raised by them.

    Panjawarnam Shanmugam Pillay
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  4. Sobhana Kumaran was indeed such a warm-hearted friend. We were reminiscing with jokes and laughter till her last days. Perhaps we were always on the same wavelength. Miss her whenever she comes to mind.

    May she find everlasting peace and joy in the Abha Kingdom.

    Loh Tai San
    China

  5. I was in Malaysia from 1991 to 1993. I remember her as a very positive and enthusiastic person with a wonderful smile on her face. She certainly was a great loss to those who knew her and were close to her.

    Hossein Sabet
    Dar-e-Salam
    Tanzania

  6. Sobhana was all class…she left an impression on all who were lucky enough to cross paths with her.
    Thanks for this story.

    Bernice Marcellus
    Perth
    Australia

  7. She is fondly remembered for both her kind heart and acts of service. We had such amazing time touring Thailand as part of the musical choir back then.

    Zohrab Chong
    Kuala Lumpur

  8. Sobhana was a very remarkable young lady who was always very enthusiastic, approachable and very courageous. She also made a person feel at ease around her.

    May her radiant soul shine even greater in the spiritual realms.

    Parvaneh Lee
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  9. Shobana was so beautiful like a supermodel and so warm and friendly. Truly her passing was an inconsolable loss to all who knew and loved her.

    Thanks Uncle for this write-up. As usual you made me cry.

    Chitra Thevar
    Seremban
    Malaysia

  10. Dear Mani,
    BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES
    Reading Shobhana’s biography brought tears to my eyes since Remi and I were among the few who were close to her and visited her often whenever we came to KL even during her last days. We felt her suffering and pain when Remi held her hands as she was nearing the end. Thank you sharing the beautiful memories of a dearly loved soul.

    Sam Appalasami
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  11. Sobhana’s illustrious life is well covered in this story. I had the opportunity to travel-teach in Cambodia in 1993 along with Wong Sou Fun of Penang. Shobhana was often in witty character and cheerful. A good Baha’i co-worker.

    D.V.Maniam
    Sabah

  12. What a great life of Sobhana. I used to live not far from the Baha’i centre in Rahang Road when I was probably 7 or 8 years old. Then I moved to the Seremban town. I did not know know that there was an active Baha’i community in Rahang at that time.

    Sobhana’s life of dedication and love for the Faith is beautifully described in the article that our dear Manisegaran has written. I remember meeting Sobhana in the Hong Kong ferry terminal for a short chit chat with Cecilia and me. This must have been probably in 1992.

    She has left, but reading the story says it that many of us sorely miss here presence among us. A life that has been well lived to move many in the current and future generations emulate her

    Santhanasamy
    Kuala Terengganu

  13. Over the past few months if not in the last few years, the Malaysian Baha’is have witnessed the gradual passing of many stalwarts of the Faith, and Shobana is the one of those I cherish a lot. As we precariously hang on to this fragile life and reflect on the lives of those who have crossed over to the Abha Kingdom, one just cannot escape the fact that the greatest and loftiest life one could live is how they are remembered when they are gone! These remembrances are a cumulation of a life of service by those who left.

    I was fortunate enough to know and experience Shobana’s love and mentorship at various stages in my life. She was my children class teacher in the winter schools when I was a child and she remains my all time favorite. She was a mentor when I was a youth and someone I looked up to, admired and respected. Her eloquence as a delegate at the conventions was something I always looked forward to. I also had the chance to perform with her as an adult and serve with her in various activities over the years.

    At the funerals and memorials of all the stalwarts we have witnessed, one can see how lovingly and fondly these souls were remembered and how many recount the ways these souls have touched and changed their lives. It was never the material acquisitions or the academic excellence that left and an indelible mark, but rather that same spirit of love the Master personified that these great souls emulated. It is something we all wish we can be remembered in that way too.

    Apart from Shobana’s bright and colorful life of service and excellence, I remembered her for two things as I was growing up.

    1. She had a beaming smile that was a permanent feature and it was a smile of love, leadership, warmth and strength
    2. Shobana’s face reminded me of that famous actress Linda Carter who played wonder woman.

    How fortunate I was that Shobana was a real life Wonder Woman and I got to not only experience her wonderful personage in all her glory but to be able to be touched by her spirit and love for Baha’u’llah.

