Sunanda Devi Senan

Learning new things can be difficult, but most of us have the advantage of a teacher. However, there are those who are capable of learning and understanding all on their own, one of whom is Mdm Sunanda. The passion for learning and applying what she has learnt has fuelled Mdm Sunanda through her years and still continues to do so.

Arriving in Singapore after her marriage, MdmS unanda stayed for a few short years before moving to Cameron Highlands, Malaysia with her husband in light of his new job and it was there that she first got interested in gardening. As just one of the many evidence of her passion for learning, Mdm Sunanda is a self-taught woman, having taught herself all she knows about gardening solely from books and from visiting many gardens to draw inspiration. It is these precise skills that she would bring back with her to Singapore and use to start up the garden now found at Sree Narayana Mission. As one of the more significant contributions she can recall, Mdm Sunanda is singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the garden. Seeing the opportunity for something great from the empty pots and plants going to waste, Mdm Sunanda enlisted a couple of volunteers and slowly built up her garden. To her credit, 4 years later, the garden is flourishing so well, contractors have been hired to help in its upkeep. Mdm Sunanda can certainly take pride in the fact that the garden is a haven for all; residents who enjoy quiet strolls and visitors for whom the garden provides a peaceful backdrop for them to see their loved ones.


“I used to stand there and imagine what plants would be good for this place and slowly I started.”

Over the course of her life here in Singapore, Sree Narayana Mission would feature prominently in her life. Starting out as a volunteer, Mdm Sunanda eventually rose to sit on the executive committee for more than 20 years, whilst also sitting on many subcommittees, like chairing the guru puja sub-committee, spiritual and women’s wing sub-committee and IT committee.

Another feature in her cap in the pursuit of learning is Mdm Sunanda’s IT skills. She first became interested in IT after visiting her son overseas where she had a lot of free time on her hands with nothing to do. Struggling when being taught by her son, Mdm Sunanda set aside picking up computer skills only to take it up again on her own by herself! From typing out cooking recipes, Mdm Sunanda has come far and now uses technology as though she’s been doing it all her life. From expertly navigating her smartphone to Skyping with her family, who are located all around the world, and even learning to type in Malayalam, Mdm Sunanda has certainly integrated well into the tech savvy world.

Having firmly established her own skills in technology, Mdm Sunanda then proceeded to impart this knowledge to her contemporaries by devising a syllabus for basic computing for the elderly and conducting classes for them. The effort put in by her was certainly tremendous and one for which she has been recognized for, being awarded the IDA’s Wellness Ambassador Award. Despite this though, Mdm Sunanda is ever eager to learn more and sitting on the IT Sub-Committee for Sree Narayana Mission, makes full use of the many IT professionals on the team to learn from them.


“If I teach, I can also learn from my mistakes”


Mdm Sunanda has also been heavily involved with the annual Chathayam celebrations in Sree Narayana Mission. On the birth anniversary of Sree Narayana Guru, a Chathayam lunch is organised comprising of 24 traditional vegetarian dishes. Starting in 1973, Mdm Sunanda has seen the crowd grow from several hundreds to a couple of thousand. The event is in fact so popular that they had even run out of food last year! The menu is decided solely by the volunteers and everything from the ordering of the necessary ingredients to the preparation and cooking of the food is done by them. Ordering the needed to prepare meals for thousand over people is no easy feat, but Mdm Sunanda has been successfully doing so and takes pride in all that she has accomplished.

As part of her other duties in the other subcommittees, Mdm Sunanda has been involved in efforts to simplify and streamline spiritual material to make it more accessible to youth in light of falling participation by the younger generation in spiritual discussions. As a result of the various committees she’s involved in, Mdm Sunanda mentions that where she once used to visit residents and spend time with them, she finds that unfortunately she has less time for such activities. Stressing the importance of just interacting with the residents, she emphasizes that no extravagant gestures are needed and often simply spending time with them is sufficient to make a difference. She in turn is also touched as these residents remember her and often ask after her should she happen to miss a session.

“At first it was only a few hundred, but now the numbers have increased to thousands.”

Looking back to her initial time in Singapore, Mdm Sunanda reflects on how far Singapore has come and encourages more Singaporeans to step forward and volunteer, but at the same time acknowledges the difficulties involved in getting more volunteers due to the different challenges faced by each successive generation.

When asked about future plans, Mdm Sunanda mentions that she is happy where she is and despite having suffered a fall recently, it has certainly not slowed her down and through it all she maintains a positive outlook. Despite her difficulties, she finds a way around and her many years of experience have enabled her to capably plan while leaving the execution to the younger, more abled volunteers.

Mdm Sunanda has certainly contributed a lot to the Narayana Mission group and in light of the upcoming AGM, she is in two minds about staying on in her role.

Acknowledging the benefits of having a workload and things to do in old age, Mdm Sunanda ultimately leaves it up to the committee stating that if they would be willing to have her, she would be more than glad to help. As with many of our other pioneers, it is clear Mdm Sunanda has ample experience to share and it would be definitely beneficial to have her guidance. We here at 50Faces wish her all the best in her future endeavours!


“If they want me, I would like to serve”


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.