REMEMBERING S.L. THEVAR

REMEMBERING S.L. THEVAR

12 March 1927 to 4 April 1999

This is a moving story of how a husband and wife teamed up perfectly well and supported each other in serving the Faith tirelessly until the end of their lives. In both family matters and in serving the Faith they drew strength from each other and became a role model for many during their lifetime.

Mr. Suppiah Lechumanan Thevar, popularly called S. L. Thevar was born in Malacca on  12 March 1927. His father was headmaster in Penang Free School. His mother was the first non-white headmistress in then British Malaya. Thevar’s mother was a Christian and his father a Hindu, but they did not practice any religion at home. Thevar was basically a free thinker and an independent-minded person since young. During the Second World War, when Thevar was still in his late teens, he was sent to Japan to be trained as an officer in the Indian National Army to liberate India from the British. However, by the time Thevar returned to India to join others in liberating the country from British rule, the war was over. In India, Thevar pursued some studies on administration at the request of his father, and after completion of his studies, he came back to Malaya and joined the Malayan Civil Service, when the country was still under British rule.


Thevar, left, as a teenager undergoing training in Japan

Thevar came to know about the Faith while in Penang when he was given the book “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era” by John Esslemont.  As an intellect with keen mental bearing, he raised many questions after reading the book, but he was not given clear answers to satisfy his quest. Yet, after deeper investigation and keen reflection, he accepted the Faith in Penang on 5 October 1959. That was the beginning of forty years of tireless, relentless, and committed service for the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh in various capacities. As soon as he accepted the Faith, Thevar got transferred to Kuala Lumpur to work as a Chief Clerk with the Tuberculosis Clinic. Just before accepting the Faith, Thevar went to India on the persuasion of his parents and got married to Miss Philomena Sakunthala who was a distant relative.


Thevar, when he moved into Kuala Lumpur

His coming to Kuala Lumpur was timely, as the Bahá’í community was struggling to have the Local Spiritual Assembly elected each year, with Mr. Wong Kok Meng, holding the fort as a kind of lone-ranger. Taking cognizance of the sad situation in Kuala Lumpur, some believers from other communities visited Kuala Lumpur often to give a helping hand to raise the community to a higher pedestal. Leong Tat Chee from Malacca and Yankee Leong from Seremban were among those who came quite often.  In 1960, Thevar was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuala Lumpur and became its secretary. He then wrote a letter dated 19 May 1960 to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Penang asking for the transfer of his declaration card to Kuala Lumpur.  As Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuala Lumpur, he worked arduously for the progress of the Cause and the community. It was in Kuala Lumpur that he read about the Faith widely and got a deeper understanding from the visitors from abroad, and at various conferences. It was in October 1960 that he was privileged to attain the presence of Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Collis Featherstone when the latter came for his first visit to the country. That meeting created yet another impact upon his soul. Thevar, as a believer of the Ten-Year Crusade period, had the bounty of attaining the presence of several Hands of the Cause of God who came to Malaysia and participating continuously in most major events in the country. He was one of those who was well-known among the earliest builders of the foundation in this country.

During his tenure as Secretary of the Local Assembly in 1960, many activities were successfully initiated.  He set such a high standard of administrative procedures in accordance with the Bahá’í principles that the report of the Second Pan Malayan Teaching Conference held in December 1961 in Kuala Lumpur read:  “S. L. Thevar’s special abilities as a most efficient secretary have been recognised by most Bahá’ís who have had the good fortune to have had dealings with him.” With the hard work, he undertook along with other believers, by the end of 1960 the Bahá’í community in Kuala Lumpur had about 20 believers. In 1960 when the National Centre Building Committee was officially formed to expedite the acquisition of a Bahá’í Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Thevar was appointed on to this Committee. He was also appointed to be a representative of the Area and State Teaching Committee to develop the Kuala Lumpur area.

Although Thevar proved to be an able administrator and a good organizer, his passion was always for field teaching and he was always ready to go for teaching trips. During his stay in Kuala Lumpur for about one year, he had undertaken teaching trips open up the towns of Klang, Rawang, and  Kuala Kubu Baru, apart from teaching in Kuala Lumpur itself.

In 1961, the dynamic Thevar was transferred from Kuala Lumpur to work in the Land Office in Temerloh town in the state of Pahang.   Thevar was the first and the only key believer in Temerloh as he arrived there in 1961. He realised he had much to do for the Cause and started to teach the Faith to his friends. The Faith in Temerloh started to take root with his active involvement during the two years he was there.  Thevar’s first child, a baby girl Shyama Evelyn Thevar was born on  17 November 1961, and the joy Thevar had was boundless.

Thevar was then posted to Kuantan town in the same state as Pahang in 1963.  In early 1963, there were three believers in Kuantan. From the time Thevar came to Kuantan, he concentrated on building this community. Using Thevar’s house as the base, intensive teaching activities took place.  In 1963, Bahá’ís from Malacca and Seremban visited Kuantan and other east coast places for teaching. In the mid-1960s, the Bahá’ís from the West Coast of Malaysia undertook some teaching trips to introduce the Faith to several places in the East Coast and that included Kuantan town as well.  Thevar as the Chairman of the National Teaching and Consolidation Committee at that time gave a helping hand in arranging their visits to the towns of Kuala Terengganu, Kemaman, and  Dungun in the state of  Terengganu, and the town of Kota Bahru in the state of Kelantan.  Thevar’s house was therefore a springboard for opening up new areas for the Faith in the East Coast.

Meanwhile, in 1963 when Shyama was two years old, Thevar’s wife Philomena passed away suddenly in Kuantan. That was the time when Philomena was expecting her second child. When she was admitted to the hospital the doctors had injected penicillin, without testing if she was allergic to penicillin. As she was allergic to penicillin, she dropped dead. Thevar was very devastated, not knowing how to bring up his infant daughter. Philomena being from the Anglican Church was not a believer in the Bahá’í Faith. Respecting her belief, Thevar had some church-going ladies to dress her before giving her a befitting burial. Thevar had to move on with life and  he derived his spirit and strength in the Faith. Thevar was interested in teaching the Cause, but being unable to speak in the Tamil language he was looking for a translator.  It so happened that while Thevar was on the lookout for a translator an early believer of Kuantan from the Chinese background by the name of Mr. Koh took Thevar to the home of  the mother of Miss Arputha Mary in Semambau Village in the suburbs of Kuantan town. There Thevar gave the talk in English to the family which was translated by Arputha Mary known as Mary. This family belonged to the Protestant denomination of the Christian Faith and was actively involved in the activities of the Methodist Church. Mary  was also a kindergarten teacher at the Methodist Girls School in Kuantan. Thevar continued to teach her the Faith and gave biblical proofs on the return of Christ. The claim of Bahá’u’lláh as the Promised One of all ages and the return of Christ in the Glory of the Father was for Mary too strong to accept.  But one day she had a dream, which she immediately related to Thevar. In her dream, Jesus Christ appeared and told her, “I have returned, and why have you not accepted Me?” Thevar immediately invited her to the Bahá’í  Centre, which was his home at that time. There, Mary saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s picture on the wall. Startled,  she exclaimed, “This is the same man in my dream.” Thevar immediately sat with her and explained about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His station in the Bahá’í  Faith. With no further reservations, Mary accepted the Faith and decided to dedicate her entire life to the Cause.


A budding Kuantan community in early 1964. At the extreme left is Miss Arputha Mary, and at the extreme right is T.K. Kannan visiting from Terengganu where he was teaching. Holding the symbol of the Greatest Name is Pavadai. Standing at the extreme left is Thevar

In 1964, the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuantan was formed.  Thevar married Mary on 20 December 1964 in Seremban  Bahá’í Centre followed by a tea reception. The marriage received the widest publicity in the Bahá’í News Magazine published by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. A photograph of those who came for the reception was published in the magazine along with this news. Some more than one hundred believers in the southern part of Malaysia attended this reception in Seremban. S. Satanam who became his closest friend says he was tasked with arranging the tea party with M$50,  which was a huge sum in 1964. Back in Kuantan town, there was widespread talk about two “Indians” getting married without a priest and according to a new religion called “Bahá’í”. That marriage was one single occasion the word Bahá’í was on the lips of many people for some time to come. This marriage opened a new and dynamic chapter in the life of Thevar with  Mary becoming Thevar’s perfect companion in life and in the field of service. Soon Mrs. Thevar brought her ycousin sister Mrs. Maria and Maria’s husband Paul Munusamy into the Faith. In stages all the children of Maria too accepted the Faith and rose to serve the Cause with distinction.


