25 November 1947 to 9 November 2021

This is the story of Chandrasegaran Sangaran Nair, fondly remembered as Chandran, who has left an indelible mark in the hearts of many for the example he led as a pious-hearted believer, and a permanent place in the history of the Bahá’í Faith for the laborious work he had carried out quietly especially at the grassroots level.

Chandran’s introduction to the Faith began with his two elder brothers. In October 1959, his eldest brother Bhaskaran accepted the Faith in Malacca, and that opened the door for his other siblings and finally the parents to accept the Faith in stages. Following Bhaskaran, his younger brother Vasudevan accepted the Faith in August 1960. Through them, Chandran was exposed to the Faith, at a time when he was still a student at the St. David’s High School in Malacca, where Vasudevan too was a teacher. But his two elder brothers did not coerce him or any other siblings into accepting the Faith. Chandran had observed a transformation had taken place in his two brothers. Chandran at that time was attending some other faith gatherings and a few Bahá’í firesides as well. It was at the Bahá’í firesides that Chandran was most impressed by the Bahá’í concept of the unity of mankind. In 1962, his brother Vasudevan invited Chandran to a Bahá’í New Year (Naw-Rúz) party at the Boy Scout Headquarters in Mata Kuching Road, Malacca. There Chandran was touched by the true unity of a rare kind prevalent among the believers coming from different racial backgrounds. At this party, Vasudevan staged a parody of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. After the feast, three Bahá’ís – Anthony Fernandez, Raymond Peter, and Tushar Kanti-Paul were called upon to narrate how they became believers. Their stories touched the heart of Chandran, and he signed his Bahá’í declaration soon after.

Chandran served the Faith effectively even as a youth in Malacca. He carried out his first Bahá’í teaching trips in the company of S. K. Somu, who himself had accepted the Faith in 1955. They would visit local rubber plantation settlements called estates to give the Bahá’í teachings. Chandran started to participate in all the conferences and gatherings and had the fondest liking for the Bahá’í Summer Schools held in Malacca where he met elders in the Faith and deepened himself in the Bahá’í teachings. Chandran’s full-fledged services for the Faith ran parallel with his teaching career. Upon completion of his fifth form examinations or General Certificate of Education (G.C.E) “O” level examinations at the end of 1964, Chandran, just 17 years old, started work as a temporary teacher in Bentong town in the state of Pahang through a contact that Bhaskaran provided. And Chandran was the only believer in Bentong town then. Thus his very first posting was to an area completely new to the Faith.

In 1966, Chandran attended teacher training college in Kuantan town in the state of Pahang. At the end of the course, every trainee was given a form, in which they had to mark the state to which they would like to be posted upon graduation. Chandran occupied a home next to the one occupied by T. K. Kannan, himself a home front pioneer from Malacca town to the East Coast (of Peninsular Malaysia) in 1960. Chandran asked Kannan for his advice on where he should go for service. Kannan had said, “If you valued serving the Faith in the East Coast, it would be better for you to mark Pahang as your first place of choice. Just think how much one can do for the Faith, and then decide.” Pahang being a vast territory needed much manpower to develop the Faith in several parts of the state. That advice from Kannan became a turning point in Chandran’s life. Thus, following completion of the teacher training in Kuantan in 1968, this highly spirited young Bahá’í was posted to Bentong town as a teacher from 1968 to 1970. Thereafter too Chandran placed the needs of the Faith in whatever he had to choose his subsequent postings in his teaching career. Throughout his teaching career, Chandran chose to serve in remote and small towns where the Faith had not germinated well, or where much had to be done, especially in the absence of manpower. He had served in Bentong and Jerantut towns in Pahang.

His posting to Bentong was hailed by the Bahá’í national institution as good news. In 1968, Chandran was still the only believer in Bentong. From Bentong, Chandran made frequent visits to Bilut Valley and shared the Faith with the villagers. Stemming from his genuine love for his fellow man, Chandran also gave free English tuition classes to the people of Bilut Valley. By early March 1970 Bahá’í children’s classes were started with Chandran’s efforts. In the same year Chandran became instrumental in forming a Local Bahá’í Youth Committee in Bilut Valley. As Bilut Valley became very receptive to the Faith, members of the National Coordinating Committee, the predecessor to the National Teaching Committee of Malaysia, joyously started making trips to this community. Auxiliary Board Member Mrs. Betty Fernandez, who heard of this booming community, made a trip to this community in 1970. Bilut Valley became a promising area for the Faith, and from the mid-1970s, the Bahá’í community of Petaling Jaya took over the responsibility of developing this community under a plan that was given by the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir, with friends like Thanabalan, Lum Weng Hoe, Shirley Wong, T. K. Lee and Theenathayalu making trips from time to time. Chandran, happiest to see manpower deployed to Bilut Valley, organised deepening sessions for the local believers and firesides, some even at nearby coffee shops, with tea and snacks thrown in by the jubilant host.

Having created deep impacts in Bentong, Chandran was next posted to teach in Jerantut from 1970 to 1973 where he worked at the government English school. This too was an area where the Faith was still at the nascent stage. At that time there were only three Bahá’ís in Jerantut. They got together and started off some regular Bahá’í activities.

It was in 1973, while Chandran was working in Jerantut that his elder brother Bhaskaran and his wife Sarojini resigned from their government post in Malacca and went pioneering to Cameroon in Africa with their children, thus becoming the first as a family to have left the shores of Malaysia as pioneers. Earlier in May 1967, Bhaskaran’s younger brother Vasudevan was already settled in India as a pioneer. Before leaving for Africa, Bhaskaran took Chandran to a side and said, “It is in you that I put my trust to look after the family, as I am going to Africa.” Chandran, who immediately understood the significance of Bhaskaran’s decision, was happy that he could help him in this way, to leave as a pioneer, and felt very confident that he could guard the trust Bhaskaran had in him. With them having left for pioneering, Chandran took over the helms of looking into the family needs.

