Man on a Mission

Man on a Mission

May 8, 2022   Return

While many other 26-year-olds may be too busy juggling work responsibilities and social life to even consider the notion of changing the world, Jeff Lau is bent on doing so starting with the AIDS landscape in Malaysia. And he is doing it, one step at a time – quite literally, if I may add – by participating in the Marathon des Sables 2016.

For the uninitiated, the Marathon des Sables (also known as the Marathon of the Sands) is a 6-day ultra marathon covering a whopping distance of 251 km. Ranked by Discovery Channel as the “toughest footrace on earth”, this annual event gets its name from the fact that it takes place in the Moroccan Sahara Desert! By participating, Jeff aims to raise funds for the Malaysian AIDS foundation (MAF). “My aim is to raise at least RM160,000 which MAF will channel into HIV education, empowerment and health literacy programmes for youths under MAF’s Red Ribbon Youth Club,” Jeff says, who is also a Red Ribbon Youth Icon.

Giving back to society

When asked if he had always been an adrenaline junkie prior to joining the marathon, Jeff shares candidly, “I’ve always been into sports like running, cycling and swimming. I’ve taken part in various triathlons and swimathons – both locally and internationally. But later on, I began liking running more because cycling makes my backside sore from the constant sitting whereas you have to be in seawater for as long as 4 hours during swimathons. Running is great because I get to listen to music at the same time and if I get tired, I can simply change the pace and walk.”

So, it was only natural for him to join one of the world’s most brutal races, right? “Not really. It started with an injury to my knee ligament, for which I had to undergo surgery. Recovery took 9 months; throughout the entire time, I could barely do anything at all. I felt so useless. The physiotherapy sessions only compounded my pain and stress. That was when I promised myself that when I fully recover, I will give back to society.”

He then shared his dream with one of his running buddies, Ralph Dixon. “I told Ralph about my intention and he suggested that I join the Marathon des Sables since he was training for it too. That was how we both ended up running in the Marathon des Sables 2014,” he recalls proudly.

When the going gets tough …

Touching on his preparation for the race, Jeff says, “I’d run twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays with an 8 kg backpack for a distance of 35 km each time. In total, I ran 70 km a week. I prepared myself as best as I could because during the marathon itself, runners have to carry a load of 12-14 kg for 7 days!”

But no amount of training could prepare him for the real thing. “I’m not one to give up easily but the Marathon des Sables really is something else. Besides carrying a heavy load, we had to cook our own meals throughout the entire course of the run. For breakfast and dinner, we consumed a minimum of 2,000 calories daily. In my case, I chose foods which were light in weight but high in calories like Milo, chocolate-coated dates and instant noodles. The environment was tough too. The sand in the Moroccan Sahara Desert was very soft so I had to walk instead, which slowed me down considerably. We also had to run under extreme temperatures. It was 45-50 degrees during the day but it dropped to as low as 8 degrees at night.”

Dehydration was another major factor. “We were given just 13 litres of water daily, so you can imagine how precious water was for us! Many didn’t bother with showering; we resorted to alcohol wipes. Many runners gave up half-way due to dehydration. I almost gave up on Day 4 of the race (the 80 km leg) when I had run for over 18 hours and still had 20 km to go. By then, I had injured my knee and was still carrying a heavy backpack. I was beyond exhausted and sleepy. All I could think about was quitting the race!” he admits.

But as tempting as it was, Jeff remained steadfast. “I badly wanted to quit but I remembered how the people, especially children, living in the desert barely had access to electricity, food and water – things that we normally take for granted. It made me realise I had absolutely no excuse to give up. I was also reminded of the plight of the underprivileged people living with HIV back in Malaysia – the reason why I took up the challenge in the first place – whose constant battle with stigma and discrimination daily as well as struggle with access to life-saving treatment and health services cannot be overstated.”

With renewed determination, Jeff pressed on and successfully completed the race – becoming the youngest Malaysian to ever finish the Marathon des Sables while raising RM80, 000 for MAF funds.

Powerful lessons

Looking back on his experience, Jeff says, “I’ve a newfound appreciation for things we tend to take for granted. I now complain a lot less about trivial things like my food not being tasty or not having enough money or my single bed being too small. The marathon really broadened my horizon and changed my perspective of life.”

Returning for Round 2

Judging by how tough the Marathon des Sables experience is, one normally wouldn’t repeat it – regardless of how rewarding it can be. But Jeff sees it differently – which is why he will run for a second time in this year’s Marathon des Sables. “I consider myself a fortunate person, in that I had the opportunity to further my studies in Australia without ever having to worry about finances. When I look at Malaysia’s HIV situation, there are people living with HIV, in this day and age, who suffer in silence. I suppose this is my way of sharing my ‘fortune’ with others who are less fortunate. I’d like to create a society with equal access to health, which truly is an inalienable human right.”

What does he hope to achieve in the Marathon des Sables 2016 then? “Ralph and I aim to at least double the fundraising target i.e. RM160, 000 so we can help more people,” he shares. “Aside from enhancing my overall performance, I hope in the next few years, as a result of my second attempt, my record as the youngest Malaysian to finish the race will be broken! I want to inspire young Malaysians to not only brave the Sahara but also champion a social cause they believe in strongly and take action for the betterment of society.”

A national treasure

With Jeff’s passion for charity, it was only a matter of time that his efforts were recognised. Late last year, he was made a Red Ribbon Youth Icon by the Ministry of Health. Discussing his new role, he explains, “I hope to break down barriers, bit by bit, that impede important discussions such as those about sexuality and other topics which have an adverse outcome on youths making informed decisions about their sexual health.”


An attainable goal

Jeff concludes, “I long to see a generation of empowered and inspired youths who will shape the course of the HIV response as we strive towards our common goal of ending AIDS by 2030. There’s so much the youth can do. For starters, they can improve their understanding of HIV and AIDS. They can also volunteer in NGOs, drive AIDS awareness campaigns at their colleges or participate in AIDS forums like MAF’s Red Ribbon Youth Club. While the goal of ending AIDS seems ambitious, as demonstrated by our commitment and willingness to think out of the box when the government implemented the ‘controversial’ harm reduction strategy a decade ago, this goal is highly achievable.”