Wedding reception at the Bahá’í Centre in Seremban

Sometime after the marriage, Mary resigned as a teacher to be a full-time homemaker and teacher of the Cause. This marriage was the beginning of a union that saw them opening their homes and serving the Faith as one single soul in two different bodies, till the passing of Mary. They consulted on each and every family matter and proved to be a perfect union. In all aspects of the Faith, nothing was undertaken without the couple consulting with each other.  Thevar was very fluent in the English language and had a great proficiency in the language. Conversing with him was such a pleasure and always uplifting. In his conversations, Thevar chose the right words with great care. He always spoke with exalted and emphatic tones when giving the Faith at firesides. But he had one weakness. He could not converse well in the Tamil language in which his wife was fluent. Thevar’s marriage to Mary in a way enabled him to learn the Tamil language to teach the Faith to the simple people. This marriage brought forth two children. The elder, a girl born on 24 October 1966 was named Chitra Sakunthala Thevar in remembrance of his first wife – Philomena Sakuntala. The second was a son Ahilan Sumander Thevar born on 26 August 1968.


Early photo of the family of the Thevars. Children L-R: Shyama, Sumander and Chitra

Their home was the  Bahá’í Centre for the Kuantan community. Most of the activities were held in their home. The Thevars indeed became the focal point around whom the believer rallied.  There were regular firesides and Nineteen Day Feasts. The Thevars devoted Saturdays for traveling outside Kuantan for teaching activities in the nearby estates, with his wife presenting the Message in the Tamil language.

In 1967, Thevar was transferred from Kuantan to work in the courts in Kuala Lumpur. With that transfer, they resided in Kajang town, where the couple was again giving all the needed assistance to the Kajang community and participated in all the activities in Kuala Lumpur. From Kajang, they moved to Setapak in 1969. In Kuala Lumpur, they were involved in daily teaching. The Thevars visited the home of the three Sinhalese sisters – Mona, Molly, and Irene at their home and they accepted the Faith in 1970.  In 1972, the Thevars moved to their own house in Happy Gardens in Petaling. At this time, Thevar was working as Chief Clerk in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, and his home once again became a centre of activities. Thevar was actively serving on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Petaling for many years. He was also a favourite speaker at firesides organised in the region, and he used to present the Faith with his excellent command of the English language. For the youth from outstation, Thevar’s home was a sanctuary and shelter. When Thanabalan returned from travel teaching in Africa in early 1973, he rented a room in their house, until he married Maureen on 30 June 1974. Mary was a very good cook who provided excellent hospitality for them. Mr. Lum Weng Hoe was one youth who avoided the Faith when the Faith was given in Petaling Jaya and transferred his residence and stayed close to the home of the Thevars in Happy Garden. He befriended the Thevars and through their sincere gesture and kindness and hospitality accepted the Faith.  Whenever Mary met youths at any gathering she would invite them to her home for meals. She enjoyed cooking and threw lunches and dinners to have a constant flow of visitors to her house. On Sundays, she would organise heavy breakfast as well. Their home buzzed with activities. Almost every evening this family used to take early dinner and drove down to visit friends for fellowship. They also took their children on such trips. Almost every week during their stay in Happy Gardens, Mr. and Mrs. Thevar made teaching trips to several places in Selangor, both urban and rural.  Youth like Ayahkannu, T. Maniam, and Apparao were among those who accompanied them for such teaching trips to the rural areas. Whenever Dr. Sreenivasan wanted to approach the Tamil-speaking enquirers, he relied heavily on the service of Mary.

The one other activity, unbeknown to many was their quiet involvement in charity works. Giving to the needy was part of their life. They would often visit orphanages, especially the Pure Life Society in the Puchong area, and donate whatever they could to assist the needs of the orphans. They also taught their children to donate to the poor and needy instead of having lavish birthday celebrations.  Mary was by nature a very generous-hearted person. Generosity was simply second nature in her. Many years later, S. Satanam related to his close friends, with emotions, that when he and some friends were teaching in Kuantan, a poor lady with little children cried to Mary about her poverty. Mary immediately took off her gold chain from her neck and gave her.  Satanam was almost in tears when he witnessed that incident. Likewise, when she was a kindergarten teacher there was a boy whom the other teachers looked down on as he was a slow learner. But Mary showed much concern for him and trained him personally.  That boy later drew a very beautiful portrait of the Thevars, which they kept with them when still alive and now in the possession of the children.

In 1977, their eldest daughter Shyama was sent to India to take up a bachelor’s degree in economics at the Holy Cross College in the city of  Trichirappally of Trichy. It was in the same year that there was a call for the Tamil-speaking believers to pioneer to India. Mrs. Thevar at that advanced age expressed her desire to pioneer with the family. At that time Mary was not too well.  She was a juvenile diabetic (diabetic from her teen years) and insulin-dependent. Yet she wanted to make Bahá’u’lláh happy through this one service of serving the Cause abroad. Thevar was English-educated while Mary was fluent in her Tamil language. To fulfill Mary’s desire, Thevar agreed to rise to the call. At that time Thevar was holding the position of Senior Clerk in the Welfare Department. Instead of waiting for his compulsory retirement at the age of fifty-five, he went on optional retirement at the age of 50 to pioneer to India. The several friends who had known the family were sad to see them leaving, including the Tamil-speaking friends. The Petaling Jaya community threw a farewell tea party which was a joyous and sad occasion. But they did not fail to admire the Thevars for setting such a fine example of pioneering at an old age and taking along their children.  In July 1978, Mr. and Mrs. Thevar pioneered to Tamilnadu with their children – daughter Chitra and son  Sumander and who were well trained in the children’s classes to serve the Cause.  The children were sent to the New Era High School in Panchgani, Maharashtra, India while the Thevars were involved in the day-to-day pioneering activities.


Onboard the Ocean Liner Chidambaram in Port Klang. Some believers from Sungei Buloh Estate and from Petaling Jaya came to send them off

Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir spotted Thevar in Chennai, the capital city of Tamilnadu. On a number of occasions, Thevar had received Dr. Muhájir from the Subang International Airport in Malaysia when the latter came on a visit. They had known each other back in Malaysia. As soon as Dr. Muhájir’s eyes fell on Thevar, he asked him what he was doing in India. Thevar explained that his family had come for pioneering when the call for pioneering came a call that was initiated by Dr. Muhájir himself. Dr. Muhájir who was very pleased appreciated him and mentioned that the Tamil-speaking believers from Malaysia could cause waves in India through their ever fruit-bearing services.

Upon arriving in Tamilnadu, India, they established their base in the city of Trichy. But life was not easy for them. They had suddenly uprooted themselves from their comfortable life in Malaysia and plunged into an unknown and alien life, with lots of culture shocks in store. One of the first major activities was the organising of a large-scale teaching conference in Trichy.


Visitors to the home of the Thevars on the eve of the Bahá’í Conference in Trichy. L-R: Mrs. Achuthan, Rani Datwani and Mrs. Latiff


The Thevars seated at the main table, with Malaysian pioneer Doraisamy speaking at the Bahá’í Teaching Conference

Shortly after arriving in Trichy, Mrs. Thevar developed a big ulcer between her first and second toe fingers, and the doctor said she may have to amputate her foot. Thevar urged his wife to return to Malaysia for treatment while he would stay on and continue serving. But she totally rejected the idea and decided to stay on in the pioneering field and resorted to prayers, leaving her fate in the hands of the True Physician Bahá’u’lláh. Eventually, through the grace of Bahá’u’lláh, her wound healed, much to the puzzlement of her family doctor. The Thevars saw the helping hand of Bahá’u’lláh in times of distress, and they could continue their teaching activities.

