S R Nathan's state funeral: He cared greatly about Hindu, Indian communities, says Gopinath Pillai

The late former president S R Nathan lighting the lamp watched by Mr Gopinath Pillai (left) and SMA president P K Koshy on Dec 12, 2011. PHOTO: MALAYALEE ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - Giving back to the Hindu and Indian communities was of great importance to the late Mr S R Nathan, said Ambassador-at-large Gopinath Pillai on Friday (Aug 26).

Mr Nathan was one of the founders of self-help group Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda), and as chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB), he ensured better accounting procedures were put in place.

He took on the role of chairman of HEB because he felt that just as there were credible Indian ministers who had won the respect of all races in the political arena, the various Indian institutions should also be credible, he told Mr Pillai.

"He did not think doing your best was good enough. Doing what was required was more important," said Mr Pillai, delivering the last of seven eulogies at the state funeral service for Mr Nathan, whom he called his friend and mentor of almost four decades.

The warm and friendly former president would not leave any function he attended without taking photographs with the employees there, Mr Pillai added.

"I would venture to say that almost half the households in Singapore have one photograph of him with a member of the family," he said.

And many people he encountered remembered him long after, such as a woman who had worked for Mr Pillai's family as a domestic helper who, when she heard Mr Nathan was hospitalised, called from a remote town in India to say she was praying for him.

Recalling Mr Nathan's lighter side, Mr Pillai said he loved watching Tamil and Malayalam movies, and listening to classical Carnatic music and light film songs.

The song Thanjavooru Manneduthu played at the start of the funeral service was a favourite of his, he said.

Mr Pillai said he and his wife had travelled together with Mr Nathan and his family, and they saw first-hand his loving marriage and close-knit family.

"Mr Nathan lives on in them as he does in our hearts. At this time of sorrow, we share the loss Mrs Nathan and her family feel, and pray that they will have the strength to withstand it," he said.

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