Hindu devotee saves life of elderly Chinese

58-year-old on way to fire-walking ceremony performs CPR on man who collapsed and had no pulse

Mr U. Silvakumar (in orange and below right) administering CPR to an elderly Chinese man on Sunday. With him are other Hindu devotees who helped the unconscious man. Photos of the incident have gone viral and the men's actions have drawn praise.
Mr U. Silvakumar (in orange) administering CPR to an elderly Chinese man on Sunday. With him are other Hindu devotees who helped the unconscious man. Photos of the incident have gone viral and the men's actions have drawn praise.PHOTO: COURTESY OF KUMAR V.
Mr U. Silvakumar

He was headed to a temple along Serangoon Road on Sunday afternoon when he noticed a crowd around an elderly Chinese man lying on the ground near a petrol station.

Mr U. Silvakumar, who was with three other Hindu devotees and dressed in ceremonial attire as they were to take part in a fire-walking ceremony that evening, saw a few people trying to fan the elderly man with scarves to improve the ventilation around him.

The army military expert's life-saving instincts kicked in. After determining that the man had no pulse or signs of breathing, Mr Silvakumar, 58, administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).


Regardless of race, language or religion... good job!


"I first picked up CPR in 1982. It's my nature to help," Mr Silvakumar told The Straits Times.

A Facebook post with pictures of him and other Hindu devotees helping the elderly man has since gone viral after it was posted on Sunday.

The post was shared more than 2,500 times and attracted more than 3,300 reactions, including likes, by 9.30pm yesterday.

Netizens praised the actions of the men who helped, with some highlighting Singapore's multiracial society. Facebook user Nyonya Yusri wrote: "Regardless of race, language or religion... good job!"

The photos were taken by ship boarding officer Kumar V. and uploaded on Facebook by his brother-in-law. In the photos, a crowd of Hindu devotees can be seen gathering around the unconscious man as one of the devotees, Mr Silvakumar, places his hands on the man's chest to administer CPR.

Mr Kumar said he and his friend had earlier seen the elderly man trying to inflate his bicycle tyres at the petrol station when a ceremonial procession passed by. But later, he saw four devotees holding up a ceremonial attire known as a vesthi to create a temporary shelter over the elderly man after he had collapsed. It was drizzling then.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said that it was alerted to the incident in Serangoon Road near Block 509 at 3.47pm. It dispatched an ambulance, which took the man to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Mr Kumar said the man showed signs of response just before he was taken into the ambulance.

"He was still unconscious, but we saw his stomach moving and immediately shouted 'Om Sakthi', which means 'Praise the gods', in relief. It is a mantra recited during a fire-walking ritual," he said.

Mr Silvakumar, who helped to revive the man, was equally relieved.

He said: "It takes guts because everyone is watching but I was not really pressured. I was just praying for him to come through. If I can save him, I am happy, but if I cannot then it is fate, but it won't stop me from trying again."

He added that he was "overcome with emotion" when he saw that the man's normal heartbeat had returned, according to the monitor in the ambulance.

Mr Silvakumar went on to complete his fire-walking later at 8pm.

Mr Silvakumar's daughter, Aishwaryaa, 24, said her father, whom she described as selfless and caring, influenced her and her siblings to "do all they can to help those people around them". The chemical engineer said that during the Jakarta Marriott hotel bombing in 2009, her father ran to the bomb site to help victims. He was staying at a place across from the hotel then. And when everyone was running away from the blast, he was running towards it to try to save people.

Noting that Sunday's incident was just one of many in which her father had helped others, Ms Aishwaryaa said: "My family and I can never be more proud of the man we live with and who brought us up.

"Even as most of us are praising him, he does not actually know that he is quite a sensation now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Hindu devotee saves life of elderly Chinese'. Subscribe