P Thiagarasan

Did you know that the Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre was not the only Tamil centre in Singapore? There were once more than ten other Tamil schools such as Kalaimagal Tamil School, Vasuki Tamil School and Valluvar Tamil School, amongst many others, which were distributed across the island wherever Tamils could be found. At the time, government schools did not offer Tamil and so the Tamilar Seerthirutha Kazhagam (Tamils Reform Association) took the initiative to start up Tamil schools so that children would have the opportunity to study Tamil as well. Thiagarasan and his team were roped in to kick start the project.

Starting the schools was a momentous task for the team, but the real challenge was in getting students to attend the schools. Getting a job, brining in some income to support the family was the top priority among many Indian households at that time. Naturally education was of a lower priority among them. Thiagarasan and his team had to tackle this and many other issues to make this project successful.

“During our visits, we advised the parents on the need for their children to be educated.”

One of Mr Thiagarasan's personal beliefs is that community service should come from within oneself. It was this strong belief, coupled with witnessing others' involvement in such events and activities that motivated him to engage in community service. He took time after his full time work to contribute however he could and would even take leave on certain occasions to help out with important events.

Not one to just help for the sake of helping, Thiagarasan gave his full commitment to all projects undertaken by the association. He proudly shared with us the charity drives that were done to support the Tamil schools, which netted substantial amount of money. He was personally involved in these donation drives from beginning to end and as these activities could stretch well into the night, Thiagarasan kept himself going on mere buns and coffee.

Thiagarasan has no regrets about the time spent on these community services. He believes that without the effort put in by him and his contemporaries, Singapore and its Tamil society would not be where it is today. Though participating in such activities meant that he rarely got a moment of rest, he still wholeheartedly believed in committing to his cause.

“If we had not worked hard in the past, we would not be where we are today.”

Mr Thiagarasan is also honoured to have been close to famous Tamil writer and publisher, Mr G Sarangapani and is full of praise for him. In fact, Mr Thiagarasan believes that the two main reasons for Indians’ success in Singapore are the Tamil Murasu and Mr Sarangapani. He credits Mr Sarangapani with furthering his interest in community service and Tamil Murasu with helping him to get a job at the Hock Lee Bus Company.

Mr Thiagarasan has also published a book about his experience working with G Sarangapani and mentions that it was through this book that public awareness of Mr Thiagarasan increased. He is thankful for the praise, recognition and glory he has gained since and is grateful for this blessing.

“Sarangapani and Tamil Murasu play an important role for the success of Tamil speaking Indians today.”

After all of his efforts, Mr Thiagarasan now takes pride in the fact that Tamil is one of Singapore's official languages and feels happy in seeing how far the language has come, knowing that he also had a small part to play in this. To this day, he remains a strong advocate of the Tamil language in Singapore and believes that despite belonging to various religions, embracing Tamil as our mother tongue has unified us and made us one.

He takes pride in knowing that events such as the annual Tamil language month have helped Tamil in its growth and continues to promote using Tamil on a daily basis by speaking to and greeting Indians in Tamil. Mr Thiagarasan strongly believes that in Singapore at least, Tamil will never die off and instead will continue to grow even greater. Despite having been born in India, Mr Thiagarasan has lived and grown up in Singapore and having learnt so much from Singapore over the years, firmly believes in supporting the nation through all its future endeavors.

“It was the Tamil language that brought all Indians together.”


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