In 1979, Thevar was appointed Auxiliary Board member for Propagation and he travelled extensively. In accompanying Thevar to the villages,  Mary served as his eloquent translator. In the several visits to the villages, they developed a good rapport with them and won their hearts. By and large, the caste system had eaten into the fabrics of the Indian society and this ill practice was showing its ugly face at any given opportunity. The Thevars adhered tenaciously to the teachings of the Cause and showed their sincere and genuine love for them by taking drinks and meals in their huts. On many occasions, the villagers were also invited to their home in Trichy town. The village people saw in the Thevars that they truly practiced what they preached. That gesture alone became instrumental in the Thevars creating inroads into the villages and into the hearts of those dwellers.


Three Board members seated L-R: Mr. McDonald, Mr. Thevar and Mr. Bahá’í Poostchi at a gathering in Karaikkal town opened to the Faith during the Ten-Year Crusade period by Knight of Bahá’u’lláh Mrs. S. M. Noorani standing at the extreme right

Thevar by himself was already picking up the Tamil language well and had a great influence in increasing the teaching intensity in Trichy. By Ridván 1979, a new  Bahá’í Centre was rented in the heart of the city. In 1980, Mrs. Thevar served as Chairperson of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Trichy. The Faith was already placed on a higher pedestal in Trichy within the first three years of their arrival there. In February 1981, the family moved to the city of Madurai on the advice of the Counsellors, to strengthen the community there. In Madurai too Mrs. Thevar, despite her illness, went to teach in many villages with full devotion and sincerity. She cooked Malaysian food for the  Bahá’í youth and provided good hospitality for them, as having done in Malaysia.  There were a number of Persian students who found the home of the Thevars a sanctuary. To the Persian youths, the Thevars were their own parents to whom they could confide all matters and a shoulder to lean on emotionally and spiritually. Their devotion to the Faith attracted many to the Faith. There was a time when the Sri Lankan refugees came to Madurai city in large numbers and were placed in resettlement areas.  The Thevars sent them food and other basic necessities. There was a time when the Thevars fed a homeless beggar daily until they stayed in the city of Madurai. Whenever the poorest came by the gate, Mary would pack some food and hand it to a person, foregoing her own share at times.

Mary at the extreme left, among some women in a village near Madurai city


Mary among children who attended her children’s classes in Madurai

In Madurai, their range of activities also widened. Their activities were holding children’s classes, youth programs, women’s activities, prayer meetings, study classes, deepening gatherings, educating the poor children, helping poor families, and involving in charitable causes. Thevar concentrated on running youth deepening classes. In the absence of a telephone at home, they had to visit people door to door to remind the believers about the meetings. Buses do not go into the remotest villages. They had to take buses to the town nearest to the village and walk miles to reach the interiors. When buses did not run to some villages, Thevar rented bicycles and rode, with Mary sitting at the back. Thevar was never a cyclist, but it was in such moments that he took up cycling for the Cause  These were challenging times, but they never gave up and kept going for their committed meetings.

It must be said that they did undergo many tests and tribulations while in India. Yet they had inner happiness derived from those very sufferings. They loved India with all its scorching heat, dust, and congestion in life as there was so much work to do be done for the Faith. While they were enjoying every moment of serving the Cause in India, they were dictated by circumstances to return to Malaysia. The new immigration regulation required them to have long-term visas to stay on in India, and the renewal process and requirements were becoming extremely difficult. That was also the time when Mary’s health was also deteriorating fast. It was really with a very sad and heavy heart that they had to reluctantly return to Malaysia in June 1985, after toiling for the Faith for seven years. The believers in Tamilnadu were extremely sad to see them return to Malaysia. The Chennai community gave a farewell party in the Chennai  Bahá’í Centre.


Board Member and Iranian Pioneer to Tamilnadu Mr. Bahá’í Poostchi hugging Thevar at the farewell gathering in the Madras  Bahá’í  Centre

Upon return to Malaysia, they were faced with re-adjustment issues. In 1984, while the family was still in Tamilnadu, Thevar’s eldest daughter Shyama migrated to Canada from India. Dictated by circumstances the Thevars had to sell off their house in Happy Gardens in Malaysia.  When the Thevars returned to Malaysia in 1985 they first stayed for a few days in the home of the Satanams in Seremban and later found a house for rent in the Blossom Heights in the same town.  Thevar’s children Chitra and Sumander who were still studying in India, returned a year later to join their parents. In 1986 Thevar served as Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Seremban.  The family finally settled in Klang town and joined the activities there. Before leaving for India, their house in the Happy Gardens was buzzing with activities, and visitors kept coming almost every day. Now they did not have a house of their own and a to keep shifting from place to place. They had to live with the small pension drawn by Thevar, and the luxuries of the yore years were drastically reduced. But they had one great strength and comfort – the ever-burning love for the Blessed Beauty. Their warm hospitality that was a second nature in them continued in their own humble ways.

With the fast-failing health, Mary prayed for some of her wishes to be fulfilled. First, she and her husband went to Ontario in Canada in 1987 to visit their eldest daughter Shyama and her children. Taking advantage of this trip they also went to the House of Worship in Chicago and to the beloved Guardian’s resting place. At the Guardian’s resting place Mary was highly emotional that she stood at the threshold sobbing for a long time. That was most fulfilling to them at a time when they could not visit the Holy Land.


The Thevars at the  Bahá’í House of Worship in Chicago, USA


Mary at the resting place of the Guardian

They returned to Malaysia and tried to carry on with life. But a time came when Mary could not drag on any further. She had a premonition that her days were approaching. She made two requests to Thevar – one was that nobody should shed tears on her death, and the next was that Thevar should distribute sweets on the day of her passing. Suppressing his emotions, Thevar complied to carry out her last wishes when the time came. On 4 March 1989, Mrs. Mary Thevar ascended to the Abhá Kingdom of sudden heart failure in Klang town at the age of 48. Thevar who was her life companion and drew so much strength from her was totally at loss and felt utterly devastated. Though visibly shaken he managed to keep his cool as per her last wish, and urged those who came to pay their last respects not to shed tears, as per the request of his wife. That was a very difficult promise to carry out. Although Thevar knew that his wife had gone to a more blissful world, her passing sapped him of his strength, shield, and the greatest teaching companion.


A lonely Thevar and friends with some believers from the Odisha community. L-R: Bornoh Das, S. Satanam, Thevar, Lee Wai Kok

Following Mary’s passing, Thevar was totally dejected and did not desire to live long. In every conversation with friends, he invariably was praising the greatness of his wife. During moments of privacy, he was praying to be removed from the earth faster. Realizing his depressed condition, his eldest daughter Shyama invited Thevar to be with her in Canada.  Thevar went to Canada in 1991  and stayed with her. In Canada, he was on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Cornwall, Ontario. From Canada, he went to participate in the Second Bahá’í World Congress held in New York in November 1992. As he could not get accustomed to the cold and chilly climate in Canada, he came back in 1994 to reside with his daughter Chitra in Selayang, in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. He served on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Selayang on and off until his stroke in 1997. He succumbed to partial body paralysis and his walking was impaired. He fought hard and managed to recover to some extent. He then moved to a nearby simple apartment in Batu Caves. With his ill health, he still tried to be on the move for teaching. But without his wife around, the teaching spirit was not there in him. He spent his last days thinking of his wife. Whenever close friends wanted to take him out for dinner, he would decline saying, “No, thank you. Nothing could match my wife’s cooking.” As loneliness was killing him, he sent word to meet friends. Some of his close friends visited him from time to time to cheer him up during moments of loneliness in that remote apartment. In the author’s visit to Thevar in Batu Caves,  out of blues, Thevar made a request that when he passed away the author should read out his eulogy. The author felt that it was just one more emotional explosion by a lonely man.

Sundays were Thevar’s regular teaching days. On  the morning of Sunday 4 April 1999 Thevar sent his car to the workshop for some repairs and and drove  his daughter Chitra’s car  to visit Mr. Kariippanon Palaniappan popularly known as Karu in Sungei Buloh town. Karu is married to Kalai Selvi,  daughter of Maria, who is the younger sister of Mary. At that moment of Thevar’s visit to Sungei Buloh,  Karu was living in  Kelantan state and used to visit Sungei Buloh over weekends to monitor the status of the Nuri Tuition Centre that belonged to him.