Next, Chandran was posted to Segamat town in the state of Johore from 1974 to 1978 and he taught in the Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampong Melayu Raya. This too was a slow moving community, and a cause for concern to the Bahá’í national institutions for several years. Soon Chandran started Bahá’í teaching activities in Segamat. In 1973 one Mr. S. Govindasamy accepted the Faith, along with Mr. Suppiah from the local police department. When sufficient number of adults accepted the Faith, a Local Spiritual Assembly was elected, and that triggered off proper and organised Bahá’í activities in Segamat. Chandran was credited for reshaping the Bahá’í  landscape of Segamat during his tenure there.

It was while working in Segamat that Chandran entered into wedlock. Chandran received a message about a marriage proposal, together with the photo of a girl. That was the charming Miss Shoba Nair, who was born in Malaysia, but grew up in Kerala state in India. Her elder brother who was already in Malaysia at the time helped her to resettle in Malaysia in 1974. Chandran, upon wholeheartedly agreeing to the proposal, started to write a series of letters to Shoba, introducing her to the Bahá’í Faith. They married on 8 December 1974. Shoba, who recognized the Cause of  Bahá’u’lláh from a deep love for the Bahá’í prayers, accepted the Faith soon after. Chandran taught as a school teacher in Segamat till 1978 and was regularly commuting to Malacca town for a period of time to visit Shoba who was living with his parents then.

Baha’i wedding at the Leong Tat Chee Baha’i Institute, Malacca

In Bentong, Jerantut and Segamat towns where Chandran worked as a school teacher, he exerted all his energy in the development of the Faith. In 1978, he returned to his hometown Jasin, in Malacca state, to work at the Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Chin Chin school till 1985. His return to Jasin too was providential for the Faith. He was very sad to see that Jasin had lost its glory of the early days with most of the key believers who held the torch there had left the community on transfer. Jasin was once one of the earliest and leading Bahá’í communities in Malaya since the late 1950s. It was in the surrounding rubber plantation settlements or estates that the Faith had raised high its banners in the late 1950s when mass teaching took place there. The nadir came when he observed that the Lau Leong Estate, Rim Settlement, Serkam Estate, Jasin Lalang Estate, Diamond Jubilee Estate, Devon South Estate, Devon North Estate, and Chubi Estate which boasted of strong believers were no more within the Bahá’í  radar. As Chandran observed, a whole generation had dwindled, and lost into oblivion.

Chandran took upon himself the sacred task of reviving the community with all his might, strength and fervour. Mr. Kumara Das and S. K. Somu from Malacca town came to join hands with Chandran to revive these areas. Through Chandran, Mr. Ramasamy, a shopkeeper, Mr. P. G. Kuppusamy, a Tamil school headmaster, and Mr. Maniam from the Telecommunications Department accepted the Faith. With the band of these new believers, Chandran managed within his best to move on with activities. Chandran also focussed on taking the Faith to the estates, in the company of other believers. Chandran organised many gatherings at his residence in Jasin town and in the estates as well.

While in Jasin, and still in his teaching post, Chandran was contemplating pioneering overseas and was pursuing an opportunity in the Seychelles. It was at this time of contemplation that during Ridván 1984 he attended the National Bahá’í  Convention of Malaysia in the Ria Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. While seated next to Mr. Baling, head of Iban longhouse of Bukit Ambun in Mukah district, and a delegate to the convention, Chandran enquired about the services he could render to the Faith in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak should he get a transfer there. Mr Baling gave him all the encouragement to go over to Sarawak at the earliest. The seed was firmly planted at that conference and in January 1986, Chandran left for Sarawak with his family. Their son Madhu was ten while their daughter Maya was only four.

Their move to Sarawak was a case of an entire family entering into an unknown, remote, and difficult territory that greeted them with unaccustomed culture and challenging way of life. Chandran started teaching at Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampong Seberang in a remote and isolated village of Mukah as a primary school teacher. After some time, he taught in the Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungei Bedengan, followed by Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungei Penipah, and finally at Sekolah Kebangsaan St. Patrick in Mukah town where he finally retired in 2003. The first contact for them in Mukah through whom they got to understand the community and the local culture well was Mr. Smith Utan, the first believer of Mukah from the Melanau tribe.

First Baha’i family in Mukah

Their efforts in Mukah attracted the support of believers from all over Sarawak including Continental Counsellor Dr John Fozdar and his wife Grete in Kuching who became a source of great strength to them. Wherever possible the family served as a team.

Served as a Family

In Mukah, there were no Bahá’í children’s classes as there were hardly any Bahá’í children. The family organised classes which were open to all children, and these classes were usually held on Sundays, after morning prayers, at the Bahá’í Centre in the Melanau village of Kampung Telian Ulu, which was about half an hour drive from town centre where they lived. Madhu and Maya too often travelled with their parents to the more remote Iban longhouses which were about an hour away from Mukah to help with teaching activities, devotional meetings, and children’s classes.

The family also cared for the youth in the community. Majority of the Bahá’í youth in Mukah came from the neighbouring Iban longhouses and were living in the dorms of the two secondary schools in Mukah. They went to the schools in the evenings to hold Bahá’í classes for the students. They also organised activities in public venues such as the City Hall, especially when introducing the Faith to the wider population through exhibitions which often coincided with Bahá’í anniversaries. They would regularly host up to 100 visitors for Naw-Rúz open house celebrations. They also took great pleasure in welcoming and hosting Bahá’í travel teachers from other parts of Sarawak, and also visitors from much further afield, from West Malaysia, and overseas. This family lived a very simple and thrifty life and in many ways they taught the Faith by living the life and not merely by teaching the Faith.

