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Saturday December 7, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday December 7, 2013 MYT 8:46:55 AM
by victoria brown
Unforgettable moment: Ponnerselvi showing a newspaper clipping of her meeting with Mandela in 1993.
PETALING JAYA: Coming from a troubled childhood and tough beginnings, V. Ponnerselvi had always looked to Nelson Mandela as a source of inspiration.
Her dream came true when she had the opportunity to meet him 20 years ago when he visited the Malaysian wing of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1993.
Ponnerselvi was a 17-year-old part-time receptionist at Servcorp, which provided secretarial services to the ANC then.
“I was very happy to hear that Mandela was coming to the office. I had always looked up to him since I was 12,” said Ponnerselvi.
Despite being told by her manager to not bother the leader, Ponnerselvi remained eager to meet her idol.
“Even a colleague discouraged me but I told her that I had to see him and get his autograph. I didn’t care if I was fired or got a warning letter from my boss,” she said.
Ponnerselvi recalled that Mandela was about to leave and was standing by the elevator when she approached him.
“Although there were many VIPs and photographers surrounding him, I went straight to him and asked: ‘Sir, can I have your signature?’
“He looked at me and said ‘Of course, my child.’ I still remember that,” she said.
Ponnerselvi also remembered him putting a hand on her shoulder and saying: “Don’t sell my signature, child. Someday it will be worth a lot of money.”
She said that she was so excited to have met Mandela that she wasn’t even aware that photographers took a picture of him and her.
“Even now, when I am feeling down, I would look at the photo and feel better. He is a source of inspiration and strength to me.”
Ponnerselvi said since the day she met him, she progressed bit by bit in her life and is now a welfare officer at Pure Life Society after getting a professional caregiver certificate from Open University.
“I admire him so much for what he has done. He will always be my hero.”
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Politics, Nelson Mandela
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