After lunch at Karu’s home on 4 April, Thevar asked the latter for a favor  –  to perform the final rites for him when he died. Karu just laughed it off as one of any old man’s wishes. But Karu felt he would not be able to perform the last rites, given that he was living in a faraway Kelantan. After conversing for a while, both of them went to a nearby restaurant for tea. Thevar ordered thosai (South Indian pancake)  and tea. As he was sipping the tea and eating the thosai Thevar said, “All the sacrifices we are making for the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh are mere physical sacrifices, but we have to rise higher to make a lot of spiritual sacrifices as well…”. As he uttered these words he collapsed on the table. The restaurant owner phoned  Karu’s wife Kalai Selvi,  and she rushed over with her car with which they transported Thevar to a nearby clinic. There the doctor pronounced Thevar dead upon arrival and requested Karu to take Thevar to the government hospital. Thevar was taken to Sungei Buloh government hospital where his death was confirmed.

Thevar’s body was kept in the house of Karu and his last rites were performed by him as requested by Thevar. His close friends knew that he was missing his dear wife for one decade, though the heart attack was just the last straw on the camel’s back.  He was laid to rest in the  Bahá’í Memorial Park in Seremban.

Some days after the passing of Thevar, a memorial service was held in a school in Sungei Buloh town organised by Karu and his wife Kalai Selvi, where the author spoke of the life and services of Thevar, as had requested by Thevar.

Throughout his life, Thevar was a writer of letters to numerous people. In his letters to Bahá’ís, he would always start off with “He is God” and end with “In His Service.” His last words were for all to sacrifice more for the Cause.

Thus ended a life of a devoted and faithful follower of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.  Thevar was always highly defensive of the Faith and stood for the protection of its image for which he could sometimes be very hard-hitting. But deep inside he was a very warm-hearted person, full of care and compassion. Without the knowledge of many, he had helped the needy believers. He was very fair-minded and level-headed in his judgment. At Local Assembly meetings, he could reason out things and solve complicated matters with ease and wisdom.  In the outside world too, he was known as a very sincere and straightforward gentleman.

Thevar and Mary had been a great model as to how a couple should serve the Cause as one soul in different bodies, caring and praying for each other, sharing one thought and one purpose, placing the Faith above everything else, making  Bahá’u’lláh the centre of their lives and relying fully on His unfailing assistance and mercy under all circumstances. Theirs was clearly and undoubtedly a path less travelled.

 

A. Manisegaran

30 September 2021

Copyright@bahairecollections.com

 

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41 thoughts on “REMEMBERING S.L. THEVAR

  1. Read the story of Mr Thevar with the greatest interest.

    I first met Mr. and Mrs. Thevar at a Bahai gathering in Kuala Lumpur in 1967, and in that meeting I informed them of my posting to Kuantan Air base. They both became excited and insisted that l visit them before l leave for Kuantan. When I went to their home l was tremendously impressed by Mr. Thevar as he spoke in polished English. I observed that his knowledge of the Faith was vast and deep. He surely appeared as a kind but domineering person. They both insisted that l visit the home of Mrs. Thevar in Kuantan suburbs and they had informed the family of my intending visit.

    Next I was at the home of Mrs. Thevar which soon had become my weekend retreats during my posting in Kuantan. Both of them had left a lasting impression on me and l always remember Mrs Thevar’s sweet smile. To sum up, they both were very kind souls. Reading the story I can see they had some special roles in the Faith, which they had carried out to their best.

    Munusamy Nathamuni
    Rawang
    Malaysia

  2. Mani ,

    Your portrayal of Mr. Thevar’s life and service to the Cause is truly remarkable. His unrelenting, dedicated and sincere work for the Faith is most inspiring and exemplary.

    I recall my meeting with in him in Kuantan in Kalai Selvi’ s family home. He was such a committed servant of the Blessed Beauty. I would bravely state that he was solely responsible for the beginning of the Faith in Kuantan. I also know those in the picture of the Assembly members, especially Mr. Pavadai who is holding the symbol of the Greatest Name. Thevar should be remembered for his untiring efforts to promote and consolidate the Faith. Your write up on Thevar’s life will inspire generations to come.

    On another note, recently Selvi contacted me about her mother’s failing health, I did my part in saying prayers for her. We are all connected, with the connections established by the Thevars.

    You are really chosen and blessed, to have put into permanent record the work of the early believers of the Faith in Malaysia. I am fortunate to be reading stories believers of whom no mentions had been made elsewhere.

    God Bless you always.

    Professor Dr. Anantha Krishnan
    Puchong
    Malaysia

  3. I read the story of the Thevars.
    As I remember, when I was a young girl, uncle Thevar used to come to our home in Kolar Gold Field in Karnataka State of India for teaching the Faith.
    When they were in Madurai city of Tamilnadu, uncle and aunty became my parents. When my husband Vahid and I travelled in Tamilnadu, we always had a home to stay.

    They showered us with love and affection. Uncle also was a great support for my late brother Mohan Vijaykumar who was chief security officer at the Bahai House of Worship in New Delhi. Uncle was a great support to my brother and his wife during their children’s birth.

    My husband used to be Director of Baha’i Tutorial Schools in Tamil Nadu. We have travelled many times, most of the time my husband travelled by himself. To educate the teachers, attend conferences and meetings etc.

    My family is truly blessed to have known the Thevars.

    Lalitha Mohan
    Regina Saskatchwan
    Canada

  4. Thank you so much Uncle Manisegaran for the beautiful write up on my parents. Recording their services for the Faith is the best gift from you to them. My parents never wanted recognition or fame. They were just sincere lovers of the Blessed Beauty.

    I miss them everyday. My mom was very fond of you from the time you were a youth. She enjoyed conversing with you in the Tamil language and my father too had a great liking for you for your witty conversation with him. I remember they visited you often when you were a bachelor and squatting in the Bahai Centre of Petaling Jaya. Whenever they came to Malaysia from India they were sure to vixit you or stay with you. You were one of the many closest to my family. No wonder you could write so much about their services, some of which I did not know. I am proud to be their daughter.

    Chitra Thevar
    Seremban
    Malaysia

  5. S.L. Thevar is an unforgettable believer. Once upon a time, some forty over years ago I declared as a Baha’i in his house in Happy Gardens, of Kuala Lumpur. It was an auspicious occasion and a day to remember forever. I was staying with my elder brother Lum Weng Chew in a rented room of Mr. Leong Ho Chiew at number 8, Jalan Padang in Petaling Jaya, a house that was used as a Bahai Centre. I was then a student studying electrical engineering in the Federal Institute of Technology. Wow! Thinking back of those fondest memories….!

    Lum Weng Hup
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  6. Read the beautiful life story in one go and thrilled to learn about their love for Baha’u’llah and living only for Him…

    Such a moving real story where two bodies lived as one to serve the Cause despite facing all difficulties. They had sacrificed everything and living for the beloved Faith alone.

    My salutations respect and honour to the true lovers of Baha’u’llah.

    Warm regards
    Abbas Amreliwalla
    Indida

  7. Mr. S.L. Thevar was the Master of Ceremony appointed by the Local Spiritual Assembly of Seremban for our wedding in Tong Fong Restaurant of Seremban. That was in 1975.
    He and his family were staying in Rasah Jaya near our house in Seremban for a very short period.

    My husband Mariappan and I loved the company of the Thevars. Their company only enhanced our spirit. Most of the conversations were on the Faith. I did not know that the Thevars had done so much for the Faith, thanks to this moving story

    Jenny Wong Mariappan
    Seremban
    Malaysia

  8. Dear Mani,

    That was indeed a very great write up on Uncle and Aunty Thevar. My wife and I have very high regards and respect for both their personal as well as spiritual lives. I called them Uncle and Aunty and even until today I wish to remember them as such.