Chandran’s Marks

In Mukah, Chandran was not only involved in building the local Bahá’í community, but also took to charity work, born out of his genuine love for his fellow man. Although Chandran was stationed in Mukah, he travelled regularly and widely across Sarawak and visited many urban communities and rural Iban longhouses and easily won their love and admiration as he became one among them through the genuine love he showed for them. The urban communities he visited and left impressions were, among others, Sibu, Saratok, Miri, Kapit and so many other towns in between. Chandran also regularly represented Mukah at state-wide conferences.

Chandran served in many capacities during his tenure in Sarawak. Chandran and Shoba served on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Mukah district. Chandran himself was appointed to the Regional Teaching Committee of the Central Region and the Area Teaching Committee of Mukah district. He was often elected as a delegate to the State Conventions and was involved actively in its deliberations. He was also appointed as a Huqúqu’lláh representative. He was a quiet trainer himself, developing the talents among the youth who attended his classes. Chandran created a permanent place in the history of the Faith in Sarawak through his restless and arduous services. He was viewed as a soft spoken person, with boundless love for  Bahá’u’lláh and his fellow man, believers, and non-believers alike. His many areas of painful sacrifice for the Faith became acutely visible to all those who associated with him. Always radiant and creating a jovial atmosphere was the nature of Chandran. His standup comedy of Alfonso the Flea guaranteed to put a smile on every face at conferences.

Seven members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Mukah, Shoba stands at extreme left and Chandran seated in the middle.

The travel teaching trips to visit remote indigenous communities were particularly challenging. Once, when Chandran was spending a holiday in Sibu town, a friend told him about a community that had long not been visited. At that time most of the roads in the rural parts of Sarawak were not properly surfaced and the gravel-covered roads went across hills and sharply declining terrain and around dangerous bends. At one point, on their way to the village, their vehicle crashed into a side ditch to avoid an on-coming truck which had swerved into their lane. Chandran lost consciousness in the accident, and when he awoke, he was miraculously back at home without a scratch on him.

At the Sibu Bahai Centre.

In school, Chandran specialised in teaching English as a second language (TESL) and earned deep appreciation from the parents, teachers, and students for the commitment he had for the profession which was always in the spirit of “Work is Worship; Service is Prayer”. He was a very determined person and was passionate about whatever he had set out to do. Before he was able to acquire a car in Mukah, he had to rely on his motorcycle. He would often rise up before dawn to get in time to the rural schools which were only accessible by river crossings and gravel and earth-covered roads over long distances.  He would return home completely exhausted from a whole day’s work and long travel and yet have the determination to continue into the night giving English lessons or hosting Bahá’í activities. In recognition of his commitment to the teaching profession Chandran received several accolades and at the time of his retirement in 2003 the Ministry of Education of Malaysia awarded him the Teachers Excellence Award. Sadly, it was while in Sarawak that Chandran started suffering from epileptic seizures, which first began on his return from a Bahá’í travel teaching trip. That, however, did not deter him from carrying the healing message of  Bahá’u’lláh throughout his last breath. By his own admission it was his involvement in Bahá’í  activities and regular contemplation on the Holy Writings that he did not suffer much from the debilitating effects of the seizures.

Shoba’s Marks

His better-half and life-long partner, Shoba, was truly supportive of her husband in all his activities, sharing with him the many challenges which came with travelling to remote areas. Being a small coastal town, Mukah was quite isolated from the rest of Sarawak, and the only way out required a three hour journey on gravel-covered roads to the nearest city, Sibu or by flight in a tiny 16-seater Twin Otter. One memorable event in her life in Sarawak was her trip to Sibu town to attend a Bahá’í Women’s Conference. As she flew back to Mukah in the Twin Otter, there was heavy thunderstorm that sent the plane wobbling with the passengers thrown about the cabin, and their heads hitting the cabin roof. She resorted to prayers, and thankfully the plane landed safely at the airport in Mukah. While the runway was clear of water, much of the town centre was heavily flooded. She waded through the water which had risen to her waist level to reach her house braving wild animals displaced by the floods.

Baha’i women’s Conference in Sibu

Despite such unexpected encounters, her spirit was never diminished, as she knew acutely well that such challenges were part and parcel of life in the pioneering field. Shoba took on several initiatives to build new friendships with women in Mukah. She being an athlete and a Kerala state level volleyball player in her youth, started badminton and basketball training sessions which led to friendly matches with teams from neighbouring districts. She was also well known for her cooking prowess and organised hugely popular Kerala-style cooking classes in the community. She supported socio-economic activities in the Melanau villages and Iban longhouses, and offered one-to-one devotional sessions, especially at times of personal crisis, which spoke to the hearts of the people. All these paid off handsomely by making it possible for her to earn a very wide circle of friends, who were all well informed of the Faith she followed.

Ayyám-i-Há at the Mukah Hospital. Shoba is at extreme left, with Maya next to her.  Chandran is fourth from left.

Outside Mukah, Shoba had undertaken several trips visiting remote communities. In Rumah Kumbong longhouse, situated on the way to Sibu town, the Iban friends slaughtered a pig for their traditional Gawai Dayak festival which is thanksgiving and harvest festival, and Shoba volunteered to cook the meat for them in her Kerala style which they thoroughly enjoyed. There, she also gave a talk on Huqúqu’lláh which had a profound effect on one youth in the audience by the name of Jenau. Jenau, his brother Isang, and one staff nurse Rosita later accompanied Shoba deeper into the jungles to reach a very remote longhouse called Rumah Judi where they stayed for nine days, with Rosita acting as translator. They became firm friends and through the matchmaking effort on the part of Shoba, Jenau and Rosita got married and they live a very happy life together to this day.

