To move on, forget about yourself

When he lost his three children to the tsunami on what was his 40th birthday, engineer K Parameswaran (in blue shirt) and wife Choodamani (in peach sari) opened their large home to children orphaned by the hungry tide. They now have 37 wards, includi
When he lost his three children to the tsunami on what was his 40th birthday, engineer K Parameswaran (in blue shirt) and wife Choodamani (in peach sari) opened their large home to children orphaned by the hungry tide. They now have 37 wards, including those who lost parents more recently, as well as two sons of their own. -- ST PHOTO: RADHA BASU
When Mr Parameswaran and his wife P Choodamani lost all three of their children in the tsunami they opened their home to children who had lost parents in the tragedy. Their adopted brood has since grown to 37. They have also been blessed with two son
When Mr Parameswaran and his wife P Choodamani lost all three of their children in the tsunami they opened their home to children who had lost parents in the tragedy. Their adopted brood has since grown to 37. They have also been blessed with two sons of their own,  Shemayiah, 9, (left) and Michaiah, 7. -- ST PHOTO: RADHA BASU

This story first appeared in The Sunday Times, Dec 21, 2014

When I first met Mr Karibeeran Parameswaran in December 2005, he and his wife, Ms P. Choodamani, were still grieving the deaths of all three of their children in the tsunami. Their way of moving on was to open an orphanage in their home and adopt 16 tsunami orphans.

Nearly a decade later, their brood of adopted children has grown, and they have had two children of their own.

Mr Parameswaran has legions of famous admirers, including former United States president Bill Clinton, who was a special ambassador overseeing tsunami reconstruction. Organisations and people from the US to Australia have reached out, touched by his story. He has received awards for his extraordinary response to personal tragedy. With the tsunami's 10th anniversary, the local and international media are back.

There are numerous photographs online of the burly bearded man with everyone from Mr Clinton to Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan and industrialist Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man.

Yet, none of these photographs is on the walls of his spartan home. There are also no newspaper clippings or DVDs of the media stories.

"Unless you forget about yourself, you can never serve others," he says.

He wants to help others live with "courage and confidence", but has no dreams left for himself.

"They were dashed 10 years ago... I have stopped dreaming since then."

radhab@sph.com.sg