    I knew them since 1971 when I returned from Singapore after a 8 month pioneering stint there. I was moving very closely with the Thevars till 1978 when they left for India to pioneer. It was during this period that I knew them well, as Assembly members, him serving in Petaling and me in Petaling Jaya. Both these sister Assemblies used to jointly organize teaching projects and other activities. I also singled him out to be the Master of Ceremony for my Bahai wedding in 1975 which he did with much excellence. I owe him immensely for that. He was first reluctant to conduct the wedding giving the excuse that he did not have much experience in conducting weddings. I insisted because I knew he would project a matured stature to my relatives with his mastery of the English language. And true to my expectation he won the admiration of one and all. Seldom had I come across one whose command of the English language was so deep and sound. He knew what phrase to use when driving home a point. L

    All my brothers were very close to him. Mr. Thevar were instrumental in getting my brothers Lum Weng Hoe and Lum Weng Hup to sign the declaration cards.

    Yes, I remembered while I oversaw the records in Canada, I came across records of his teaching activities in Canada. He was a registered member of the Canadian Baha’i community registered under a western name. Unfortunately, he was in Canada before we arrived. We could have been a great team together. My last contact was a phone call before he passed away. It was a slurry conversation, but he knew it was me who called.

    The story shows how the couple had served without expectation of pomp and glory.

    I shall miss him not only really, but also dearly.

    Lum Weng Chew
    Toronto
    Canada

  9. I read this very moving story of Mr. and Mrs Thevar.

    It was very inspiring to read many stories of the early believers of Malaysia. It’s elevating to know their selflessness and service-oriented life.

    In the case of Mr. and Mrs. Thevar it was highly motivating to read the teaching activities of Mr Thevar and his wife offered, especially always opening their home for activities and to get many waiting souls to discover Bahá’u’lláh.

    They seem to be well remembered in Malaysia and India for the great services rendered. From accepting the Faith in 1959 right up to his passing Thevar had no other goal other than promoting the Cause of Bahaullah. And that was a very long period. There had been cases of many who had come early and took backstage after some time. But Thevar was not of this kind. His very last words, uttered just before collapsing was on the urgency to sacrifice for the Cause. I understand that he was breathing in and breathing out the spirit of the Cause- to put it that way. Very seldom have I come across such souls who would die in the Cause as would a moth in fire. If not for this story, I would not have got such a detail picture of this pure and precious soul of whom I had not read in any print media. Hard indeed to believe the Malaysian Bahai community has produced such great souls whose names shall be praised and sung for centuries to come. These are the hidden gems, the unsung heroes and those valiant souls chosen and singled out for a noble purpose, which has been well portrayed in this tear- jerking story. I was moved to tears and now tend to fear if I could be like him. Looks like I need to pull up my socks higher.

    The story of Thevar, as the author rightly mentioned is one of a pair teaming up perfectly well to serve as one soul in two bodies. All along they couple seem to have consulted on every matter and for each other. They had set the finest example of establishing a fortress for well-being.

    May the Blessed Beauty pour lots and lots of blessings and grace upon their enlightened souls.

    Nehru Arunasalam
    Chicago
    USA

  10. Thank you dearest friend Manisegaran.

    It was a pleasure to have known him and accompanied him on his teaching trips. He was a good friend and got along well with all of us although we used to disturb him with his British ways.

    Many now will not remember these good souls.

    V. Theenathayalu
    Shah Alam
    Malaysia

    theenathayalu@gmail.com

  11. Tears rolled down my cheeks while reading the sacrifice by both Mr. and Mrs. Thevar in service in His path. I do not know much about this couple except hearing his name from veteran Baha’s. I have not read about them anywhere else. Though I had heard of the couple from here and there and developed high regards, this story reveals the unexpected. Thank you brother Manisegaran, our living historian for this wonderful story.

    Much to my astonishment, Mrs. Mary had perfectly teamed up with Mr. Thevar in His service all around Malaysia and India with little kids. I must follow their footstep in many ways- in serving the Cause non-stop till the last breath, in sacrificing everything for the Cause, in bringing up the family in the service for the Cause, in consulting on each and every matter, and of course in living for one another. They have set an example- at least for me.

    The touching story has taught me a cardinal lesson, that sacrifice is not confined to physical alone, but spiritual as well while in the service of Blessed Beauty.

    I am very sure that this recollection about Mr and Mrs Thevar will bring out the best in every reader for better service in His path.

    Pandian Thangapandy
    Ipoh
    Malaysia

  12. Dear uncle Manisegaran,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recollection my parents who were naturally down to earth, practical, and devoted pioneers. Your diligent effort is much appreciated for recalling those who have been steadfast and walked in the spirit of Baha u llah.

    We realize in this life that it is all more about serving the Cause with sincerity and humility. My parents had truly lived to serve for the sake of earning the good pleasure of Bahaullah and nothing else. And when serving they did so with deep passion. Serving the Cause was their consistent goal, dream and love, though with all ups and downs.

    Serving the Cause was simply so natural to my parents. Dad was intelligent in deepening and mom did lots of field teaching and humanitarian work. Theirs was a life well lived. Now that their story is well recorded through your fine penmanship with so much details some of which were hitherto unknown to me, they are sure to inspire me and my children and perhaps many others who would read the story.

    God bless you

    Shyama Evelyn Thevar
    British Columbia
    CANADA

  13. Dear Uncle Mani,

    This is yet again another extraordinary story. I’ve read about the contribution of Mr. S. L. Thevar in both your Jewel Among Nations and the Dawnings respectively. However, this particular tribute and recollection of him are so rich in terms of content where one could see dive deep to appreciate his love and passion for the Blessed Beauty in the field of service. The hard work put forth and the high standard set by all these great Stalwarts of the Faith is so intense — that we the younger generation are enjoying the fruit of their hard work. The question is whether we can ever emulate them! I simply feel so unworthy compared to them! Deep inside me however I feel that these saintly souls are watching us, praying for us, and giving us the courage to keep serving our beloved Faith. May his soul be richly awarded in all the worlds of God.

    With loving Bahá’í greetings,

    Vela Gopal
    Phnom Penh, Cambodia

  14. Dear Manisegaran,
    It is indeed a very comprehensive and moving write up on the late Uncle Thevar and his wife. I had the bounty and privilege of associating with Uncle Thevar while serving in the Local Spiritual Assembly of Seremban. In my Bahai life I had encountered many Bahais but in my view the services of Uncle Thevar and his wife clearly surpass many Bahais whom I knew by a very wide margin.

    In 1985 when the Statement on The Promise of World Peace was released by the Universal House of Justice, without wasting time Uncle Thevar, myself and a few Bahais would travel to the nearby estates and presented the documents to the estate managers without. That was done without any appointment at all. He even presented the documents to bank managers in Seremban town.

    When Uncle Thevar’s wife passed away I could see how heartbroken he was at the burial ground located at Labu in Seremban.

    When in the presence of Uncle Thevar one would feel confident and have the needed courage to serve the Cause. While I was in China I received news of his passing and I felt I had lost a very good natured and loving co-worker. At that very moment how I yearned to carrying his coffin on my shoulder and climb the difficult steep slopes of the Labu Seremban Burial Ground to lay him to rest.

    Siew Kang Yong
    Port Dickson
    Malaysia

  15. Thank you so much for the wonderful and meaningful story of Mr. Thevar. It is really inspiring and uplifting my spirit for serving the Cause at a higher level. Mr Thevar and his wife have shown the way for me and many others to serve the Faith. Indeed, such stories of dedication to will surely empower the individual believers in the path of service. This is the right time for every believer to read and learn about the life history of servants of Baha’u’llah or heroes of Faith as we approach the Centenary of the passing of Abdul Baha. We could reflect on those true servants of the Cause who had set example for us.

    Arasu
    Skudai
    Johor
    Malaysia

  16. Dear uncle Manisegaran,

    The story of uncle Thevar touched me profoundly, all for his humility, practicality and sacrificing all in the path of his Beloved. I had the privilege of meeting him on a few occasions, and found him as a person down to earth in my conversation with him. I felt completely joyous in his company.

    Thank you for this beautiful story about a beautiful soul.