    May you Sobhana continue to guide us in our remaining years in this earthly life as we journey towards where you are.

    Our life is a summation of our experiences and I am grateful that in my life of experiences, Shobana was one of those 🌹

    Miss you Teacher Shobana!

    Naren Narasiah
    Shah Alam
    Malaysia

  14. Met her several times in conferences and youth gatherings. As a youth, the first ever youth gathering we attended was from Ladang Geddes Estate near Bahau. We were fresh from estate to be with highly sophisticated youth from Seremban town, as we thought, and wanted to behave well.

    First lunch was fried noodles. We didn’t know how to use chopsticks so went to the back of the Baha’i centre in Rahang road, to use our hands and fingers to eat the noodles, as we were very hungry. Sobhana saw us and encouraged us to go in and eat with a fork which she showed us where they were.

    She was very kind and friendly and made us comfortable when we were shy and felt less important. She was a role model for me for higher education.
    Thank you Shobhana.

    Ramu Sanyasi
    New Zealand

  15. Hello Uncle Mani,

    Thank you very much for such a nicely written biography of my sister. I feel very touched, especially reading the comments of the friends who knew her well.

    It is interesting to read about things that I myself did know.
    You are right – it is because of her that my siblings and I were taught, from an early age, about the principles of the Faith- principles that we try to implement in our lives today.

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder.

    Best wishes.
    Navin Kumaran
    Germany

  16. Dear Mani,
    YOUTH SHOULD FOLLOW HER FOOTSTEPS
    That was such a deeply touching , inspiring and well rendered write up about Sobhana’s unceasing dedication and selfless service to the Cause of God. I remember her well. She was always with her sweet smile, making people happy. I met her many times while serving the Cause in the eighties. The youth should follow her footsteps as she has engraved her footprints in the sands of time. Real good job, Mani.

    Professor Dr. Ananthan Krishnan
    Puchong
    Malaysia

  17. Every time I read the stories that are published in the Bahai Historical Blog, I am very inspired as I can see the believers on whom stories are written are true lovers of the Faith who have performed excellent services in the Cause of God- to be remembered for ages to come. And when reading about the Malaysian Baha’i community I see they are truly blessed with numerous devoted heroes and heroines who have glorified the pages of their history in golden ink.

    The story of Sobhana Kumaran is no exception. I have seen her as a child when I first went to Seremban community in the early 1970s. She has grown to be a spiritual giant, as the story conveys. What a life of selfless service that captures the imaginations of the readers. This is a story of one more handmaiden who is one of those chosen believers who have been called upon for the establishment of a divine civilization promised by Baha’u’llah, the author of the stupendous Baha’i Revelation. She has done much for the Faith.

    May God bless Sobhana’s radiant soul for her exemplary life of service and for having set a role model for the present and the future generations.

    I heartfully thank Manisegaran for penning this exciting article that not only encourages and inspires the readers but also preserves the contributions der Sobhana who surely deserve a place in history

    Dr. Firaydun Mithaq
    Chieng Mai
    Thailand

  18. I have been a silent reader of all the stories published in the Bahai Historical Recollections Blog and had been admiring the contributions by all the early believers. But this is the first time I am commenting, all because of the emotion that was evoked within me after reading the story of dear Sobhana Kumaran.

    It was touching and soul-uplifting to read about Shobhana. She lived a very short life, a little over 40, but she was among those who truly lived the life. As her face shows, she was a person with a warm smile on her ever radiant face.

    May her life be a source of inspiration for many youths of this generation and the generations to come. I look forward to reading more stories of this kind.

    Suniti Chandra Mishra
    Bahai community of Gwalior
    Madhya Pradesh
    India

  19. That was a great write up on Sobhana Kumaran. I remember Sobhana and her very warm smile very well.

    I first met her when I was very young at a conference held Port Dickson. My first impression of her was very touching. She carried a smile with her and had a very kind voice too. Later I admired her services to the Cause and her knowledge about the Bahai Faith. She simply shone brightly when speaking, chanting or singing on the stage. I miss her very much when penning this down. Am sure many others who had known her would be missing Sobhana.
    May her soul rest in peace

    Santhi Ram
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  20. This is the best write up on Sobhana….it bring back fondest memories of a dearest friend.