And with this, we wish Jeff all the best for the Marathon des Sables 2016. Malaysia Boleh!

Those wishing to make monetary contributions to MAF can do so by visiting or contacting Arif at MAF at 03-4047 4257, 012- 959 4596 or

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Love Lights Up the Shadows

Love Lights Up the Shadows

May 8, 2022   Return

Yong Lee Lee and Remesh Kumar first met when they became classmates in Form 6. What they had was not love at first sight, but rather, a gradual building of affections anchored on a foundation of friendship and respect.  

“Together with our friends, we formed a music machine group,” Lee Lee recalls fondly. Just like Bryan Adams sang in his song Summer of ’69, the group did not go far, but those days were a time to cherish and remember.

Perhaps it was kismet that had their paths crossed again, when they ended up as interns at the same accountancy firm. They often worked together, and as a result, they became very familiar with each other’s quirks, strengths and weaknesses. “We learned to respect each other, and to give and take,” Remesh says. Falling in love with her, therefore, seemed like the most natural thing for him to do.

He adds that it took him about 3 years before he mustered the courage to propose! She said yes, of course. Their marriage produced two beautiful and intelligent daughters, and their careers flourished.

Lee Lee eventually became the Finance Director of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand of a multinational corporation. It was a rewarding position, but it was also a stressful one that consumed much of her time and energy. Eventually, her blood pressure rose. Her wake-up call came in the form of a mild stroke in 2003.

“It was a very difficult decision to make, but the stroke made me realise that I needed a change in my life,” she says. “My health was getting worse and the work stress was burning me out.”


The mammogram that changed everything

In 2005, Lee Lee tendered her resignation. She was still entitled to receive her medical benefits in the meantime, so she decided to go for a medical check-up, which included a mammogram. It was her second time undergoing a mammogram, so it seemed like a cruel kind of irony when they told her that they had found a lump in her breast. The lump was about 2 cm, “mainly cancerous”.

“I was devastated and angry,” Lee Lee says. “I was going to give up my career for a healthier life, but now it seemed that I was too late.”

She remained calm and silent as the doctor told her about the cancer. “But once I was out of the clinic, I broke down and cried uncontrollably at the corridor.”

Remesh remembers that moment vividly. He held Lee Lee as she had her breakdown, assuring her that everything would be alright and they would get through this together. In his heart, he was terrified for Lee Lee, but he had to be strong for the two of them at that point in time.

Lee Lee says that it took her about 2 months before she came to terms with her diagnosis. Initially, she was scheduled to undergo chemotherapy, but she and Remesh decided to seek a second opinion from Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. To their huge relief, they found that only 1 cm of her lump was cancerous, a discovery that was confirmed by the Singapore General Hospital.

Her cancer was restaged to Stage I (early stage) and she did not have to undergo chemotherapy. Instead, she had her lump surgically removed. “I also underwent 25 cycles of radiotherapy,” she adds.

Her experience in Singapore was an eye-opener on the importance of having a second opinion. She reiterates that a second opinion is important before deciding on any treatment.

Lee Lee fondly describes how supportive Remesh was during that trying period. He would help with household chores, take care of the girls and support his wife while keeping an optimistic cheer to lift everyone’s spirits.

For Remesh, being present and supporting his wife every step of her cancer journey comes naturally to him. “I remember those days when I was courting her to be my wife,” he says with a smile. “And I did the same thing all over again.” After all, Lee Lee was still the same woman he fell in love with and married, and cancer did not change that. Whenever she was cranky, upset or burned out, he would make her fall in love with him all over again.

And that he did, as Lee Lee recalls how he was her rock when she needed someone to lean on. He was her silence when she needed peace; her laughter when she needed to pick herself up.

“Support is very important for any cancer patient,” she says. “And I am very fortunate to have Remesh by my side. He makes all the difference.” 

Lee Lee’s daughters were 8 and 12 when she was diagnosed. She and Remesh did not tell them at first, believing that they were too young to understand what she was going through. Her daughters instinctively knew that Lee Lee was not well, however. Lee Lee recalls a letters her younger daughter wrote to her during a personal development course, telling Lee Lee that she was so sorry if she had ever caused her mother any stress. “I was so touched,” she says with a fond sigh. 


A new direction, a new hope

Today, Lee Lee’s cancer has been in remission for 10 years and counting. She has her own business, one that allows her to achieve a better work-life balance.

However, Lee Lee shares how miserable she was in the first 2 years after her treatment. She had too much time to worry about a recurrence of the cancer as well as to dwell on the uncertainties of the future, and as a result, she felt that she was slipping into depression.

It was during one of the meetings with her doctor, Datuk Dr M Devanand, a Consultant Breast Surgeon, when inspiration struck. In 2009, he invited her to participate in a project involving other cancer survivors, and Lee Lee found a new direction to channel her time and energy into. She helped raise $150,000 to sponsor 29 cancer survivors to the Reach to Recovery International breast cancer support conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Taking inspiration from this conference, Lee Lee together with Datuk Dr Devanand and her peers embarked on a journey to share what they learned to create and promote breast cancer awareness. The group raised funds through the “Pink Ribbon Charity Ball” in 2009 and 2010 to sponsor another 74 cancer survivors to the Reach to Recovery International conference in Taiwan in 2011.

It would be impractical to keep financing breast cancer survivors to attend the international support conference, and doing so also limits the number of breast cancer survivors who would benefit from the experience. So, why not create local opportunities for breast cancer survivors to participate in similarly empowering experiences?