    Nemat Sabapathy
    Sydney
    Australia

  17. Thank you Mani.

    This is yet another remarkable story of a man who was exemplary in every sense of the word- hospitable, generous, sacrificing and relentless in serving the Faith. He lived for the Faith and died for the Faith. He had set an enviable benchmark in serving the Cause for all of us. Surely the Blessed Beauty would continue to shower his and Aunty Mary’s soul with bountiful blessing in the Abha Kingdom.

    In hindsight too, he reminds me of another spiritual giant at his time, uncle Appu Raman!

    Sandran Govindasamy
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  18. Manisegaran
    Thank you for writing of the Thevars who guided me into the Faith.
    It was 1970 and our family was living in Setapak Garden in Kuala Lumpur. I used to walk up to a grocery store to buy groceries and on one occasion, a tall Indian lady approached me and introduced herself as Mrs. Thevar. She said she was also living close by and invited me for a gathering in their home where I would meet some new friends and there will be a speaker. Curious, I went to their home with my sister Molly, which was nearby that evening and met a few friends. The speaker was Lily Chinniah. Lily spoke about the Bahai Faith and its principles.

    My family and I come from a Sinhalese community. My father was a Buddhist while my mother was a Christian. But the Baha’i Faith sounded very interesting. Thereafter we attended a few more meetings and finally my sisters Molly, Irene and I accepted it the faith. What Mrs. Thevar did was a good example of how we can teach the Faith to anybody we meet in the streets or in the bus or in any public places. If not for Mrs.Thevar, my sisters and I would not have known about Baha’u’llah. Individual teaching and firesides shall always remain key and important methods of teaching. There are souls waiting everywhere to hear the message of Baha’u’llah everywhere.

    Mona Kanagaratnam
    Arizona
    USA

  19. I knew Mr. and Mrs. Thevar when they moved to Kuala Lumpur when I was working at the National Haziratul Quds in 1969. They visited the Haziratul Quds very often and joined us for the 19 Day Feasts and other activities. On a few occasions I went to the High Court where Mr Thevar worked to pass documents that Mr. Inbum Chinniah, then secretary of the National Assembly requested me to.

    Mr. Thevar had a dynamic personality, very charming yet firm and very well respected among the staff in the court and in the community. He and his wife were very warm and very accommodating. Their firesides are always well attended and I can attest that Mrs.Thevar was a good cook as she cooked all the delicious dishes for the firesides. I also knew that of their regular weekend teaching trips to areas around Kuala Lumpur.

    Personally, I am so grateful and blessed that Baha’u’llah has blessed the Malaysian Community with such great Baha’is who have shown us steadfastness, dedication, sacrifices and most of all living the life as a Baha’i for us to emulate.

    C. Kanagaratnam
    Arizona
    USA

  20. Dear Brother Manisegaran

    The story of Mr. and Mrs. Thevar has been so beautifully written to capture so many details of their services, many of which are not known to me. I am sure this is the first time their full profile has been published. God bless you.

    Our family owe very much to Mr. and Mrs. Thevar who guided us into the Faith. We were all small children when Mr. Thevar gave the Faith to my family. First my mother’s younger sister Arputha Mary accepted the Faith and later my Parents did. We the children accepted the Faith as time went by.

    Aunty Mary was very generous by nature and had set good example for us to emulate. She had helped countless number of the needy– sincerely and quietly. Whenever the call for funds came she was always ready to contribute. When the call came to contribute to the construction of the Mother Temple in India, she took out her gold chain which was her wedding gift from her beloved husband and gave for the fund. That needs great audacity and more than that a higher love for the Creator, which she clearly had. She was totally selfless. She and her husband always consulted on every matter and worked closely towards promoting the Cause.

    My parents always related about the tremendous sacrifices of uncle Thevar and Aunty Mary. We will always keep this in our hearts. They surely have made Abdul Baha very happy, and they must be enjoying the good pleasure of Bahaullah in the Abha Kingdom.

    Bawani Munusamy
    Riyadh
    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

  21. Dear Manisegaran,
    Thank you for bringing the recollections of the early days in Kuantan with a focus on Mr and Mrs. Thevar.

    After declaring my Faith in Baha’u’llah in 1964 during the Ridvan Convention held in Kuantan l was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuantan. Mr. Thevar was the Chairman. Mr Thevar was the one instrumental person in establishing the Faith in Kuantan during his stay there. He was a good field worker. His home became an early meeting place for all Baha’i activities. He and his wife were undoubtedly a great soul. The Thevars left Kuantan in 1967, but their legacy shall always remain

    G.K. Balan
    Kuala Lumpur

  22. I am totally fascinated by reading yet another article that speaks about the story of love, devotion and sacrifice of a couple that have served the Cause of God harmoniously together. Thevar and his precious wife Mary, from the inception of their marriage stood together side by side and devoted their entire life to the promotion of the Cause and assisted other fellow believers with open and generous hearts. Truly the refined virtues of Thevar and his wife are too many to recount. Yet the one virtue that touched me most was their selfless service that they have rendered for the Cause. This alone would be their crowning glory. This remind me of how an honorable, blessed and purposeful life can turn out to be when the spouses cooperate, collaborate and serve the Faith together like the two wings of a bird. Thevar and his wife navigated their journey together and remained steadfast to their last breath, unaffected by anything else.
    One more spiritual and administrative quality that Thevar possessed and must be mentioned is that he was a good and gifted organizer in the field of teaching and expansion of the Faith, a talent that contributed to the steady development of the Faith in Malaysia and in his pioneering in Tamil Naidu, India. May God bless them.

    Kind regards,
    Dr Firaydun Mithaq
    Chieng Mai
    Thailand

  23. Dear Mani

    The first thing I remember most about uncle Thevar was his very joyful and happy nature. The catchphrase “Jolly good fellow” fits him best.

    My association with him was always short-lived always knocking into him on unexpected occasions and ending with a few exchanges. There was one occasion when he and dear Thanabalan invited me for a meal of Chinese noodles in his residence in Happy Gardens in early 1974. It was a very memorable farewell for me as I was leaving for Bangladesh to serve one year as a pioneer. They gave me a prayer book and some valuable tips on how a pioneer should go about his work and that is …”taking along ‘Trust in God’ as the best provision for his journey.”… and that made all the difference in my pioneering life in Bangladesh which lasted for almost twelve years.

    The thing that touched me most was how he took optional retirement and ‘seized the chance’ when it came to him. He has set the example for so many uncles and aunties to follow in his footsteps. He reminds me of one of the talks of the late Ali Nakjavani where he quoted from the book Priceless Pear, what the beloved Guardian as having said, “The time has come for the friends … to think not as to how they should serve the Cause, but how the Cause should be served.” Uncle Thevar did exactly that! God bless his selfless and radiant soul.

    Joe Swaminathan
    Malaysia

  24. What an inspiring story.

    What impresses me is this dedication of their entire life to the Faith and to Baha’u’llah.
    Thank you Mr. Manisegaram Amasi for sharing the beautiful story of the Thevar family.
    Prayers and love for their blessed souls.

    It is only after reading this story I came to know that my friend Shyama comes from this illustrious family. What a blessed family.

    Chantale Baillache
    La Tour Koenig
    Mauritius Island

  25. Dear Manisegaran

    I read the story of my friends Thevar and his wife with great interest. Thevar and I lived in different communities in Malaysia. But we always met at Bahai conferences and weddings, and exchanged loving greetings. I remember undertaking a teaching trip to the East Coast in the mid 1960s in the company of Inbum Chinniah, and being a rough journey with no proper roads, we had to break our journey in Kuantan and stayed a night at his place. He took good care of us.

    You have recorded the life and legacy of this blessed couple only too well. I feel the essence of their services in this glorious Faith is well reflected. I had known Thevar as a no-nonsense believer who would speak his mind and did not compromise on the principles of the Faith. He was himself a very strict and straight forward person. That is one reason we got along too well. And the community needed such believers in abundance. He was well read, and expressed the thoughts acutely in his excellent command of the English language.

    He and I belong to the Ten- Year Crusade period, and there are only a handful of believers of that period still alive today.

    I enjoy reading all the stories in this historical blog, especially whenever I needed some inspiration.

