Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paying Tribute via Biography


DATUK Seri N.S. Selvamany never imagined that 30 years after his retirement, someone would write a biography of him.

The 1997 Tokoh Guru Kebangsaan has touched the lives of thousands of students and their families is his over 60 years of teaching.

“It’s a great blessing from God. I didn’t start out to consciously do this (teaching) but it just became a way of life. Those days, we teachers had nothing much to do but to teach. So we taught and taught all the time.

Story of dedication: Selvamany signing copies of his biography at the book launch

“We love the children (students), it was a beautiful era and I am blessed to be a part of it,” said the 86-year-old who was the country’s first Economics teacher based at Anderson School Ipoh (SM Anderson) from 1952 to 1972.

He started with just four students.

His former students’ love and respect for him was clearly visible during the launch of the book titled Selvamany: More Than a Teacher by Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah on Jan 15 at the Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur.

Also present at the event were Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Bainun, Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah and his consort Raja Puan Besar Tuanku Zara Salim.

Selvamany was accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Poovayee, and two daughters, Professor Dr Malini Patel and Dr Nalina Prabu, both of whom are now residing in the United States.

Sitting through the event, one could not ignore how the old boys and girls adored their Sir and the respect they have for him is heartfelt and sincere.

Overcome with emotion: Selvamany wiping away tears at his surprise birthday celebration at the book launch as his daughter Nalina looks on.
To still earn that much of admiration and acknowledgment from his students after all these years, Selvamany must have been quite a teacher in his time — more than a teacher perhaps as the title of the biography written by one of his former students, Dr Rokiah Talib suggests.

The biography is a special project undertaken by a group of former SM Anderson Ipoh students from the class of 1962/63.

The book launch was a heart-warming event where successful men and women flocked around their former teacher and recollected memories. There were no racial barriers as the multi-racial guests hugged and mingled all afternoon.

A firm believer in peace within the heart as the key to happiness, Selvamany said he had been getting many phone calls from his former students since the launch of the book and it made him happy to note that they were all successful.

He said the book was planned and executed entirely by his former students and that he was only required for interviews and information.

“When information was being gathered for the book, I got many instructions from Rokiah, and I told her that she was my headmistress now,” joked Selvamany.

These days, he still is a motivational figure in society as he is active in charity and motivational works, especially among children.

“There are always people to see and talk to and time passes by like that — that’s a blessing too,” he added.

Naturally, Selvamany’s advice to young teachers is that teaching is a noble profession and they should uphold and respect the trust that parents have in them.

“A teacher’s role is very important in shaping a student’s future. Teachers must not misuse that trust because it affects the child’s future. Mistakes made by teachers can affect a student for life.

“Being a teacher is a full-time job. Nowadays I hear of quality time but the whole day should be quality time. To be a good teacher, one should get to know a student and the family,” he said.

Selvamany: More Than a Teacher begins in the pre-war colonial era. From there the reader is taken through the Japanese occupation, return of the British, independence of Malaya and the period thereafter. Nevertheless, the central figure is Selvamany.

Rokiah was a professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of Malaya. Since her retirement, she has written several books.

Among them are Tan Sri Fatimah Hashim: Potret Seorang Pemimpin, A Second Chance: Life & Mission of Arshad Ayub and Raja Muhammad Alias: the Architect of Felda. She is currently a Karyawan Tamu with the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Press.

Currently Selvamany: More Than a Teacher is not for sale and were only given out as a souvenir to those who attended the launch.

To get a copy, call 012-2019 739 (Yeong Sek Yee).

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