    Forty years ago, Sobhana and I were youth together for so many years and involved in many Baha’i activities. I remember I met her in Penang when she was doing her degree course in University Sains Malaysia. She told me she wanted to pursue her post graduate degree after completing her first degree. She even had completed a doctoral degree. Even then she had the Faith, studies and her family in her mind. Sad she had to leave us so early in life. Otherwise, she would have touched the hearts of countless number of believers of the next generation as well.

    Well, the final call comes from her Creator!

    May your soul rest in peace dear friend Sobhana
    You are sorely missed

    Lum Weng Hup
    Subang Jaya
    Selangor
    Malaysia

  21. Dear Mr. Mani,
    Thank you for bringing to light the life story of another devoted handmaiden of Bahaullah, who had served the Cause of God so valiantly, untiringly to her best capacity. Her services are really are outstanding.

    Sobhana had set a good example to the youth of today’s generation in prioritizing Teachings the Cause of God without compromising her studies. In the name of fortifying their future many youths had set aside the Faith and concentrated fully on the studies and had never returned to the fold. She did not allow any obstacle to stand on the way to serving the Cause- a trait many have to learn.

    I first saw her in 1974 at the Seremban Bahai centr as an energetic youth. She was a mover of youths in her community, including her own siblings. Her younger brother Muralydharan was one more shining star. I remember him accompanying Mr. Nagaratnam in 1976 to my hometown of Bahau for a two day deepening session. but sad he passed away early.

    The next I saw Shobhana was in 1985 at the Winter School in Port Dickson when I had returned from my pioneering post in Odisha, India for a short visit. She while chairing a session for a talk by Counsellor Afshin from India. Sobhana was at her best in the stage as chairperson, so delightful, lively and vibrant.

    The last I saw her was at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, in New Delhi along with Mr. Jayagopalan Ramasamy, in November 1986 on the occasion of the Temple Dedication Ceremony. Also sharing the stage was Mrs Marzia Dalal who represented India.

    Though few were my encounter with her, she had a very profound impact on me. This story has further deepened that impact.

    I will always pray that her soul receives abundant blessings in the realms of God.

    Thank you
    Pitamboro
    Kuala Selangor
    Malaysia

  22. I read the fascinating story on Sobhana. His father Mr Kumaran was very prophetic in saying that Sobhana would have a great role in the future in guiding her siblings. How correct she was. She did live to the expectation and prophecy of her Father. She had carried out remarkable services for the Cause, with so much dynamism and enthusiasm. Sad she was called to the Kingdom much earlier in her life. Am sure she is now rejoicing in the company of great souls in the Kingdom on High.

    A great soul indeed!

    Shankar Bhat.
    Bengaluru
    India

  23. I read the story of Sobhana.
    I had the opportunity to interact with Sobhana on a number of occasions. Once I was surprised to meet her when I accompanied a delegation from my university to the University Sains Malaysian in Penang where she was studying. You have written and posted about so many friends who have passed away to the Abha Kingdom. And Sobhana was always so energetic, positive and enthused.

    Victor Greenspoon
    Thailand

  24. The story on Sobhana was very inspiring.

    During my young age she was an example for me to look upon. Owing to age difference I could not be close to her and saw her from distance. Yet, I simply loved her. I remember she was very active and a very inspiring soul. She used to be one of the speakers at gatherings that I attended. She was very simple and yet carried herself very well. I saw her as very approachable, very knowledgeable and forward thinking and always came out with new ideas to serve the Faith.

    Thavamani Ramsamy
    Kajang
    Malaysia

  25. Thank you, Manisegaran for this recollection of Sobhana. Like so many have commented, it brought back tears of sadness for the physical separation. However, to me, Sobhana really lived this verse of Bahá’u’lláh:

    Blessed is he who in the prime of his youth and the heyday of his life will arise to serve the Cause of the Lord of the beginning and of the end and adorn his heart with His love. The manifestation of such a grace is greater than the creation of the heavens and of the earth. Blessed are the steadfast and well is it with those who are firm.

