TO many, he is Datuk Seri N.S. Selvamany but to his former students, he is fondly known as sir, uncle or master.
Such was the closeness between this long-time teacher and his students whom he considered as his children.
Yeong Sek Yee, 72, described Selvamany as a helpful person, who was also passionate about causes, as he often stressed on national unity and equal treatment.
“He also went out of his way to help students who were in need.
“There was one poor student from Chemor who cycled to and from school.
“When master found out, he fought for the student to be placed at the school hostel so that he could have more time to study, ” he added.
Another former student, Yap Shek Seng, 72, said Selvamany once helped his late wife pay for her Form Six fees.
Selvamany, 93, the former teacher of SMK Anderson, Ipoh, and headmaster of SMK Idris Shah and SMK Seri Teja in Gopeng, passed away at his home in Persiaran Anderson, Ipoh last Tuesday.
During his funeral on Saturday, family and friends as well as students lined up along Persiaran Anderson to give him a final send-off.
Among those present were former Singapore Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, former Perak state speaker Datuk Seri SK Devamany, Gopeng Museum curator Phang See Kong and Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, famously known as Lat.
Lat, an old boy of SMK Anderson, said Selvamany’s memory was good as he remembered all of his students’ names.
“Usually students look for their teachers after completing their education, but with master, he looked for us.
“It was some time in 1971 when I was working as a journalist, and not known yet when he spotted me on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur. He called out to me and we spoke, ” said Lat, adding that Selvamany was a lovable teacher. Lat’s last meeting with his beloved teacher was at a school function last year.
Devamany said he met Selvamany through community work and has great respect for him.
“He was a great philanthropist, an inspiration for teachers everywhere. He was a man of harmony and managed to raise thousands of ‘children’ in prolific places, ” he recalled.
Former Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) chief executive officer Datuk Merlyn Kasimir, 71, said Selvamany was a father figure to him.
“I had transferred to Anderson from SMK Clifford to do my Form Six and it was a big adjustment for me, from a small town like Kuala Kangsar.
“He gave me a lot of advice on coping with studies, ” he said.
Hailing from Batu Gajah, Selvamany was also a former schoolmate and close friend of the late Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah.
Both of them studied at SMK Sultan Yussuf in Batu Gajah (formerly known as Government English School), that was started by Selvamany’s grandfather K. Malaiperumal Pillay.
He was named Tokoh Guru Perak and Tokoh Guru Kebangsaan in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah and Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim sent a wreath, expressing their condolences. In the condolence message, Sultan Nazrin wrote that the nation has lost a remarkable man who dedicated his life to the cause of better education for the nation.
”We are deeply saddened by the loss of Selvamany who was a dear friend to my late father, Sultan Azlan Shah, since their school days in Batu Gajah, ” he said.
Sultan Azlan Shah also launched a biography titled Selvamany: More Than A Teacher, written by Selvamany’s former student, Dr Rokiah Talib, in 2012.