    Anthony C. Louis
    Malacca
    Malaysia

  26. Mr. S.L.Thevar and his wife Arputha Mary are my spiritual parents. Hailing from Alor Star town in the northern part of West Malaysia, I came to the federal capital of Kuala Lumpur and reported to the Legal Aid Bureau in December 1972. I was renting a room at the home of Mr. Jami Subramaniam in Kampong Pandan. Jami and his wife took me to a fireside that was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. S.L. Thevar in Happy Gardens. Taking a great liking for the Cause I signed up as a Bahai on 26 December 1972 at their home.

    Mr Thevar was our Chief Clerk at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions court and he assisted us from day one we joined service. Outside the courts, we used to meet at Bahai gatherings for weddings and conferences. I was transferred back to Alor Star a year later.
    I am aware they went pioneering to India. I had visited their daughter Shyama in one of my trips to Thailand. I also have met the grand daughter of the Thevars, who is married to Horace Seelan in Laos when I visited Laos

    Panjavarnam Shanmugam Pillay
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  27. Thank you Mani for writing about Mr. and Mrs. Thevar who have left permanent marks in the history of the Faith in Malaysia and India.

    I first met this great couple at the Petaling Jaya Baha’i Centre in the mid 1970s when I was still a bachelor. Mrs. Thevar was giving a talk in the Tamil language on the Tablet of Ahmad to a group of Tamil speaking friends. She was simply eloquent.

    The next I met them in Tamilnaadu during my own travel teaching to that country from 1981 to 1983. I went with my wife Indrani for travel teaching. When I was elected to the State Teaching Committee of Tamilnaadu I had an opportunity to visit Mr. and Mrs. Thevar in the city of Madurai where they were serving, while their two daughters were schooled at the New Era High school in Panchgani. The house of the Thevars in Madurai city was the focal point of actvities with much hospitality accorded to whoever visited them.

    One unforgettable incident was the holding of a South India Baha’i Conference in Madras city for the states of Tamilnaadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in 1982. It was held in the Music Academy building in Madras. The event was officiated by the Mayor of Madras. Mr Thevar, as Chairman of the conference gave a very good welcome to the Mayor in his great command of the English language which impressed everyone. That conference that ran for 4 days was a resounding success.

    I returned to Malaysia in 1983 with my wife and did not get in touch with them as we were living in different places.

    As I write this note, I am very proud to say that my son Horace is married to the granddaughter of Mr. Thevar and are pioneering in Laos.

    And I am proud to be related to the Thevars through marriage.

    Arputhaseelan
    Alor Star
    Malaysia

  28. It was very heartwarming to read my grandpa’s history as well as so many fond memories friends have of him. Thank you to all.
    Occasionally he comes to my dreams, just a week ago he was in my dreams chatting with me.
    A few years ago, I remember asking him and grandma how the next world was, and they both came to visit me. They didn’t say anything, but they were radiant and beaming. I woke up certain that the next life is full of peace and joy.
    Once when I was very perturbed, I prayed and slept. In my dream grandpa came and held my hand. In the dream he simply said, “Be patient”. The next world is truly so very close to ours and where there is love there will always be connection.
    I remember when I was around ten years old, grandpa was with us when we were in Canada. We used to play a game where I was a lawyer, and he was a judge, and I would present cases to him.
    He was very intelligent and loved reading and deepening himself and others. Chatting with him was a wonderful experience because he was humble and a great listener. I think the most special thing about him was how he cared so much for people, and he could get along well with everyone regardless of age. He was wise, funny, patient, kind and helpful. He was simply the best grandfather in the world! He would write us letters when we were apart, and I have them all in a box with all things sentimental.
    When he passed away, we were in Thailand, and it was such a hard thing to accept but we know that his soul rejoices, and we will meet again. That night when we arrived in Malaysia after his passing, I saw him standing by his bedroom. It was like he came to say bye and felt sad for us because he could feel our sadness.
    Some people are missed very much because of their pure heart, love, and kindness. Did I mention his great sense of humor? He would always make us laugh and smile! I remember this funny phrase he’d say in the Tamil language: Enna man?! Hahaha. We miss you grandpa. We love you.

    Catherine Younesi
    Proud granddaughter
    Laos

  29. Thank you Manisegaran for penning this beautiful story of the Thevars.

    I found the story of the Thevars in very moving. Thevar and his wife embodied true unity as husband and wife in both their family life and in their service to humanity. The result of their harmony and purity of motive was light upon light.

    Their life reminds me of this passage from the Writings of Abdul Baha:
    “Whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light…”

    Mrs Shadi Eshragi
    Singapore Baha’i Community

  30. That was indeed a very detailed and through presentation of the life of Mr and Mrs Thevar, who deserve to be remembered by all generations.

    I had known him since I became a believer in 1963. In the mid 1960s I undertook a teaching trip to the East Coast in the car of Auxiliary Board member Leong Tat Chee. The late Steven Manoharan was also in our teaching trip. I had always known Thevar as a no-nonsense person who loathed hypocrisy. He spoke his mind, regardless of who he was conversing with. Yet he seldom lost his temper. Conversing with him was always a great joy as it was like listening to passages from the works of William Shakespeare. He had, the best of the command of the English language.

    He teamed up so well with Arputha Mary. While his wife was fluent in the Tamil language, Thevar was well versed in the English language and so the couple could serve both the Tamil and English-speaking communities. I am aware that they consulted in everything. Their love for the Faith was simply unbelievable.

    He was living such a comfortable life in Malaysia before he went pioneering to India. He had an Opel Cadet car made in Germany. But when he came back he lived the simplest life until he passed away. Knowing his position, my wife gave her house in Blossom Heights in Seremban for a very low rentals. Then he moved into Klang. He was very sad when his wife passed away. In the early days he was surrounded by so many people, and he was used to crowd. But at the end of his life he was lonely. I used to visit him from time to time when he was in Selayang. When he passed away, I was very sad. But I felt very proud of sending off a friend who had truly served the Cause with all sincerity and boundless love.

    N. Nagendran
    Kuala Lumpur

  31. Dear Mani,
    Many thanks for the excellent article on two other jewels from this community that have made us proud through their services for the Faith. The thousands of readers across the world are truly blessed with the continuous sharing of stories of such loving souls. Mr. Thevar and his wife Mary have truly dedicated and sacrificed so much in serving the Faith. I was amazed by Mary’s dream on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regarding the return of Jesus Christ which led her to the acceptance of the Faith without reservation! Their pioneering spirit while serving together as one couple, their generous heart and their continuous desire to teach the Faith are remarkable and serve as good example for us to emulate.

    Best regards,
    Dr. Leong Yow Peng
    Subang Jaya
    Malaysia

  32. Brother Manisegaran
    Thank you very much once again for an insightful and inspiring story of two more great workers of the Faith during the early days of the development of the Cause in Malaysia. I am very much touched and inspired reading the detailed and dedicated services of Mr. and Mrs. Thevar.
    I was privileged to meet Mr. Thever in the mid and late 1960s at the former National Haziratul Quds in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur where I used to attend Bahai courses. I have also met them during the summer schools held in Port Dickson in those days. At that time, I was still new to the Faith and did not realise the role played by the early heroes and heroine of the Faith.
    I was again privileged to meet Mr. Thevar and his wife when I was serving as a travel teacher in Kajang and Cheras towns before leaving for pioneering in Sabah. I remember, over some of the weekends following them for travelling teaching around Kajang and Cheras. Mr. Thevar and his wife always travelled in pairs. He was very generous in sharing his knowledge during our conversation in the car and also during the field teaching. He was down to earth and would present the Faith in a manner with his language proficiency that it would be easy to grasp. I enjoyed their company during these teaching trips and gained much knowledge and experience.
    You have aptly highlighted the spiritual qualities of Mr and Mrs Thevar in your story. Your story about them is understandably short owing to space constraints in a blog. But am sure you could easily write a book on them. I have read about Mr. and Mrs Thevar’s services to the Faith in both your books Jewel Among Nations and the Dawnings. But after reading this remarkable story of a couple who were such a faithful and an exemplary follower of Baha’u’llah, I feel how much I was blessed to known them though for a short period.
    Reading this story of Mr Thevar brings back to memory on another Stalwart of the Faith, Mr Appu Raman. I was staying at his house when I was travel teaching in Kajang and Cheras towns.
    Looking forward for more stories of the services of the believers in the early days of the progress of the Faith in Malaysia. Apart from giving us insights into their selfless and dedicated services to the Faith, these stories will also inspire many to emulate. These are the kind of early believers who set the direction and led the way for many of us to serve the Cause. With the passing of time such great servants are dwindling in numbers. But thanks to this blog, the sole source that keeps their memory alive in history.