Shoba at Gawai Festival in Rumah Kumbong

Ayyám-i-Há gathering in the Bahai Centre in Kampong Talian

With youths at Bahai class in a school in Mukah

Dr. John Fozdar’s house in a  Nine Day Institute. L-R:Chandran, Michael Soo and Suai Anak Kirak

With youths in Kuching town

With Dr. John Fozdar at the Bahá’í Centre.

Children Made Their Marks

Chandran and Shoba made it a point to sit together as a family for meals, prayers, and whenever possible, to travel together for activities. They emphasized on the importance of building resilient character and encouraged their children to excel in everything as one of the ways to gain acceptance especially in new environments. Chandran encouraged global thinking at home, elimination of all forms of prejudice such as by resolving cultural differences, and embraced wholeheartedly the idea of unity in diversity. He also emphasized the importance of punctuality, always finishing what he started, and the value of discipline, order, courtesy, truthfulness and honesty. He would never speak ill of anyone. One of his favourite daily mantras was ‘energy begets energy’ which he would display through his long distance running, tireless grassroots initiatives in the community, and by never sitting idle.

Thus, with such role models, Madhu and Maya too began contributing their part to the pioneering efforts of their parents in their own ways. There were also occasions when they would set off on their own to visit rural indigenous communities outside Mukah town. During a week-long school break, Madhu teamed up with an Iban student from his school as translator to visit several remote Iban longhouses to organise some Bahá’í activities. At one point they got abandoned on a trunk road and resorted to hitchhiking before it became too dark and unsafe for them to be stranded. Fortunately one massive timber truck passing by stopped to pick them up and delivered them safely to the next longhouse on their route!

Madhu and Maya helped Chandran maintain Bahá’í student societies in the two secondary schools in Mukah town. Through these clubs they organised holy day celebrations and other activities on school premises for the benefit of the students. At one time, Madhu also started publishing a local youth newsletter to enhance communication especially with youth in more rural communities. The Bahá’í youth activities were very visible to all students and teachers who passed through the schools.

There are numerous stories of the family having transformed groups of people who were initially hostile towards them. One day such a notorious group of some 12 boys came chasing after Madhu on his way back from school. Madhu, fearing for his own safety, had to barricade himself in his room as the boys followed him back to the house. Instead of admonishing the boys, Chandran and Shoba, who had seen what had happened, invited them over for some cold juice and to play some board games and persuaded Madhu to join them. With just that one gesture of kindness, the boys never bothered them again.

On the eve of their departure from Mukah, they were packing. One mother came running to Shoba to wish her farewell. She remarked how thankful she was to Madhu for changing her son who was always getting into trouble at school, falling into bad company, and getting recruited into violent gangs. Story has it that Madhu had a few run-ins with her son in school as the head pupil and over several challenging encounters they resolved their differences and became friends which completely changed him and helped him make better decisions for himself. When the mother, who herself could not redeem her son, asked the reason for that sudden change in him, the son mentioned his friendship with Madhu.

Maya made her mark by consistently excelling academically in school and for her upright personality and leadership skills. Although she was often a target of school bullies, she was never distracted by them and maintained focus on her studies which eventually earned her the respect of those very same students, who also often came to her for help. As she became fully assimilated into the native Melanau and Iban cultures from a very young age, her familiarity with the local languages was very useful on her visits back to Sarawak during  university semester breaks to support various community advancement projects there.

Chandran stands at extreme left, with friends in Mukah

Chandran, though retired in 2003, saw the greater needs of the Faith and decided to stay for one more year in Sarawak to assist furthering the Faith there, especially in the central region of Sarawak. Chandran and Shoba returned to West Malaysia at the end of 2005, to join Maya in Ampang near Kuala Lumpur, after two full decades of dedicated service in Sarawak. In Ampang too, Chandran created indelible marks. While committed to teaching children with special needs in 2012, he enrolled into the College of Allied Educators Malaysia and earned a Diploma in Learning Disorders Management and Child Psychology. Thereafter Chandran continued teaching several children with special needs in the Ampang area.

Seventh Sarawak National Convention, 2004. Chandran is second from left on the first row.

All his Bahá’í  life Chandran served in small towns or rural areas where he found it more effective to serve the Faith. After returning from Sarawak, he felt that the ever busy city of Kuala Lumpur would not be ideal for his teaching services and chose to go to Kuantan town where he felt he could be more productive.

Merely a few months after moving to Kuantan, he got a job teaching English in an international school in Kemaman. Chandran always had a deep passion for the English language and wrote poetry well. From there he moved over to Teluk Intan town and served for three months in the community while staying with   Dr. Sreedharan. But owing to health issues Chandran returned to Ampang. In 2015 Chandran decided to leave Ampang again to serve in Jasin.

With friends in the Ampang Community

All his movement to communities outside Kuala Lumpur was to be effective in teaching in those smaller towns where much manpower was needed. Although his health was not that supportive of his physical movements, he still soldiered on with an undiminished spirit latent within him to serve the Faith. With his health failing further he left Jasin and returned to Ampang permanently in 2018.

A loving couple who served together

While Chandran was in Ampang, his heart was still with Sarawak. He made his last trip there to attend their Bahá’í  Veterans Conference held at Damai Beach Resort in Kuching on 10 and 11 September 2018.

On 9 November 2021, in Ampang, Chandran passed away suddenly following major brain surgery at the general hospital while receiving in-patient treatment there.

The exemplary  life that Chandran led, with his actions always having spoken louder than his words, will always remain a source of inspiration to those who knew him.