    Her enthusiasm, her infectious smile and radiant countenance are something unforgettable. She really was a super, wonder role model of how she greets you and makes you feel as if she hadn’t seen you for a million years, that you are so important to her. She really had such a unique ability – the kind you read about in other great women in the Faith – that beacon of light that shines from within.
    I gladly shared this recollection with two WhatsApp groups of the Convent school girls of Seremban where Sobhana studied. Some of the comments were:

    1) “Sobhana was very dear to many of us.We shared good times together in school”

    2) “It is a touching tribute to Sobhana. Will always remember her and Renuka Singam, the two tall girls. The only two who could rub shoulders when they walked together. The rest of us were shorties. Loved and love them both loads. Thanking the Lord that we knew and experienced their friendship, with treasured memories, never fading or forgotten.”

    3) “Lovely memories of Soap. I sat with her for two years from Form four to five right in front of the teachers but still we had our fun especially with our maths homework. It was something both of us couldn’t do. And sharing just one piece of eraser. Both of us just wanted to see how far we could go with the sharing. Happily, we could go on and on for two years till the Malaysian Certificate of Education was over.”

    4) “Certainly brings back memories. I agree her smile and eyes were the first impression I had of her and still do in my memories of her.

    So Sobhana still lives and shall continue to live forever in our minds.

    My husband Gunendra joins me in thanking you Mani , for your wonderful , exquisite write up of Sobhana so that our memories of her lives on.

    Susan Chung
    Dili
    East Timor

  26. I came to know Sobhana when I was staying with the Sundrams in Penang. She was then a teacher in Kulim town and later she moved to Penang and became a lecturer.

    In Penang she was Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly and she carried out her tasks very well. She was very soft spoken and musically inclined. She always spoke with words in a very tender manner and could easily win over your heart.

    There was an incident that I could never forget. At one inter-calary day celebration, the members of the community exchanged gifts. The gift that I received was very simple, though I did not complain. Sobhana with her magnanimous heart exchanged her gift which was better than mine with hers, though I resisted. Finally I was coerced into taking what she exchanged with me. She cared more for others than her own self.

    I was sad to learn that she was aflicted with the dreadful cancer. I was down in spirit and made my way to visit her in the hospital. Even then she spoke with me in a positive tone. I was astonished at her positive and fighting spirit. After she was discharged from hospital I went to her house and stayed with her in her room for a night where she spoke many things, always glorifying Bahaullah.

    Later when I heard of her passing, I was very sad and lost appetite for two days. From the day she passed away I am saying prayers for her every day, beseeching Bahaullah to grant her the much deserved bounties in His Kingdom. Sobhana still remains one of those who shall always live in my heart

    Thilaga
    Skudai
    Johor
    Malaysia

  27. Shobana Akka, was my children’s class teacher at the Bahai Centre at 333, Rahang Road in Seremban town. I was about 9 years old and always admired my teacher for her smile, and never have I seen her without it. I admired her natural beauty and the way she connected with everyone, so bubbly. I still remember the time she and a bunch of other youth were at the Bahai Centre waiting for their A Levels results. We were all happy as all of them did well in their examinations.

    She inspired me with her being until the day she left to Penang for further her studies. From a distance I heard about her involvement in the Bahai choir group and traveling places to perform, and her active involvement in several activities, without neglecting her studies.All I know Shobana never wasted time, she moved on serving to her full capacity with the greatest joy and enthusiasm. I am still unable to bring myself to accept that she is no more with us. But she is always within my heart and I keep praying for her precious soul to progress in the Abha Kingdom.

    LOVE YOU AKKA

    Rajkumari Prasd
    Honolulu
    Hawaii
    USA

  28. This is yet one more story of yet one more servants of the Cause who has decorated the pages of our history with her remarkable services. I am proud to say I had seen her grow from the time she was a child in Seremban.

    After attending the South East Asia Bahai Youth Conference at the end of 1968 in Kuala Lumpur, I participated in a Pioneers Institute Course in Malacca. Then I was asked to be based in the Seremban Bahai Centre in Rahang Road for carrying out teaching the Faith in the estates and the aboriginal areas. Seremban town was surrounded by a large number of estates, and was also the town where the teachers to the Aborignal villages resided, like Isaac DCruz and Satanam. It was during this time in early 1969 that Mrs. Lily Ng, one of the daughters of Yankee Leong asked me to conduct children’s classes at the Bahai Center. Sobhana and her siblings attended the children’s classes regularly as they were staying close to the center. Sobhana and her siblings were very disciplined and were always looking forward for the class. They usually arrived very early and were very attentive. After the class, they would stay on and meet many Baha’i friends who would come in to meet Yankee Leong. Thereafter I met Sobhana few times and knew she had become very active. I was sad to learn of her passing to the Abha Kingdom at an early age. I thought to myself, had she lived longer, she would have done more for the Cause. I was wrong. Reading this tribute to Sobhana, I am convinced that she seems to have done what one would have done in a long life on this earthly plane. The range of her services, the impact of her commitment, and the countless number of people she has touched are well mentioned in this tribute.

