Chat with Nathan leads to poly journey

Mr Santhiran with Madam Urmila Nandey, wife of Mr Nathan, at the gathering of the Indian community in Singapore to remember the late former president yesterday.
Mr Santhiran with Madam Urmila Nandey, wife of Mr Nathan, at the gathering of the Indian community in Singapore to remember the late former president yesterday.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Ex-president urged then ITE student to get a polytechnic spot during meeting

An hour-long chat with the late Mr S R Nathan made Mr Santhiran Ezhavarasan realise the importance of furthering his studies.

Mr Nathan had encouraged the then Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student to get a place in a polytechnic after his ITE studies.

That is precisely what Mr Santhiran has done.

Last night, at a gathering of the Indian community here to remember the late former president, he told an audience of 800 that he had this week been accepted into Republic Polytechnic to pursue a diploma in sports coaching.

The 23-year-old was one of seven people who delivered eulogies to Mr Nathan last night at the PGP Hall in Serangoon Road, before an audience that included family members of Mr Nathan, who died at age 92 on Aug 22.

Mr Santhiran, who is currently doing national service, told The Straits Times that his hour-long meeting with Mr Nathan in January last year left a deep impression on him.

He had just received the S R Nathan Education Award, which helped pay for his school fees and gave him an allowance, and Mr Nathan had asked to meet all the recipients.

The award is provided by the S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund, set up in 2011 to support programmes to raise the education levels of financially needy Singaporeans.

"We had a very good chat," said Mr Santhiran, who was then pursuing his Higher Nitec in sports management at ITE College West.

"Most importantly, he told me not to stop my education with ITE, as many people tend to finish ITE and go straight to work."

Mr Santhiran said those words motivated him a lot, especially as they were from a former president.

Last night's tribute event was organised by the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB), Narpani Pearavai - the coordinating body for the Indian Activity Executive Committees - and the Singapore Indian Development Association.

Attendees included current and former Indian ministers, such as Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and former Cabinet minister S. Dhanabalan, as well as Indian civil servants and community leaders.

In his eulogy, Mr R. Jayachandran, chairman of the HEB, recalled how Mr Nathan was still thinking about issues concerning the board even though he was then already in hospital.

At the event, Mr Tharman presented Mr Nathan's family with a memento - a book containing photographs of Mr Nathan interacting with the Indian community.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2016, with the headline 'Chat with Nathan leads to poly journey'. Print Edition | Subscribe