Thus, in February 2012, the Pink Ribbon Wellness (L) Foundation was co-founded in by Datuk Dr Devanand and Lee Lee, with Puan Sri Maniseh Adam as its Patron. With the support of cancer survivors and volunteers, the Foundation organizes public lectures and survivors’ workshops in urban and rural areas as part of its awareness and support programme.

Lee Lee proudly recalls how the Foundation took its education programmes to the next level by organising a national conference entitled “Life Beyond Breast Cancer Symposium” in 2012 and 2015, which reached out to 600 cancer survivors. “We also organised the first ever Pink Wigathon Charity Run/Walk at Bukit Jalil and the Lost World of Tambun. 2000 participants walked with cancer survivors, all in pink wigs – that was a sight to remember!” she goes on to say.

Founding and managing the Foundation keeps Lee Lee busy, but more importantly, doing so allows her to reach out to the sisterhood of breast cancer survivors in Malaysia.

Remesh supports Lee Lee’s work with the Foundation, naturally, by participating in the Foundation’s many efforts and events in an unofficial capacity. Even her daughters are enthusiastic supporters, helping out with fundraising whenever they can.

Lee Lee is grateful that, during her cancer treatment journey, she had the love and support of her family, Datuk Dr Devanand and peers to keep her strong and positive. And now, even the shadow of cancer fades into the background, her family continues to rally around her as she pays it forward, reaching out to breast cancer survivors who may be less fortunate than her.

As Maya Angelou said: “I sustain myself with the love of family.”


For more information on the Pink Ribbon Wellness (L) Foundation, visit Enquiries and donations are welcomed.  

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Love, Life & Lucy

Love, Life & Lucy

May 8, 2022   Return

Lucy Liu couldn’t be in a better place right now. For starters, the actress has a new man in her life. No, she isn’t dating a Hollywood hunk or being wooed by some real estate mogul. I’m referring to her adorable baby boy! Last August, Lucy took to Instagram to announce the arrival of her son born via gestational surrogate with the caption: “Introducing the new man in my life, my son Rockwell Liu. In love!” And no wonder, she’s in love. The photo which she uploaded shows baby Rockwell clad in an onesie while smiling oh-so-sweetly at the camera.

Besides that, the crime drama Elementary in which she stars as Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, Dr Watson is already in its successful fourth season. Despite being met with doubts initially, the series has won over critics and the public alike – amassing a large fan base over the years.

With the onset of motherhood and her successful movie-to-TV transition, it’s safe to say that Lucy’s in a good place in her life right now. But things were not always easy breezy for this petite lady.

‘I had to be a pioneer’

When discussing her career, it is impossible for Lucy to not mention the elephant in the room: stereotypes – after all, she was a regular victim of stereotype casting during her early days as a budding actress trying to make it big in Tinsel town.

“It’s alright if I’m cast as a woman who happens to be Chinese-American or in roles where my race can be acknowledged and wrapped into the plot without turning me into a total stereotype but many of the roles I’ve been given were stereotyped.,” she says. “I wish people wouldn’t see me merely as the Asian girl who beats people up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People can see actresses like Julia Roberts in a romantic comedy, but not me.”

Despite the odds, Lucy wouldn’t settle for anything less. She fought hard to get herself involved in projects which didn’t pressure her into the ‘stereotype corner’ – Elementary being one of them. When news got out that she had been cast as Dr Watson, many people were enraged with the idea of a woman (and an Asian one at that) portraying such a famous – and traditionally male – role. Thankfully, Lucy wasn’t fazed choosing instead to channel her energy into proving critics wrong.

“If I didn’t try something, I’d still be doing TV ads. It’s not always about pleasing people; sometimes it’s about pleasing yourself. For me, the more individual you make something, the more universal it can be. You need to be a pioneer and that means doing stuff that’s different,” she explains. And we are glad she did – or else, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the great on-screen chemistry that she has with her co-star Johnny Lee Miller who plays Sherlock Holmes opposite her Watson.

Lucy the artist

Besides boasting an acting resume dating back to the late 80s, Lucy is also a talented artist. However, her artistic skills were only made known to the public several years ago. “I’ve always had an interested in visual arts. I first started exhibiting my paintings and photographs at art galleries under the pseudonym ‘Yu Ling’ because I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself than there already was,” she confesses.

It was only at her publisher’s encouragement that Lucy began considering the possibility of putting her own name to her work. “My publisher insisted that I use my name; that it was an opportunity to show the world my work and be proud of it. So, I did. It was nerve-wracking initially but I realised that if people were going to criticise me, they were going to do so whether I used my name or not. So, I decided to just go for it.” However, her fears have proved unfounded as her work has received much praise and has been exhibited at prestigious galleries in New York, Munich and Miami.

Better than ever

While many actresses worry about ageing in beauty-obsessed Hollywood, Lucy is more confident than ever these days. For one thing, she’s in fantastic shape – thanks to well-balanced meals and regular exercise. “Pilates and running introduced me to muscles I never knew I had. I now feel longer and leaner,” she gushes. “I also eat healthy. I feel good about my body after exercising, so I don’t want to ruin it with unhealthy food.” “I’m stronger and more accepting of myself than I’ve ever been.”

On a roll

Lucy may be reaching the big 50 in a couple of years but she’s not slowing down in the slightest judging by the recent triumphs in her personal and professional life. In fact, she’s just getting started. “I do things be it acting or drawing because I want to discover who I am. Self-discovery is a life-long journey,” Lucy says. “I want to keep going forward.”



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Honouring Tradition with Ethics & Integrity

Honouring Tradition with Ethics & Integrity

May 8, 2022   Return

Merrill J. Fernando loves tea with a passion. But instead of just catering rich, savoury tea to tea lovers worldwide, he is also dedicated to ensuring that ethics and integrity go into the production of his favourite beverage. 

Born in 1930, hailing from a middle-class background in rural Sri Lanka – then, a British colony known as Ceylon – Merrill found his calling in life early on during his youth. After completing his college education in the 1950s, he moved to Colombo in hopes of becoming a tea tester. The profession of tea testing was dominated and closely guarded by the British expatriates, but Merrill was fortunate enough to be selected among the first batch of Ceylonese to be trained at Mincing Lane, London.