    Such are the ones the miserably failing world needs today, to make this a better place for all.

    Praying for her noble soul to scale lofty heights in the unseen Realms

    C. Kanagaratnam
    Scottsdale
    Arizona
    USA

  29. I was very little to know many things when Shobhana was flying high in the path of the Faith. I remember her for her beautiful smile always. Shobhana made her presence known with utmost humility and her bubbly personality. I am extremely thankful to Mr. Manisegaran for giving us a deeper insight of her life that’s only love and passion for the Faith. The story was so detailed snd precise that made me wonder what great legacy Shobhana has left us and how inspiring for us all to keep rallying where she left off in this mortal world.

    Presna Narasiah Carlsson
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  30. I had never known Sobhana personally, but had heard many lovely stories of her from some elders in the Faith. I then developed a high sense of regret for not having lived during her days. But reading her story in the blog not only brought tears, but also gave me a very wonderful feeling. I was simply awed by her exemplary spirit, her faith and most importantly her love towards Baha’u’llah. I believe it was her love which was translated into actions, spurring her to be involved in service to humanity till the very last moments of her life. To sum up she seemed to have followed what Bahaullah had said in the Hidden words: Let deeds, not words be your adorning. And the same was said eariler by Tahirih the Pure to Quddus at the home of Bahaullah. We could take pride that the Faith has followers who do adhere tenaciously to this tenet. Sobhana is one of them.

    Aruna Kumarasamy
    Sungei Petani
    Kedah
    Malaysia

  31. Dear Manisegaran,

    I read your story on Sobhana with gripping attention. I have seen her at the Bahai National Center in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur occasionally. I do not remember talking to her even once.
    Reading her story conveys the bare truth that Sobhana was indeed a valiant soul of Baha’u’llah who had led a truly powerful exemplary life of a Baha’i youth. It is surely her story that every Baha’i youth has to read to help one understand the importance of serving the Faith relentlessly no matter what the circumstance be. The most touching part is how she honoured her mother. How I wish all of us could be like her. My prayers for her soul and her family.

    Easuary Dreamer
    Vanuatu

  32. Mani.
    I remember Sobhana well. When I came back from New Zealand, Sobhana, Bernard Ong, Venugopal, Dorai and I served on the National Bahá’í Youth Committee. She was committed, dedicated, loving and joyful and such a pleasure to serve with her. We were all saddened when she passed away so young. We all did not expect it.

    You are doing such a wonderful service. Well done old friend! All are indeed indebted to you for recording down the not to be forgotten heroes and heroines. Your works will assist greatly the future researchers on Bahá’í history

    Professor Dr. Jimmy Seow
    Perth
    Western Australia

  33. Read was moved to tears.
    That was a very beautiful and heart-touching story of a youth who was filled with the deepest of love for the Faith. It also tells us the history of a family whose lives were immersed in the path of service. In the case of Sohhana, she may have faced, ups and downs in life. But she soldiered on and displayed strength and fortitude, with the full spirit she found in the Faith. Ultimately she emerged triumphant to live in history of the Faith and in our hearts.

    Shyama Evelyn Thevar
    CANADA

  34. I read the amazing story of Sobhana Kumaran. It is very moving and wonderful and a must read by the youths of today.

    Trying for excellence was her motto and she achieved it, both spiritually and academically, not to forget her goodness in hockey. The story of her life stands out to every Baha’i youth to ponder. It is a good example for them in their young lives. Another factor to bring to mind was the support of her family members and the good relationships they shared. Also her beautiful mind and soul, brightened by the Light of the Faith that led her to all her achievements. I bow to her and pray for the progress of her blessed soul.

