SINGAPORE: Singapore has honored 84-year-old retired teacher S Jesudassan for writing a national song in Tamil, one of the four official languages of the city-state.
Jesudassan, who taught Tamil for 45 years, penned the catchy ditty song, which many Singaporeans have sung and danced along to in schools and at National Day Parades since 1967.
"It is a rally call to the youth to strive and reach out for the sky," said Jesudassan for the song 'Munnaeru Vaalibaa', which in Tamil means "Move Forward, Youth".
When Jesudassan was a Tamil teacher at Raffles Institution (RI) in 1966, he was asked by the school's principal to pen a song for students.
His brief was to come up with something that could inspire students to succeed in Singapore, which was still in its infancy as an independent and sovereign city state.
"My intention is to inspire the youth to become tomorrow's leaders who can help grow and develop Singapore," he told The Sunday Times.
In 1967, the Tamil song was adopted as one of the official community songs that was taught and sung in every school.
The song has also been translated into English.
His achievements were hailed by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, who said: "As it is catchy yet easy to learn, Munnaeru Vaalibaa is very likely the first
Tamil song that most Chinese and Malay students are able to sing."
Speaking to some 160 guests at a dinner to pay tribute to Singapore's pioneer generation of Tamil teachers, Shanmugam honoured the 65 seniors who have "nurtured in all of us a love for Tamil and an appreciation of its history and beauty".
He also called on the new generation of Tamil teachers to continue the legacy of their predecessors.