What Merrill observed at Mincing Lance – then dubbed the ‘Mecca of Tea’ – was an industry in which the tea producers in his country were exploited by multinational corporations. Sri Lanka relied heavily on the tea industry to support its economy, but the leaves, painstakingly grown according to traditional Ceylonese process and hand-picked for the finest in taste and quality, were treated as low-value commodity in Europe. Ceylonese producers received only a small fraction of the profits, the lion’s share going to the middlemen, which were the large corporations. This realization shaped Merrill’s perspective, fuelling his determination to address this inequity in the Ceylonese tea trade.  

In 1988, Merrill founded his own tea company, Dilmah. The name was derived by combining the names of his two sons, Dilhan and Malik. He pioneered the concept of single-origin tea, going against the grain in a market of multi-origin blends. Dilmah became the first producer-owned tea brand, where leaves were picked, packed and shipped by the growers themselves. This practice allowed him to pay his workers fairer wages, as well as ensuring that his clients would savour high quality garden-fresh tea.

His vision of fair and ethical trade was not without obstacles, though. Over the last decade, Merrill’s comparatively tiny family business was pitted against big traders that had been monopolising the industry. Furthermore, in a market filled with multi-origin tea blends, his peers and government regulators had a hard time sharing his belief that tea could be produced directly from crops to consumer.      

Nevertheless, Merrill stood by his passionate commitment to authentic, exquisite quality and above all, ethically produced tea. Over the decades, Dilmah has grown into one of the world’s leading tea brands, available in over 100 countries. Never forgetting his roots, Merill founded the MJF Charitable Foundation. Revenue from sales of Dilmah tea is used to finance the foundation’s activities.

“In many aspects, the MJF story is the antithesis of globalisation,” wrote Paul Harris in LMD Magazine, Sri Lanka’s leading business magazine. “It is the tale of success for the small family unit working hard to overcome the power of the multinationals. It is a tale of values overcoming the sometimes amoral mechanisations of much bigger and more powerful players.” 

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Man of Many Talents

Man of Many Talents

May 8, 2022   Return


Dato’ Dr Arunan Selvaraj is a man of many talents and distinguished accomplishments. A lawyer, he is the founding and managing partner of Messrs Rusmah Arunan and Associates. He has also established himself as a proponent and advocate for physical and mental wellness. A popular speaker as well as author, he is well known as a “straight A” man among his peers.

The straight ‘A’s

  • A is for ‘attorney’. Dato’ Dr. Arunan Selvaraj is a practising lawyer and he holds a Doctorate in Family Law. He was admitted to the Malaysian Bar in 1992.
  • A is also for ‘author’. His years of practice in family law had motivated him to author and publish his first book “Saving Your Marriage”. All proceeds go to National Cancer Society of Malaysia and The Malaysian Association for the Blind.
  • A is for ‘adventurer’ as well. From climbing mountains to seeing the world, he is always seeking new experiences to savour.
  • A is for ‘advocate’. Dato’ Arunan also actively participates and promotes the campaigns of various non-profit organisations in this country.
  • And finally, A is for ‘attitude’. He has an upbeat, positive way of looking at life and love, which he hopes to share with the world.

Growing up, a life of love

“One of the many principles I tightly hold on to in life is doing good,” the KL native tells us. “I attribute this to my parents, who instilled in me that our actions are the most important testimony of our beliefs and values.”

He recalls how, when he was 7, a hawker stall owner gave him the wrong change. Having received change for RM50 when he only gave the man RM10, he was overjoyed and proudly offered to split the extra money with his father. 

“My father told me in a harsh tone to apologise to the owner and return the money,” he reminisces. “Once his anger had settled, he explained to me why taking that extra bit of money was not right, and that the money rightfully belonged to the owner. To help me understand better, he explained how I was depriving the owner, and possibly his family of their needs. Since then, I have always lived by this lesson.”

Living in harmony

Dato’ Arunan grew up in the Ampang Jaya neighbourhood. “The neighbourhood I grew up in, as well as the schools I attended comprised of a society with a fair mix of Chinese, Indian and Malays,” he tells me. “We never heard about race being mentioned, at all.”

He still remembers his neighbour back in those days, Idris. “Idris’s mother would feed him and his 3 siblings, as well as my sister and me by hand from the same big bowl of rice, while we wait for the school bus to come and take us to school in the afternoon,” he says.

Life with other children of all races and religions taught him the value of diversity in cultures, lifestyles as well as opinions. Dato’ Arunan says that, as Malaysians, it is essential that we look beyond skin colour and religion.

Stand up when life knocks you down

During the economic slowdown, Dato’ Arunan’s legal education fees in the United Kingdom became a burden for his family to shoulder. “I needed to support myself,” he says, “I took on a few hard-labour part-time jobs that paid well.”

Taking on those part-time jobs was a great growing-up experience. “My co-workers, who were big, well-built men were surprised to see a law student in their midst but they took me under their wing. I didn’t know the basics like needing to wear gloves, and had blistered, bleeding hands on the first day until they noticed and advised me. It was a very tough time, but I kept myself going by focusing on the goal – to complete my degree and graduate.”

Dato’ Arunan felt that such experiences molded him, taught him important life lessons that he would hold on to for the rest of his life. “While pursuing a goal, setbacks usually occur. It is important to motivate ourselves by focusing on the goal. Remind ourselves that the outcome of these setbacks will be good, and we will be motivated to keep trying,” he says.


The measure of a man

Dato’ Arunan eventually embarked on his career as a lawyer. In the early days, he witnessed many of his clients facing marital problems. As someone who tends to relate to and connect with people, he found himself into marriage counseling.

