Motherhood, a lifetime job

Motherhood, a lifetime job
Suseela Nadarajah
PHOTO: The Star

They may all be grown up with families of their own, some living thousands of miles away but Suseela Nadarajah's four children still depend on their mother.

"Her love sustains us. Her courage has given us the strength to succeed and her selfless sacrifice for her family is a life long inspiration," says youngest son Sivakumaran, 44, a professor of engineering at McGill University in Montreal, Canada where he lives with his wife Lisa and their two children Surya, 12 and Vidhyalakshmi, four.

If we regard motherhood as one of life's most important careers, then Suseela has had an exceptional run of it.

Career-wise, her children have all "turned out". Sumathi, the eldest, is a director at CIMB Investment Bank; Ganesh Kumar is the executive vice president of AmBank Group; while Subashini is a creative director of Hallmark Cards Incorporated in Kansas City, Missouri, United States.

But more than that, the four remain close and rooted to the values that Suseela and her late husband, T.C. Nadarajah instilled in them. The late Nadarajah, an auditor, was a spiritual leader in his community and many used to seek his counsel when faced with personal problems or making life-altering decisions. But on the home front, it was Suseela who was the nurturer and protector, badges she wore with pride.

He passed away 12 years ago, and since then Suseela has been the head of the family.

Suseela is the great grand daughter of K. Thamboosamy Pillay (one of the early leaders of the Tamil community pre-independence who founded Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur in 1873). Born in Singapore in 1938, Suseela moved to Malaysia when she married Nadarajah at 19.

"It was quite a brave move, I suppose, but my husband was a very kind, gentle man and my mother in law was nice too which made things easier. I was determined to make it work … I told myself that no matter what, I would be strong," recalls Suseela.

Even though it has been 12 years since Nadarajah has passed away, talking about her husband of close to five decades makes Suseela tear.

"You know, I still feel terribly lonely at night when I'm in my room. My heart still aches for him and I miss him a lot. He taught me everything. When I came to KL, I was very timid but he gave me confidence. My parents were pious and they taught me values but it was my husband who taught me about spirituality, about life, about being happy. He was a very gentle man, thoughtful and cheerful. And he never scolded the children. When I work in the kitchen, he would always come with a glass of Ribena for me, thinking I may need a drink or a breather," she says.

For many, the love shared between Suseela and her late husband was an example to live by.

Says Ganesh, "She had absolute trust in him and was willing to sacrifice anything for him. He in turn loves every bit of her and lived for her. Their's was true love … two souls sharing one heart and one life," he muses.

Suseela lives with her eldest daughter in their family home in Section 12, Petaling Jaya and her eldest son Ganesh lives a stone's throw away with his wife, Malar and their son Shreeman.

"My mother is the fuel that enables me to function and do the impossible. No matter what, I know she will always stand by me. She always has. We may be mother and daughter but we are also friends forever," shares Sumathi, the eldest.

For the first time in years, the four siblings were reunited late last year. The Nadarajah's and their extended family from Singapore then congregated for a short holiday in Malacca with their matriarch.

"She is not the eldest in her family either but all her nephews and nieces look to her for advice and approval.

"Everyone in the family looks up to her. She takes care of her family and brings us all together. Her arms are open all the time. She's a fantastic cook and she loves feeding everyone. She's warm and welcoming and everyone just keeps coming back," observes Malar.

Subashini may have struggled to follow her mother's strict rules while she was a child but she now draws inspiration from her mother.

"She puts her heart and soul into everything she does. She is always so passionate … whether it is gardening or cooking up a meal," she says, in awe.

For Suseela, the secret to a happy life is to love, always.

"Family is everything. It's really important to keep family close and the only way to do that is to always show your love. The most important thing is to greet people with warmth. Your house must be welcoming, you must talk and listen. And, you must never interfere in people's lives. We must know how to move with the times and adapt. I don't impose my views on others but they know that I am always here should they need advice. And love," says Suseela.

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