Ipoh (Malaysia): Tracing his roots to Karaikal in south India, a retired teacher is planning an association of 1,700 of his relations across the globe, taking his inspiration from the Scottish and Chinese clans.
The idea is to meet and savour the ties that have been lost over decades and help out the needy, says A. Thanabalan, whose ancestors came to Malaysia over a century ago.
He is in good company. The 700 descendants of Haji Abdul Jamak Majok who gathered in Kuala Lumpur Saturday found that they still have 1,500 members of extended family to bond with.
"It's not just for bonding, but to encourage whole-hearted participation to benefit others," said Thanabalan (76), the great-grandson of Muthu Ramalingam Pillay and Marimuthu Ammal, who came to Malaysia a century ago.
"We will focus on education, welfare and culture. But we will not be too clannish. We can also help others," The New Straits Times quoted him as saying, on Sunday.
The idea is that the family members would help each other out in an emergency, like a surgery, or contribute to a scholarship fund.
To be registered as a non-governmental organisation of sorts, the clan could also provide career counselling to its younger members and promote culture through song and dance, he added.
Thanabalan, who began research into his family history after he retired from teaching in Penang, said there are now seven generations of descendants living in Penang, Taiping and Kuala Lumpur, and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Germany, the United States and, of course, India, from where they originated.
The family also has ties with notable figures including Malaiperumal Pillay, who married a daughter of the couple and founded Sultan Yussuf School in Batu Gajah, the alma mater of Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak.
There is also a current political tie with Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) vice-president S Veerasingam, married to S Usha, a fifth-generation descendant.
"It's good to know my roots and to meet my relations," said Usha at the family's fourth mass gathering recently.
The gathering is called the "Bandham," the Sanskrit word for "bond or unity."
A website (www.bandham.weebly.com) was also launched to spread the latest news about the family.
While Thanabalan's clan meets every two years, for the Majok family, it was a beginning Saturday.
"We formed a committee consisting of 20 family members early this year and met at least 11 times a month to trace our family tree and we were surprised to find that there were many prominent figures within the family," said Kalsom Taib, who is leading the initiative.
Among the clan's luminaries were former Maybank chairman Jaffar Hussein and the first woman elected to the Johor state assembly, Fatimah Abdul Majid.
The 700 who attended the event were entertained by local television personality and fellow family member Mahatir Lokman while they lunched in the dining hall.
Kids ran helter-skelter in the park after being introduced to their many cousins, the newspaper said.
They also participated in colouring competitions, face painting and sat mesmerised through a magic show.
"This is a great way to unite and strengthen a family," Kalsom said.
The extended family witnessed the launch of a book written by Kalsom by Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. It was the biography of Kalsom's father titled "Taib Andak -- In a Class of His Own."