Dato’ Arunan once helped a mother gain custody of her 2-year old girl after her divorce. The mother eventually found a man who would marry her, as long as she abandoned the girl. She came to Dato’ Arunan to have the custody order modified to grant custody to her former in-laws (whom her daughter had never met), but he refused to represent her.

“I tried my best to counsel her and convinced her to change her decision. I reminded her that she would have to live with a guilty conscience, and that if the man truly loved her, he would love her unconditionally,” he says.

There was a happy ending to the story. The mother visited Dato’ Arunan a few years later with her daughter to do a sales and purchase agreement. She had taken his advice to heart and kept her daughter with her, a decision that she made as a result of his advice to her.

To his surprise, the daughter, now eight, broke down in tears and kissed his hand, thanking him for his advice to her mother. Until that moment, Dato’ Arunan never realised how words could leave such a deep impact on one’s life.

Another opportunity to make a difference arrived soon after. Dato’ Arunan frequently gave talks on various topics, and on that particular day, he was to give a talk on wealth management and financial intelligence. He recalls, “When I entered the hall and scanned the participants, the majority of the crowd looked worryingly overweight and unhealthy. I decided to make a change on the spot.”

He asked the audience why they were directing so much of their lives to gathering wealth, when they neglected their well-being and faced the risk of not living long enough to enjoy the wealth.

“My talk that day also went into extra time on physical and mental health. I managed to transform the lifestyles of many that day, as it sparked the realization that true wealth is good health, and not just material riches. Many of the attendees of that talk wrote to me later on, thanking me for inspiring them to lead healthier lives, and they continue to be in touch with me.”

His epiphany was crystal clear. Dato’ Arunan was a busy man, but at the same time, he managed to find time to be a devoted family man as well as to indulge in his personal interests, all the while staying fit and maintaining a healthy outlook about life. If he could do this, so could others. Thus, he found another calling: to share his philosophy on both physical and mental wellness, and this motivated him to embark on his second book.

Keep learning and stay positive

Dato’ Arunan enjoys reading autobiographies of strong and successful personalities, as well as self-help books. “I think it’s important to read self-help books with a clear and positive mindset, as it influences how you apply the lessons taught into your daily lives and you can get the most out of it.”

He also makes it a point to surround himself with positive people. “This is an often overlooked, but important step to better mental wellness,” he tells me. “Negative people only demoralise you, and sometimes, they get to you without you realising it. You should detoxify yourself from such people – be with people who understand, support and motivate you, even if they don’t always agree with you all the time!”

Also, he adds that good health is essential. “A vast number of us only think of health in the physical aspect. In doing so, we overlook our mental health. Truth is, it is vital to strike a balance between both.”

Dato’ Arunan’s tips for stress management

  • Avoid directing inordinate chunks of time to your work – draw a line between work and play.
  • Treat challenges as opportunities for personal growth and development.
  • Always be the master of your emotions – manage your anger, control your sadness. Make it a point to de-stress and clear your turbulent mind.
  • Have a positive view of yourself to develop your self-esteem.
  • Establish and maintain healthy relationships. Even with the development of modern technology, do not neglect good communication and real conversations with our friends and family.

His other philosophies

Be generous in sharing positivity with other people.

Dato’ Arunan frequently gives talks on physical and mental wellness, as well as on relationships and families. He can be frequently seen on TV as well.

He also authored Saving Your Marriage (ISBN 978-967-416-021-0, published by TrueWealth), as an inspiration for married people as well as those who are considering marriage or having a relationship. Another book is about to be released.

Volunteer – it keeps us grounded and allows us to give back to the less fortunate.

Dato’ Arunan has worked closely with various non-governmental organisations such as the National Cancer Council (MAKNA), National Cancer Society of Malaysia and All Women’s Action Society (AWAM). One significant project he organised was project ‘Movember: The Ultimate Shave-off’ in 2015, raising over RM200,000. The project also launched a music video entitled “You Gotta Live!”, which featured many of our local artists to raise awareness regarding prostate and testicular cancer.



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Michelle Monaghan & Melanoma

Michelle Monaghan & Melanoma

May 8, 2022   Return

With her svelte figure, vibrant skin and luscious hair, actress Michelle Monaghan resembles a woman at the peak of health – she looks hardly a day over 40!   It would come as a surprise to many that, back in 2011, the star of Source Code, Mission Impossible III and Made of Honour revealed that she was in a secret battle with skin cancer

Like many skin cancer patients, Monaghan was barely aware of the risks and initial signs of the disease. Fortunately for her, her husband, graphic designer Peter White, is Australian. “In Australia, they are very aware of skin cancer!” she quips.

She had White to thank for the early detection, as it was her husband’s keen eye that noticed a mole on the back of her calf. After much insistence on his part, Monaghan visited a dermatologist to have the mole medically examined. Just like what her husband suspected, what appeared to be a minor skin imperfection turned out to be cancerous. 

Skin cancer, also known as melanoma, is the result of the pigment-producing skin cells, known as melanocytes, becoming abnormal and growing out of control. Moles are the result of melanocytes growing in a cluster, with tissue surrounding them. It is therefore advisable for those with large unusual-looking moles to watch out for signs of change in them. This seemingly harmless concentration of cells actually carries the risk of developing into melanoma, especially when there is a noticeable change in the size and appearance of the mole.

When a melanoma is diagnosed, the most effective treatment to prevent cancerous cells from spreading is to surgically remove the affected part of the skin.

In Monaghan’s case, the malignant mole had caused “quite the chunk taken out of my leg.” Nevertheless, she is extremely grateful her husband had noticed it and urged her to get it checked.   

Her brush with skin cancer, though not lethal, has made Monaghan more cancer-aware and taught her a valuable lesson in not taking her health for granted. Following her victory over melanoma, the True Detective actress professed regret over her smoking habit.

“I smoked for almost 10 years. I really regret that,” she admitted to The Daily Mail after successfully quitting her smoking habit. “Thankfully, I came out on the other side. I hope my lungs are repairing themselves now.”


