M Thangarasan

Who is he? He looks the same as he was 15 years ago; the same long sleeve shirt, same dressing, and his mannerisms haven't changed much. He is a familiar face at many Tamil language related conferences and seminars. Slightly shorter than others, with a side-parted thick white hair, he does not wear dentures although he is missing quite a few teeth! But when he starts speaking in Tamil, his speech is still clear and crisp.

Who is he? 39 Tamil books in the Spore National Library has been authored by him. He doesn't merely say he is a teacher, but proudly proclaims himself as Tamil Teacher Thangarasan.


The triple skill sets of a writer, teacher and social worker is what makes up M.Thangarasan. At 80 yrs old (2014), he has witnessed Singapore’s steady growth over the years, contributed to the local Tamil literature scene and helped the community in many ways.

He has seen a time when Singapore was a state within Malaya, composed mostly of villages and plantations. Then, there were many Tamil schools in Singapore. The schools were separated in accordance to the language mediums. Hence there were Tamil, Chinese and Malay schools, and all subjects were taught in these respective languages.

English language was required to unite the people. Singapore's honorable leader Mr Lee Kuan Yew stated at that time, “in the next 20 years I will achieve this unity”. Today it’s a city with skyscrapers, mother tongue as 2nd language, bilingual policies and world-class education.

“...in another 20 years, Mr Lee vowed he would develop Singapore’s housing landscape and the countryside lifestyle will no longer exist.”

Writer Thangarasan’s first literary work was “Fate can be overcome with intelligence”. He staged this drama, whilst he was undergoing teacher training, before even becoming a certified teacher. However, it was “Vanjakithaana”, a short story, published in 1956 in Tamil Murasu, which introduced him to the literary world as an author.

His literary creations ballooned over the years. They included several novels, short stories, dramas, poetry and students’ composition series (translation) adding up to about 39 literary works.

Imaginary Flowers, Bouquet, Lying Flowers, Flower Basket, Bunch of Flowers, Pollen, ‘manangavalum pookal’, Sunflower etc were the titles for some of his book. When someone enquired why the titles of his novels were related to flowers, he replied that he wanted his novels to provide “a little fragrance in the flower garden of the literary world.


“The short story “Vanjageethaanaa” was my first foray into the literary world.”

He has lived through the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, British colonial rule and the period when Singapore was part of Malaya. He journeyed to Malaya as an infant from his birthplace India, almost 80yrs ago with his grandmother.

From learning how to write Tamil characters in the sand, till he started working as a Tamil teacher, he studied everything in the Tamil language. After a few years working as a teacher in Malaysia, he moved to Singapore, and he continued his work as a teacher, and went on to do writing and social work.

He has taken on many roles in his academic life - a teacher, school principal, curriculum officer etc. In 2012, he was bestowed with the Lifetime Teaching Award by the Tamil Murasu and the Tamil Teachers Union.


“Everyone can have feelings, however only I and a few pople like me, had the drive and passion to keep us going.”

He carried out duties in his position as Secretary for the Sembawang Tamil Society for 12 years, and played a prominent role in the donation drive to raise funds for the building of the secondary school. Although his dual duties as Sembawang Tamil School’s Principal and Sembawang Tamil Association’s Secretary caused him to take a 12-year hiatus from his literary work, he still continued to write drama scripts for students and interested groups.

M Thangarasan may have retired from teaching, but his literary journey continues unabated.

“Our thoughts may have changed but how can our values and inspirations change?”

A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.