    Paramasivan Sinnasamy
    Sandakan
    Sabah
    Malaysia.

  33. Thanks Mr. Mani for bringing out the unknown story and achievements of great servants of the Cause, which will surely affect and instill a dynamic influence in the hearts and minds of every readers. The story is so inspiring and heartwarming reminding me of my old days in India.

    The 1974 was the first time I went to the National Haziratul Quds, at Setapak. There, I met Mr. Thevar with other Bahais. Mr. Ramachandran who is now a pioneer to Nepal and Mr. Rama Rao who was the caretaker of the National Bahai Centre were mentioned to me about Mr. Thevar. But I really got to know him and his family was in the year 1978 at the South India conference in Coimbatore city in Tamilnadu. I was pioneering in Odisha and was at that conference. I had seen his generosity in the conference contributing his and wife’s s valuables to the funds. He was an outspoken person and does not keep anything in his heart. He served in the capacity of a Auxiliary Board member in Tamil Nadu.

    I also met Mr. Thevar in a number of places in India. In 1985 I met him in a hotel in Panchgani, this time with his daughter Chitra who studied in New Era High School. I had gone there to attend a Winter School in Panchgani and to meet Mr. Afshin. I met him again in 1986 during the dedication of the Bahai House of Worship in New Delhi.

    When I was back from India in in 1992 , I had settled in Batang Berjuntai town .He had visited my family along with Mr.Lim Kok Hoon and Mr. Kartik. That was the last I had seen him. In all my meetings he was always in the company of his wife. They served together.

    Praying for the souls of the couple to rest in eternal peace.
    Thanks and God bless you.

    Pitamboro Komoro Naiko
    Kuala Selangor
    Malaysia

  34. Mani
    Read the story of the Thevars with great pleasure. That was your befitting tribute to their lifelong service. I knew them only by anecdotes that I heard from Yankee Leong, Kit Him Kiang and other dearly missed Bahá’ís from Malaysia while I was pioneering in Taiwan.

    Their love for Baha’u’llah and dedication to serving His Faith was simply palpable and beyond laudable. They were truly servants that even the Concourse on High would be proud to be associated with.

    Richard Graham
    Lynden
    Washington
    USA

  35. Dear Mani,
    It is quite a heart-moving feeling reading the life story of Thevar,and his wife Mary. Their dedication to the Cause; their model companionship as
    husband and wife and serving as one soul; their spirit of sacrifice and pioneering; their genuine love for the people they taught the Faith; their abiding love for the Blessed Beauty are all very inspiring.

    When Thevar talked to you and Karu on separate occasions to do something for him upon his death, it is as if he saw the future, and rightly so. It gives me an inkling of the wonder of the mystical workings of the spirit and the mind within this pure soul. Walking the path of service is truly ennobling.

    May the All-Merciful Lord bless both of their illumined souls in all the realms of everlasting life.

    Edward Chang
    Bangkok
    Thailand

  36. Dear Manisegaran,

    That was such a pleasures to read the story of the Thevars. I knew uncle Thevar and Aunty Mary when I was still a new Bahai in the Kuala Lumpur community. I always saw the couple moving together and not even once I saw either one coming alone Bahai activities. They surely left a lasting impression on me. I viewed them as two wings of one bird, as being always in such harmony. Your story further strengthens and confirms my view of them. They had truly set a good example of how a couple ought to serve the Cause as one soul in different bodies

    Morgan Velayutham
    Macau

  37. Thank you brother Mani, for writing about uncle and aunty Thevar and their services in the Faith.

    Though I have not met uncle Thevar and his family, I felt that as though I knew them for a long time after reading the story of their lives and services in Malaysia and India. The story has brought them so close to my heart. Uncle Thevar took an early retirement and pioneered to India with his family and that itself speaks volume of their devotion for the Cause. They had settled down in Tiruchirappalli which is the very city where I had completed my Bachelor of Commerce degree in St. Joseph’s College.

    I could understand the challenges they went through especially in relation to the weather conditions, lack of bus transport to the villages and other challenges that they went through. At the end of things, they I am sure had won the good pleasure of Bahaullah.

    Santanasamy
    Kuala Terengganu
    Malaysia

  38. I first heard of Uncle and Aunty Thevar when I was posted to the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Kuantan in 1976. When I arrived in Kuantan they were not there, but their names were mentioned quite often whenever the Baha’is in Kuantan gathered for activities at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Munusamy. Aunty Munusamy aka Maria was the cousin sister of Mrs. Thevar. The family of Aunty Maria had accepted the Faith through the teaching efforts of Mrs. Thevar.

    I became related to the Thevar family when I married Miss Kalai Selvi, their niece and the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Munusamy. Whenever I went to Kuala Lumpur, I used to visit Uncle and Aunty Thevar and their children. Aunty Thevar is known for her hospitality. I always felt at home with them.

    Then I moved to Sarawak in East Malaysia, and they pioneered to India. When I returned to Kuala Lumpur, they were settled in the town of Klang. But we didn’t get much opportunity to visit them as suddenly Aunty passed away. After the passing of Aunty, Uncle Thevar travelled to Canada.
    After leaving the Royal Malaysian Air Force in 1993 I settled in the town of Sungei Buloh. Uncle Thevar used to visit us there quite often. He enjoyed Selvi’s cooking and loved my company.

    When Uncle Thevar suffered a stroke, I visited him in the hospital. While I was trying to comfort him, he told me not to worry and that he was going to walk out as a normal person, which he did. He also knew his time was up and was ready to go. On that fateful day he met me and told me to perform his final when he was no more. We went out for tea and he ordered a thosai and told the waiter not to put too much oil. Then as he was taking about spiritual sacrifice, I saw him collapse on the dining table. I tried CPR but it was too late.
    I have been getting closer to him. We used to discuss a lot of things. He used to advise me too. As we were getting to know each other better he suddenly left.

    Kariipponnon
    Kelantan

  39. I am happy the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Thevar has been written to be preserved for posterity. I first met the Thevars in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was working in the national Bahai center at Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. Thevar was always well dressed and his wife was always in Indian saree. They carried themselves well at gatherings. At first I thought Thevar was a very reserved and strict person. But later I served with him in the Local Spiritual Assembly of Selayang. It was while serving on the Assembly that I got to know him better and in person. He was serious where business for the Faith was concerned, and yet he had his jovial side as well. His greatest passion in life was field teaching. Sundays were devoted to teaching and each Sunday he would take me along to visit places like Batu Arang, Rawang and Kuala Selangor. He did talk about how the Faith grew in the country in the old days. But never once he centred the talk on himself. But it was only after reading this story that it became clear that the Thevars had truly contributed so much for the development of the Faith in Malaysia and India.

    May their souls rest in peace

    R. Sandrakasan
    Banting
    Malaysia

  40. I had an opportunity to get to know the Thevars when they just returned from pioneering in India. They settled in Seremban and Mr. Thevar served on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Seremban for one year. In 1986 we were all busy distributing the Promise of World Peace Statement. Teams were formed to cover different parts of Seremban, and different organizations. I was in the team that went to the Government Secretariat building. While we were distributing the statement to the government offices, Mr. Thevar distributed the statement to the State Religious Department. Suddenly he was surrounded by some officers who questioned him on the nature of the Faith, and even confiscated the copies of the Statement. Mr. Thevar gave eplanations. Soon Mr. Satanam and I arrived, and we all explained the tenets of the Faith. The officers returned what was confiscated from Mr. Thevar.

    This is one incident that remains raw and vivid in my mind. I had known him since then as a courageous promoter of the Cause.

    Ringo@Rengadhar
    Seramban
    Malaysia

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