Chandran had always wanted to push himself to the furthest limit in service of the Faith despite his health issues. Throughout his Bahá’í life Chandran wanted to serve with the beloved Guardian’s exhortation as his guiding light:  “ 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” (The Priceless Pearl, p. 73).

Although admitted to a Tamil primary school in the Diamond Jubilee Estate in Jasin in 1953, he switched to English primary school in 1954. He still maintained a fairly good command of the Tamil language which was useful in his teaching activities in the estates.

Chandran had adorned himself with the praiseworthy virtues of honesty, sincerity, and humility even from his elementary education days. He earned the admiration from the teachers not only because of his academic performance, but also for outshining other students through his spotless character. Chandran was simply swept into the hearts of students and teachers at school. Chandran never wanted to be a burden to anyone but took pleasure in shouldering the burden of others. Whenever he had visitors to his home he gave the best hospitality, and when travel teachers left his home, he would quietly slip some cash into their pockets.

Chandran, as he would recall often, was fortunate to have been trained and guided by some elders at the time when he accepted the Faith, starting with his brothers Bhaskaran and Vasudevan. Bhaskaran had advised Chandran that in reading any Bahá’í Writings, Chandran was to make sure that he understood the essence of the vocabulary used, and not to merely guess at the dictionary meanings of words. It was with this guidance that Chandran was able to absorb the pulse of the wealth in the Bahá’í Writings. Whenever Chandran told Bhaskaran that he was reading a book, the latter used to enquire whether Chandran had completed the book. Thus, he developed the habit of completing one book, before starting on another.

When Chandran and his wife went to India in 2004, they visited Chandran’s brother Vasudevan in Pune. Vasudevan too advised  Chandran along the same lines that Bhaskaran had given. “When reading the Writings, always think out of the box and seek the inner meanings.” This advice helped Chandran a lot especially in not taking the Writings as they appear in print or dictionary.

Another person who Chandran often recalled guiding him in his youth was Auxiliary Board member Mrs. Shantha Sundram from Penang. During a long school break, Chandran, together with 10 to 15 other Bahá’í youth, attended a gathering at her home.  At the end of one session, Mrs. Sundram placed a letter box on the table and said “Imagine that this is a letter box through which you can send letters to God. You would have many aspirations in your life. Only if you have your eyes already set upon to achieve a goal, will your life be directed along a certain route. If not, you will go through your days without any particular aspiration. And you will be like the reed that bends any way that the wind blows. And in the end you will achieve nothing. Now, take some time to think carefully of what your goal in life would be. Then, write it down on this slip of paper, and put it into this box.  This is a letter you are sending to the Almighty…a private and confidential letter to him. Nobody else will read it,” she said, as she handed out a piece of paper to everyone present. On another occasion, in the course of one of her many talks, Chandran was impressed by a prayer she made a reference to which read: ‘Oh God, make me a hollow reed, from which the pith of self hath been blown so that I may become as a clear channel through which Thy Love may flow to others. I have left behind me impatience and discontent. I will chafe no more at my lot. I commit myself wholly into thy hands, for thou art my Guide in the desert, the Teacher of my ignorance, the Physician of my sickness. I am a soldier in my King’s army. I have given up my will to  Him and my life to dispose of as He may please. I know not what fate Thou designest for me, nor will inquire or seek to know. The task of the day suffices for me, all the future is Thine. Thou changest weakness to strength, doubt to faith, perplexity to understanding. When I am fit to bear the burden, Thou wilt lay it on my shoulders. When I am prepared to take the field, Thou wilt assign me a place in the Army of Light. Now I have no other duty than to equip myself for Thy Service. With eagerness and patience, with hope and gratitude, I bend to the task of the hour, lest when Thy call comes I be found unready.’ Over the years, Chandran became particularly drawn to the line ‘…Now I have no other duty than to equip myself for Thy Service. With eagerness and patience, with hope and gratitude, I bend to the task of the hour, lest when Thy call comes I be found unready’, which he endeavoured to practice on a daily basis. Chandran also understood the concept of detachment from a very young age. He would recall how from the age of fifteen, he would go about his work, attending to his filial duties, but at the same time careful not to neglect his duties as a Bahá’í.

One of Chandran’s favourite quotes is this from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “If you should thank Him a thousand times with each breath, it would not be sufficient because God has created and trained you. He has protected you from every affliction and prepared every gift and bestowal.” Chandran always felt that under several most difficult situations he had always come out unscathed from the melting pot, all by that promise given by the Master. He would say, “I pray and try to live the Bahá’í way of life, which is the most testing at times.”

In so many ways, the gentle and pure-hearted soul that was Chandran, did and had lived the life!


Comments to the story can be posted to:

A. Manisegaran

31 January 2022


  1. If I can call an angel who moved among us on earth it would be Chandran for sure. He was a sincere servant of the Cause who lived with most of the qualities and attributes of an exemplary believer. I can vividly remember going in his company and a few others, in the late sixties, teaching the Faith in the kampongs. It was in the Seremban area. I could often see a wide smile decorating his face whenever we had eye contact. He was down to earth as a humble and sweet teacher of the Cause. He always taught with a soft and assuring tone. God bless his radiant soul.

    I would like to thank the author for penning this fascinating story and publishing it in this much-admired blog.

    Kind regards,
    Dr. Firaydun Mithaq
    Chieng Mai

  2. Dear Mani
    Thanks for sharing the story of service an dedication of Chandran and his loving family in the state of Sarawak where I first served on leaving to South East Asia for pioneering in 1963. The story brings the freshest and fondest memories of this olden and yet golden days.

    I am glad to see Smith Utan’s pictures in this narrative. I had a group picture with him, M. Maniam and Uncle Yan Kee Leong in 1963, which I cherish. I am glad to witness the services that he and his family have rendered to the Cause of God.