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A Home Away From Home

A Home Away From Home

May 8, 2022   Return


“We always aim to deliver our diners the best possible all-in-one Ramadan experience and this year is no different,” said Angeline Lue as she welcomed us, along with others members of the media to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (also known simply as the Centre) for a sampling of its Kampung in the City Buka Puasa menu. When the Centre’s Director of Sales & Marketing makes a promise like such, you know you are in for a gastronomic treat! And a real treat we had – if the extensive spread of traditional kampung classics and contemporary buka puasa fare laid before us was anything to go by.


A marriage of the old & new

The Centre’s Executive Chef, Richmond Lim proudly informed us that although this year’s Ramadan feast features the same theme as the past couple of years (Kampung in the City), his award-winning 51-member culinary team decided to spice things up with the addition of a host of new kampung favourites such as sawang telur (rice noodles topped with crispy eggs and served with curry), lepat ikan kukus dengan daun kunyit (Malay-style fish terrine wrapped in turmeric leaves), rendang ayam kampung Seri Menanti (traditional chicken curry with green chili), trawangan gado-gado bersama makanan laut goreng rangup (vegetable salad accompanied by a tangy-peanut sauce and deep-fried seafood) and masak lemak tempoyak asam belimbing ikan patin (river fish braised in turmeric fermented-durian coconut cream sauce), just to name a few. Is your mouth already watering? Wait, there’s more.



Aside from the buffet spread, diners can look forward to the ‘Chef Action Stations’ where local culinary delights such as Penang char kuey teow, Hainanese chicken rice, wonton noodle soup, mee goreng mamak and seafood asam lemak Siam (seafood cooked in sweet and sour coconut soup), and a selection of steamed, deep-fried and grilled bubu ikan will be available. Speaking of grilled food, all satay fans out there can rejoice as you can treat yourselves to the most succulent chicken and beef satay complete with ketupat, lemang, nasi impit, rendang tok and bubur lambuk (rice porridge).  


Flair of the foreign

For foodies who are looking for something a tad more exotic, you will be pleased to know that the buka puasa menu also boasts international choices including roasted fish Tikka, a variety of Italian pasta made a la minute to your liking, Pad Thai (rice noodles stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts, chicken and seafood), Pita Kebab Arab Daging Cincang (Arabic-style minced beef kebab on pita bread), and Mediterranean hickory-smoked lamb served with mint sauce and black pepper.


A sweet finish

No traditional Ramadan feast is complete without desserts – and boy, does the Centre serve up a fine array of sumptuous sweet treats! From everyone’s beloved Air Batu Campur (ABC) served with condiments and ice cream to serawa durian pulut lemak (durian porridge) to local kuih and dates, the dessert lover in you will be torn for choice!


Want to break fast at the Centre? These are the details you need to know:

  • The Centre’s private Kampung in the City banquets are available every day throughout the Ramadan month, while the public buka puasa is only available from 13 June to 1 July 2016.
  • For reservations, you can contact Abby at +603 2333 2866 or June at +603 2333 2877.
  • The public buka puasa is priced at RM115 nett per person and is limited to 250 pax per evening.
  • Private buka puasa banquets are for 100 pax and above and offers 2 menu choices; prices range from RM115 nett per person for the Ramadan Al-Mubarak menu to RM157.41 nett per person for the Ramadan Al-Kareem menu.

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Go for the Gold!

Go for the Gold!

May 8, 2022   Return


If you have been pondering over these questions for a while now, ponder no more.  This June, HealthToday speaks to the two individuals who are more than capable of answering your burning questions: Malaysia’s very own Ultraman Kannan Murugasan and rising marathon star Edan Syah!

So, read on to find out what first motivated these men to foray into the world of sports, what keeps them going as the going gets tough, what their fitness regimens comprise, what tips they have for budding athletes and more.

Go the distance

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“Results don’t come by merely dreaming about them. Dreams come true when you start working towards them.” – Edan Syah. 

American sprinter and three-time Olympic gold medalist Wilma Rudolph once said, “The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” But long before her many gold medals and world records, she was a child with polio who had to wear a brace on her left leg just so she could walk. Yet, because she had a dream and was unflinchingly determined to realise it, the Tennessee native underwent years of grueling physical therapy and successfully overcame her disabilities to become who she is today.

If there’s one lesson we can take away from Wilma’s story, it is that we should always be daring enough to push our limits and not allow circumstances to dictate our future. We can never know what we are truly capable of unless we test our boundaries. This also rings true for Malaysia’s very own rising marathon star Edan Syah.

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Putting dreams into action

If you were to go back in time and tell Edan’s teenage self that he would one day grow up to become a marathoner (and a successful one at that), he might have laughed in disbelief. “I wasn’t into sports during my schooling days. I only picked up running in my early 20s,” he says when asked if running was something he had always been passionate about. He may be a ‘latecomer’ (or so he calls himself) but he has shown tremendous talent and improvement ever since he started marathoning.

While talent may play a role in his success, he is a firm believer in hard work. “Results don’t come by merely dreaming about them. Every dream can be realised, but only when you start working towards it. I live each day purposefully and that’s what drives me to do my best. Running has taught me discipline, consistency and the importance of routine in my life. Discipline is very crucial as I have stick to my workout routine, no matter how grueling it is,” he enthuses.

Discussing his fitness routine in detail, he says, “I train for 6 days, covering a mileage of 120 km a week. There are days when I do 2 sessions – instead of only 1 – in order to achieve the required mileage. My life pretty much revolves around my training sessions. As for food, I eat well so I can train well. We are what we eat, after all. But when I’m not training for competitions, I eat almost everything!”

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For the love of running

You may wonder, ‘Why running of all things?’ Edan explains, “I chose running because it is an individual sport where you compete with no one else but yourself. I’ve always desired to challenge myself to see just how far I can go. I’m thrilled to say that my hard work has paid off. I currently hold the fastest full marathon record in Malaysia!”