    Kalo Fakatou
    Redwood City
    California
    USA

  35. Thank you for sharing your moving account of Sobhana’s life and indelible contributions to the Faith – although it is more than 18 years since she left us, her warmth, radiance and shining spirit are still a source of great inspiration and she often comes to mind in our daily lives. A few memories from those years include the joyful times of the three day visit to Haifa, Akka and Bahji with Shashi and Sobhana’s mother when we had little notion of the troubles that lay ahead; and books – Sobhana was always surrounded by books – both Baha’i literature and her PhD studies on literature from the colonial times – Kipling, Conrad, and others – and it took Shashi the best part of two years to organize and disseminate the collection to family, friends and the University Malaya and USM libraries.
    Her final months when she was living with Shashi and I were tough, but marked by a constant flow of family and good friends who provided comfort and very real assistance such as accompanying her to numerous hospital appointments. We were blessed by their presence and they remain our good friends today.
    She lives on in our hearts and prayers.

    Crawford Prentice
    United Kingdom

  36. Dear Mani,
    Many thanks for this lovely write-up on my dear sister. I am very touched to read the many comments left by people who knew Sobhana. She would be very humbled by their comments. Sobhana’s passing was a great loss indeed to my family. Being the eldest daughter, she paved the way for me and my sisters to do many things that other girls in our generation did not get the opportunity to do. She was our inspiration and together with my mother, provided the strong family ties and principles that last until today. I often wish that my sons, nieces and nephews had spent more time with her. They would have seen her love for the Faith and her tireless dedication, as her siblings had. Wherever in the world she went, she ended up with some responsibility for the Bahai community and she loved it. In the last days of her life, Sobhana often reminded us not to forget her -how could we? This tribute will remain as evidence that she is still remembered with such fondness 18 years on. She is etched in our memories forever and will never be forgotten. Thanks very much Mani for your dedication to record her life and contributions.

    Shashi Kumaran
    United Kingdom

    1. Shashi,

      I’m devastated to have heard only now of Sobhana’s passing. I will never forget her, though we had to part far too soon. I am very moved by her life story and all the tributes to her. May she rest in peace.

      Rod Bolitho
      United Kingdom

  37. Dear Manisegaran
    When I was a youth I attended Bahai activities at the Bahai Centre in Seremban, In almost each of my trip to the Baha’i centre, I used to see a group of children from ages 3 to 9 coming to the Bahai centre, with full enthusiasm, mainly to participate in the children classes that Mrs Lily Ng conducted. I learnt they were the children of Mr. P.A. Kumaran, himself a believer, living just behind the Bahai Centre.

    Among the children my eyes fell on the outstanding and the eldest- Sobhana who had a big pair of sparkling eyes, with long eyelashes. I was wondering how nice it would have been if I too could have eyes like hers. That was the first impression. As time flew, I saw her and her siblings growing in the Faith, with Sobhana taking the lead in guiding them. And they all have done well in the Faith.

    There is a strong message in her story-that it takes the eldest to lead the others. The Bahai world can take this story as a tested path in grooming the youngsters in the Faith.

    I pray for her soul to rest in peace and progress in all the worlds of God.

    Jenny Wong
    Seremban
    Malaysia

  38. I remember this little girl Sobhana. Right up to the mid 1960s I used to frequent the Baha’i Centre in Seremban, and saw her and her siblings at the Centre almost each time I was there. They used to sit together and pay attention to everything that was going on. I was made to understand that they were the children of Mr. P.A. Kumaran, with whom I had conversed. Though Kumaran slowed down in his activities, perhaps owing to his age, his wife Madam Ambiga Rao caught the spirit and pushed them to the forefront of activities. I left in May 1967 to India as a pioneer.

    But in my return visits to Malaysia I used to inquire about the communities I had known. One of the great news was these children coming up well in the Cause. This story about Sobhana sums them all. She has set a perfect example in guiding her siblings, with herself showing the way. She is certainly a shining example in the annals of the Faith in Malaysia, and an inspiration to one and all.

    Sad she had been called to the Kingdom on High at an early age. Perhaps she has grown faster for her age, to be transplanted in the Abha Kingdom to continue growing there. Who knows the wisdom of our Creator?

    Dr. S. Vasudevan
    Pune
    India

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