    Bijan Bayzaee

  3. Mani
    You have written eloquently such a moving story of my good friend Chandrasegaran. I have met him many times , in Jerantut for the first time in my brother G.K. Balan’ house and in many other Bahai gatherings .

    My impression of him is that he is an embodiment of humility, totally unassuming and most loving . His service in the Cause was unwavering from the spirit of the Cause, totally dedicated and selfless. My greatest respect for Chandran, will be remembered forever for his exemplary life as a servant of the Blessed Beauty.

    My deepest appreciation to you Mani, for writing this story , with such beauty and simplicity. Posterity will benefit tremendously from this work of yours. God Bless you .
    Professor Dr. Ananthan Krishna

  4. Dear Uncle Mani,
    Thank you for your tireless efforts and for patiently working with my family and I to compile my beloved father’s life story whilst we were still grasping our sudden loss. I am touched to read the comments as well from friends who knew my father since his early days. I had several dreams after my father’s passing that assured me that he was well on his way to the Abha Kingdom and that he is free from all earthly limitations.

    I fondly recall how my father would simply approach complete strangers and start to talk to them, acknowledging the presence of every single person he comes across with a simple smile, hello or greetings. It was hard to ignore him but eventually one can see how people were open to talk too and welcomed the greetings that may have just made their day a little brighter. My father was the embodiment of what it means to be sincere and courteous at all times.

    May God bless you and your family.

    Kind regards,
    Maya Nair

  5. I read the story of Uncle Chandran,

    I knew him since I was still a little girl. His son Madhu and daughter Maya are my childhood friends. He was always giving his priceless and radiant smile each time he met his friends. Cikgu, as I always called him, visited our family or stayed a few nights with us each time he came to Kuching city. He was soft spoken, loving and friendly. The family lived in Mukah, spreading the Faith tirelessly.

    May his soul soar tin the Abha Kingdom.
    Srimathi Maniam

  6. I feel so happy to have read this beautiful story on my dear friend Mr. Chandran. I had known Mr. Chandran as a very simple and humble believer. His priority was always the Bahai Faith. He always wanted to move and teach the Faith. His only happiness came from teaching the Faith. His dedication towards Faith was excellent. He served and never liked being praised for his services. He always looked for meaningful conversations, and never looked at the faults of people. He will never complain about any soul, but only praised good deeds.

    I remember going to his place in Mukah. He took me to various long houses. He was loved wherever he went. He loved the locals like members of his family and they too reciprocated. Later I invited him to the Kampong Bakong where I live. He came with his wife and daughter Maya. My wife and three children remember them so well. The family has left good impacts in the hearts of the local believers. Their coming to Sarawak was providential.

    Dorai Vethanayagam

  7. Brother Mani,

    Thank you so much for writing about this Angel who was walking on this earth in the form of a human being. He has now returned to the angelic world where he belongs.

    How could I not know this man “Mukah Chandran” as a few of us called him, since he was doing so much for the Cause in Mukah. My memory of him goes back to the time when I was 8 years old in Kuantan town. He was undergoing teacher training in the Day Training College for teachers in Kuantan where my father Munusamy worked as a caretaker. My family lived in the quarters in the college compound. He played tennis game and one day he befriended my father and mentioned about the Bahai Faith. My father always had nice things tom say about “Teacher Chandran” as he called him.

    Later I met him in Sibu, Sarawak when he was attending a spiritualization institute by Jack Davis. After coming back from Sarawak, he came to visit me in Kelantan in 2015. This time he became very close to me as my own brother.

    He was very knowledgeable in the Faith but never once he showed off that he was knowledgeable and that he had done so much for the Faith in Sarawak. He had a good command of the English language. Conversing with him in English was like getting trained in English literature. He always had a humble tone and loving words. I am not able to see anyone replacing him that easily. His love for the Faith and Bahaullah cannot be described that easily. He spoke of the Faith with so much feelings and emotions. Whenever someone sang the song “Will you give your life for Bahaullah” Chandran would she tears. His wife Shoba was such a supportive wife. The Bahai Faith was her life vein too.Together they made a perfect couple meant for each other and serving together.

    Mukah Chandran’s life is an example to many. He lived to serve and he did serve only too well. Chandran left early and too suddenly without saying goodbye to me. But l will always remember my Mukah Chandran and meet him again when my time comes.

    M. Kalai Selvi
    Tanah Merah

  8. Dear Manisegaran ,
    Thank you for producing this wonderful recollection about father. It is such a befitting tribute to his life in service.

    We knew very little about his early days. He hardly spent time reminiscing about the past – he was always thinking forward! So it comes as a revelation to read some of the stories here, especially about his life in the Peninsular, before moving to Sarawak.

    With deep admiration for your work in recording these stories of our unsung heroes for posterity.

    Madhu Nair
    United Kingdom

  9. That was a great story with so much details of my dearest friend Chandran.

    I came to know Mr. Chandran as we were both serving in the Central Region of Sarawak in the 1980s & 1990s. We were both School teachers and in Sarawak we had a School Teachers’ Committee. One of the activities of this Committee was to organize gatherings for School teachers in Sarawak annually. In one of those gathering, Dr. Farzam Arbab was the key speaker. At that time Dr. Farzam Arbab was a Counsellor at the International Teaching Centre. Mr Chandran attended this conference, which was held at the Scout Headquarters in Sibu. Over the years, I met Mr. Chandran in other Baha’i gatherings and conferences as well.