Despite his passion for the sport, there was a time when he considered walking away from it all. About that dark period of his life, he says, “I almost gave up after completing the Medibank Melbourne Marathon 2015. That was my 3rd major marathon which I completed in 2 hours and 4 minutes. Although I had dedicated nearly a year to training and had invested lots of resources in the race, I just couldn’t improve on my previous best time. I felt so disheartened that I faced the dilemma of continuing to pursue running or quitting.”

Fortunately, he didn’t. He credits his sponsors and friends for rallying behind him through thick and thin. “I’m grateful for their support and how they always believe in me. This motivates me to work harder and to make them proud.”

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Are marathons for everybody?

“Running a marathon is one of the most challenging yet fulfilling accomplishments one can have. It opens up your mind and breaks the boundaries that you’ve set,” Edan emphasises.
“If you plan to do a marathon, be ready to set aside time to train; make that decision even before you sign up for a marathon. I suggest that you train for a period of 24 weeks.”

“Also, you need to personalise your training programme so there can be a consistency in your progress. Not forgetting your sports gear; having the right gear can increase your running efficiency. Start with a running top, pants and shoes. Never buy shoes just because they are on sale. And most importantly, don’t sign up for a race just because your friends are doing it!”

The road less taken

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If you aren’t willing to risk the unusual, you’ll have to settle for the ordinary” – Anonymous

It’s funny how life may sometimes turn out very differently from how we envisioned it. Take personal fitness trainer Kannan Murugasan for instance. “I was never into sports growing up even though I have always entertained the idea of participating in triathlons,” he recounts when asked if he had already planned to enter the world of fitness from a young age.

Instead of fitness, the Penangite initially had plans to pursue electromechanical engineering. However, all that changed when he took some time off after completing his electrochemical engineering diploma. “I decided to try out for the Desaru Half Ironman triathlon in 2000. The first-time triathlete was so adamant to realise his childhood dream that he trained his hardest – reading up on triathlons, purchasing a steel Raleigh racing bike and even taking up a personal fitness trainer course.”

Needless to say, Kannan succeeded in making his dream come true. “The feeling I experienced when crossing the finish line was indescribable. No words could adequately describe all the pain and joy that I went through to get where I was,” he recalls proudly of that momentous day. But that day wasn’t special merely because he fulfilled a childhood dream but also because it marked a turning point in his life. “I asked myself if engineering was really something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  That was when I made the decision to become a personal fitness instructor and to compete in major races all over the world.”

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A real-life superhero

To date, Kannan has completed as many as 10 Ironman races including the prestigious Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, apart from other races of a smaller scale. But that’s not all.

Aside from his stellar success with the Ironman triathlons, he is also Malaysia’s first and only Ultraman – and no, we aren’t referring to the monster-fighting Japanese superhero. Kannan explains, “Ultraman is an ultra triathlon whereby one swims 10 km, cycles 420 km and runs 84 km in a total of 3 days. If I were to break it down, Day 1 consists of swimming 10 km and cycling 145 km; Day 2 involves 275 km of cycling and Day 3 is made up of running 84 km. Each day has a cut-off time of 12 hours.” Comparing it to Ironman, he explains, “Ironman, on the other hand is a combination of 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling and 42 km running with a cut-off time of 17 hours.”

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On becoming Ultraman

So, what does it take to be an Ultraman? “Well, the Ultraman triathlon is a mental game. Anyone can swim, cycle and run but without a strong mental state, many end up breaking down. This is why it’s vital for participants to have the passion and determination to push themselves beyond their limits. Sacrifice and discipline are a must.”

Giving us some insight into his own training regime, he says, “Each time I prepare for an Ultraman race, I have to sacrifice 6 months of freedom. I have to adhere to a strict diet regime. I’ll eat oats, pasta, cereal, mixed fruits and nuts. I usually consume small portions throughout the day and cut down on oily food, which means no nasi lemak, roti canai or char koay teow!  I also have to sleep at a certain time and of course, train every single day.”

“On weekdays, I spend at least 1-3 hours swimming or cycling or running daily while I do outdoor cycling for 3-6 hours every Sunday,” he elaborates. “Also, I don’t train with a group because I follow a specific heart rate range. Hence, I train alone on a bike for hours. I love training so I don’t mind doing it alone.”

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Are triathlons for everybody?

Listening to Kannan describe his rigorous workout routine can be daunting in itself so it begets the question: are triathlons for every Tom, Dick and Harry? “As long as you can run, swim and cycle, you can do triathlons. But as I mentioned earlier, you must be prepared to work hard!”

He offers some tips to aspiring triathletes. “You can start with a short Olympic distance which comprises a 1.5 km swim, 40 km cycling and 10 km run. Additionally, you can try out sprint triathlons. Long-distance triathlons such as the Half Ironman, Ironman and Ultraman require extensive physical training and of course, a great deal of mental conditioning so you might want to avoid those when starting out.”

A fitness philosophy by which he abides is a twist on the old adage ‘No pain, no gain’. “My philosophy is ‘No pain, no injury’! If you haven’t been properly trained, please don’t say ‘no pain, no gain’ because you’re only looking for trouble. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean you’re exercising right. If your body’s hurting, you most likely have injured yourself somewhere. So, always listen to your body.”

Kannan concludes, “Doing a triathlon is definitely no stroll in the park. Having said that, don’t fret. Anything is possible with proper training and guidance.” Well, if there is anyone you should believe, it has got to be our very own Ultraman. So, if you’ve been tinkering with the idea of doing a triathlon, why not give it a shot? You might end up surprising yourself!

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Growing From Strength to Strength

Growing From Strength to Strength

May 8, 2022   Return


When we met up with Atilia Haron recently, the first thing that popped into our minds was just how fit she looked – undoubtedly the result of a fit and healthy lifestyle. Addressing her svelte figure, the Malaysian beauty admits candidly, “I wasn’t always fit, you know. I used to be underweight and had the misconception that if I were to exercise, I would lose even more weight. Hence, exercise wasn’t my thing.”