    Mr, Chandran is a humble and dedicated servant of the Cause. He served the Cause with so much sacrifice. It is sad he had to leave this world early. But I am sure he is well rewarded in the Abha Kingdom for all the services rendered on this earthly plane. He is part of the history of the Faith in Sarawak

    Warmest regards,
    Suai Kirak Clarence

  10. I knew Uncle Chandrasegaran when I was living in Miri with my family. They lived in Mukah. Uncle Chandran and hisfamily served in Mukah and their neighboring areas. He was a devoted teacher in his teaching profession and an ardent believer when it comes to the Faith. His wife Aunty Shoba visited us once in Miri together with her lovely children Madhu and Maya

    Rajkumari Prasad

  11. That was an excellent article Mani, as always. I knew Chandran from the time I accepted the Faith in the mid 1960s. From what I had known, Chandran was always on the move to serve the Cause. Almost every evening he would be somewhere to teach the Cause.

    Chandran is another unsung hero whose services have been brought to light through your story. His services are now on record for posterity. The family and the community can be very proud of what Chandran had done for the Cause.

    I am equally impressed with his wife Madam Shoba who had teamed up with Chandran to serve the Cause. Coming from India she could have settled in the comfortable West Malaysia. She was quick to recognize Bahaullah and decided to serve the Cause in a remote part of Sarawak. She has been given equal importance in the story as she too had undertaken arduous tasks for the Cause, not to forget their son Madhu and daughter Maya.

    This is a tale of one whole family serving the Cause where the services were needed. Their life has been a lesson and example to many of us.

    C. Kanagaratnam

  12. Dear Mani,
    Thank you for this great compilation on the life of our fellow Bahai friend Chandran.

    That was a very interesting and heart-touching story. Reading then story I am very impressed and amazed at his glorious teaching efforts in remote parts of West Malaysia, followed by Mukah in Sarawak. I had always known him as a simple-hearted and humble person. He was always adorned with a genuine and spiritual smile that attracted friends and strangers alike.

    May God bless his soul bounteously.

    Arumgam Thanapah

  13. I read the above essay as soon as I received it. My acquaintance with dear Chandran was very brief and short when he occasionally visited our Malaysian Baha’i bookshop where I was assisting. That short encounter was sufficient to make a lasting impact on me. And this story has added further impact in my soul.

    While we have our Holy Writings to nourish us, our beloved Master to show us and our Divine Institutions to guide and educate us, it is to our heroes and heroines that we turn to when we need to see and understand the fuller meaning of virtues like humility, courage, sacrifice, steadfastness, trusting, etc. Our much loved Chandran and family are as such.

    The first quality I loved in Chandran was that he was certainly a God-intoxicated servant, a phrase often used by our beloved Guardian. The moment my conversation with Chandran touched on our beloved Faith, he will be instantly animated, eyes afire, body all excitement, speaking with such enthusiasm that it is impossible not to get lighted up and begin to see respond likewise. After meeting Chandran, I am significantly nearer to understanding the phrase.

    The second quality that outshines in him was his humility. In the brief interactions that we had, there were never any hint or mention of all the services that were rendered, sacrifice that were made nor any attempt to impress or impart. Chandran disguised his spirituality very well to the point that we begin to think that we are the smarter one as he was always willing to hear and learn from us. Through the few travel teaching attempts made, I became aware of the vast difference between travel teaching and pioneering over decades in the outpost one has to sacrifice one’s career and material comfort and the straining loneliness and strangeness. This requires full reliance , faith, and trust in Bahaullah as anything lesser will result in the daily small things and life issues that will gnaw at our morale. It’s one thing to last a year, it’s totally another to last decades at the post. He was in Sarawak for twenty years. This gives us a glimpse of the person that a pioneer is and I stand in awe at such.

    That’s why this historical blog is so effective. It gives relevant details of the heroes that are usually not known and reading about one such as dear Chandran inspires our soul. The fact that it’s online means that whenever our drooping wings need a lift, we can connect to your blog, read about our dearest Ravichandran, Thanabalan, Govindamma, Luke Lee, Lean Beng Liew, etc and get the needed boost for our souls

    Ronie Koh

  14. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on the life of my uncle Chandran. Truly the Faith was foremost and central to his whole being. Uncle lived many years serving in remote communities with great zeal. One quote that comes to mind when I think of my fathers family is “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies our ideals of beauty would be very different.” To me my uncle is a most beautiful soul who is now basking and rejoicing in the Abha Kingdom and reaping the fruits of his many endeavors of service while on this earth.

    Deepest appreciation
    Jyoti Nair
    Papua New Guinea

  15. I had never met Mr Chandran or his family. But through your story I got to know their strong dedication, selfless service, and the irrepressible spirit. Very seldom we get stories of families serving like pioneers in some remote part of the country. And the family of Chandran was of this kind. Thank you for bringing out another great family from the early history of the Faith in Malaysia. It’s very uplifting to know the teaching spirit Mr Chandran and his Ms Shoba had and how they involved their children into Bahai service even at their tender age. They instilled into their children the spirit of service which is exemplary. I am very sure their pioneering to Sarawak has touched many readers.

    Once again, thank you for this lovely story.
    Nehru Arunasalam

  16. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Chandrasegaran or Chandran as I called him. The story brought back my one early days in the Faith as Chandran and I had been together in serving the Cause in Jerantut town Chandran was transferred to Jerantut town as a primary school teacher sometime in 1970 and stayed on till 1973. As we both were single at that time we decided to stay in the same rented house. We saved money by cooking our food. As I had more free time than him I volunteered to cook.