However, Atilia who is also a contemporary songwriter and singer reconsidered her decision when she caught herself wheezing and feeling breathless each time she walked from one side of the stage to the other during her musical performances. Additionally, she had trouble sleeping well. “It then struck me that as thin as I was, I was unhealthy. I realised that I had to get serious about my health,” she says.


Did she immediately sign up for a gym membership or something along those lines then? “Not really,” she confesses. “Many of my friends were hitting the gym, swimming, playing tennis or climbing rocks. I wanted to be do all those things but I couldn’t rock-climb due to my palms sweating easily; I wanted to swim every day but my hair turns frizzy when I spend too much underwater; I thought of tennis but playing in the heat of the sun wasn’t very appealing. It was rather frustrating because I couldn’t find a form of exercise which was right for me.” However, her frustrations soon came to an end when she discovered the workout which would later change her life, not just physically but professionally: yoga.


“Love at first inhale”

You have heard of the saying ‘Love at first sight’ but Atilia begs to differ. “When I discovered yoga, I immediately fell in love. It had a calming effect on me; it was a workout that I actually enjoyed. It was love at first inhale!” she gushes.  But instead of following in the vein of the ‘First love doesn’t last’ cliche, her passion for yoga only grew stronger.

“I loved it so much that I decided to take it seriously,” she says. So serious was she that she signed up for 200 hours (roughly a month) of yoga training in Koh Samui, Thailand. The training itself was not easy to begin with but it was made tougher as it took place during the fasting month. But Atilia was not fazed. “It was a wonderful experience. I was even asked by my instructor to teach my group on the final day of training. It was an honour because I feel teaching is something sacred.”


When passion becomes profession

Upon returning to Malaysia, Atilia (now a certified yoga instructor) kept busy. “When I got back, I rounded up some friends for yoga classes at my house. What initially was a ‘yoga get-together’ with 2 friends evolved into a 10-person session. It was during these sessions that I began having a niggling voice in my head, telling me that I should open my own yoga studio,” she recounts.

Following her dream, she opened her first yoga studio, YogaOneThatIWant in Damansara Perdana in 2014. When asked about the unique name she bestowed upon her studio, she explains, “It was inspired by the Grease musical. There’s a song called You Are The One That I Want. I chose it because it sounds fun. I don’t want people to feel that yoga is something serious. The key is to get people onto mats and have fun.” She describes her studio as ‘an extension of the living room which used to host my yoga sessions with my friends. It feels like home; a cosy studio offering yoga classes for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.’ Not one to rest on her laurels, she soon expanded her business to 6 more branches over a span of 2 years! Not bad at all for an entrepreneurship which had its humble beginnings in a living room, huh?


Impacting lives

Although people have to pay a fee for classes at her studios, Atilia and her group of yoga practitioners conduct free yoga sessions every Saturday morning at 3 different locations – KLCC Park, Bandar Utama’s Central Park and Shah Alam’s Taman Tasik. “YogaOneThatIWant may be a business but I made a promise to do my part in making yoga accessible to those who would like to give it a shot.” So far, the turnout has been good. “We see an average of 200 people attending our sessions. I’m always excited to see new faces among the regulars!”


Flying high

With her yoga business venture doing well, one would not blame Atilia for loosening up and taking a break from things. But don’t let this petite lady fool you. She may be petite but her plans for the future are far from small. “I recently finished producing Konsert Malam Nada Biru at Istana Budaya which featured 8 Malaysian singers including myself, my mother (Salamiah Hassan), Adibah Noor, Dina Nadzir and Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor. I’m now working on my 3rd album and I’ll be launching my next single very soon so please look forward to it!”



Malay Mail Online. Available at

New Straits Times Online. Available at

PurelyB. Available at

The Star Online. Available at

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Keep Climbing

Keep Climbing

May 8, 2022   Return

Cancer was a part of Sean Swarner’s life since his early teens. He was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 13, and Askin’s sarcoma at 16. They found a golf ball-sized tumour in his right lung, but its removal only sent him into an induced coma and left him with only one functional lung.  

The doctor told him that he had only 3 months to live after his first diagnosis, and 14 days after the second diagnosis. Always the fighter, Sean beat the odds, a turnaround that his friends and family members considered a miracle. In his book, he recalls the seemingly endless and even agonising diagnostic tests and chemotherapy session, and how he persevered through this earth-shattering ordeal with the support of his family and friends.

“I knew in an instant that my hair didn’t matter, that having no hair didn’t matter, that wearing a wig didn’t matter. Friends, family, doctors, nurses – people – they were all that mattered,” he recalls.

On top of the world

A decade later, he not only stayed alive – he was determined to conquer the odds. With grit and not a little hard work, he went on to become the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest and 6 years later he completed the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii – a wish he made to himself when he was confined to a hospital bed. “I went up Mount Everest first before attempting the Ironman Challenge so I could scream ‘HOPE’ from the top of the world,” he explained. 

And he did that while carrying a flag that bore the names of all those who had been affected by cancer – his personal tribute to the courageous souls who had inspired him. Sean went on to scale 6 other highest peaks, one in each continent: Africa, Europe, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and North America.

His cancer only motivated his inward growth: Sean started off as a molecular biology student but, after surviving cancer, he moved on to become a psycho-oncologist.

Today, Sean motivates people around the world through his talks and writing (he is the author of Keep Climbing: How I Beat Cancer and Reached The Top Of The World). Between adventures and duties as a motivational speaker, Sean visits hospitals in his spare time to share his survivorship stories with patients. He also founded The Cancer Climber Association to support cancer survivors in their adventures and provide grants for setting up mobile camps for children with cancer.

“Live, love, laugh, learn, and lead by example. Those five things are, I believe, the basis of life.” 


Amazon. Available at

Cancer Climber. Available at

Gig Masters. Available at

SB Nation. Available at

Share Hope. Available at

Today. Available at

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