    Not many people knew about the Faith in Jerantut at that time, and the people were quite receptive. We managed to organize regular firesides and deepening sessions in individual homes. We had even organized a one-day institute in the primary school where Chandran was teaching. We went teaching to nearby estates like Jerantut Estate and Jenderak Estate. The people in the estates, mostly Indians were very receptive. The Manager of the Jerantut Estate became our friend and was very supportive of our efforts to teach the Faith to his estate workers. We brought in enough believers into the Faith to form a Local Spiritual Assembly. The Faith was developing very well and many people in Jerantut and the surrounding areas came to know about our Faith. Because the Faith was gaining popularity there was a group which naturally was not happy with the progress we were making and started going against us. They called themselves the ABC or Anti Baha’i Committee. We were not deterred by this group and moved on relying on the protection of Bahaullah. Having established well in Jerantut we then organized outstation teaching trips to Bentong, Mentakab, Temerloh, Maran, and Kuantan with a few friends like Mr Boloram and family, Mr Ramudu and family, Post Master of Jerantut, Rajamanickam and family, and Mr. Perianan. Chandran was a great teacher and a motivator and before he left Jerantut, we had enough active believers to keep the Faith strong and progressive. The time that Chandran stayed in Jerantut shall always be part of history, and I was happy to have teamed up with him

    G.K. Balan
    Kuala Lumpur

  17. Dear Mr Mani,

    I did not really get to know the late Mr Chandran, except that there were numerous functions we where we found ourselves together. Our encounters were mostly during these events. The only time I got to know him and his family w as during my road trip to his pioneering post in Mukah in Sarawak, East Malaysia. He was then school teacher and I found him very approachable and very hospitable, entertaining visitors. His son Madhu was of the same age as my eldest son Olinga Lim and we too met in some other Bahai activities.

    I can say Mr Chandran was very devoted and sincere in his desire to spread the teachings of the Bahai Faith to all who crossed his path, especially in Mukah. The Bahais there will forever be grateful to him and his supportive family for all their services.
    His legacy stands out bright, eternal and he therefore rightfully deserve a place in the history of the Bahai Faith in Sarawak. Today their dedications are being recognized and are well reflected by the dynamic of growth of the Faith here. We should all emulate such pioneering spirit and to be inspired to arise serving in Sarawak

    Lim Pun Huat

  18. I met Mr. Chandran during ealier days, when I became a Baha’i in 1971 in Johor Bahru. He was a rare unique personality, thinking always of the Faith, seeking ways and means to teach the Faith, whenever opportunity presented itself.

    He was an embodiment of self- sacrifice and detachment emanating and eliciting the spirit to attract souls.

    Whenever I interacted with Mr. Chandran, initially it was joy and laughter followed by silence, perhaps two souls energizing and harmonizing with one another. Then Chandran will start talking of teaching and what we could do for the Faith.

    Always I was the receiver and he was the giver of wisdom, experience and insights.

    I really missed a spiritual giant, perhaps he will be empowering and energizing the Malaysian Baha’i community from the worlds beyond.

    K.T. Maran

  19. Dear Mani,

    The article on my brother Chandran was good. It recognizes the basic spiritual nature of Chandran. I did not know the many facts you wrote about my own brother, but yet there is a lag in the presentation- his struggles and the many pains he underwent in the course of his life. Through it all his utter devotion and his great faith in Baha’u’llah was the unerring compass that guided him.

    The children in our parents’ family inherited certain qualities from our father and a respect for studies and learning. Above all we received the example of their humility and exercised great care not to hurt others. None of the family was ambitious or wanted possessions or wealth. In Chandran one will find the full expression of these qualities.

    I hardly spent any time with Chandran since his birth. I went away to study in Kuala Lumpur when he was a child. Then returned much later after training as a teacher. I had my family in Malacca during his Secondary school studies. Then in end of 1965 I left for Kuala Lumpur to stay in the National Bahai Centre to discharge my duties as Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly more effectively. And I pioneered to India in May 1967. That distanced me further from Chandran and other family members. But the memory of a self-abnegating, gentle and soft youth Chandran will always remain with me. He went away quietly and unobtrusively.

    Thank you again for writing about Chandran.

    Dr. Vasudevan

  20. What a dedicated teacher, unrestrained like the wind in carrying the Message of Baha’u’llah. He was in a way a tree of life laden with beneficial fruits especially in the native areas in Sarawak.
    When Francis Ling shared the news of the formation of the Baha’i Society in the Chung Hwa High school at Mukah in the 1970s where he was teaching then, l was inspired the role that he has exemplified. When l decided to leave the Baha’i National Office in Kuala Lumpur in 1993, l thought l could have further pursued that unaccomplished dream of aspiration. But, alas, I have been like an exile from among these independent schools one after the other within very short span of time, hence without much impact in sharing the Message…. How intensely l deplored it. However, after careful reading through what Chandran has accomplished for the Faith, this has been a solace to my heart.

    Chandran is, perhaps among the foremost school teachers in such field, an earnest ‘ living exile’ for the Cause of Baha’u’llah till his very last breath of life.

    Koh Kuang Wang
    Port Dickson

  21. Dear Manisegaran,

    I wish to thank you on behalf of my family for penning such a detailed story on my dear brother Chandran. There are so many details that I did not know before. He was such a humble person, always soft-spoken and yet very firm in what he believed. To him the Bahai Faith was everything and was always prepared to go any length to promote the Cause, which he did throughout his days.

    As we siblings grew up we went to different parts of the country, some abroad, and we seldom met. That was the sad part, and yet the inner happiness was that the happiness that swelled in my heart that they all went different places to diffuse the divine fragrances of the teachings of Bahaullah. Chandran visited me often in my hometown in Taiping after he returned from Mukah in Sarawak. During the days he stayed with me we conversed so much on the Faith, and I could see the amount of love and devotion he had for the Cause. And reading your story makes me proud to have Chandran as my brother.

    He has truly served well, and I am sure he is now harvesting the rewards of his services in the higher kingdom.

    May my brother’s soul rest in peace.

    Sukumaran Sankaran Nair

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