R Chandran: Different, Different…Same, Same

Mr R Chandran, Founder-Director of Act 3 Theatrics, takes a break from being “Uncle” to kids in theatre for the last 30 years, and shares candidly with Dads for Life how he feels about their interracial marriage and caring for two children while his actress-wife, Amy J Cheng, pursues her Masters in Education in Perth.

Multiculturalism: Different, Different … Same, Same


A non-believer in “propagating” values by preaching, Chandran fathers by striving to teach by example. He hopes his conviction, sincerity and way of life will rub off his children, Joshua, 15, and Jivan, 4, as he guides them to be broad-minded, non-judgmental individuals.

His marriage with Amy, their close relationships with HDB neighbours, and his childhood spent in his father’s company housing quarters – have greatly influenced his life outlook. Growing up, Chandran was constantly exposed to the sounds of Tamil, Punjabi, Hindi, Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin and Malay. The exciting mash of shared community sights and smells proved exhilarating.

He cares little for labels and believes in interacting with people for who they are, without regard for race or religion. In the relics spotted in his apartment, including an ‘OM’ symbol of Murugan, a cross, as well as statues of Ganesha and the Goddess of Mercy, belies the answer to his rhetorical question, “Does it matter?”

For Chandran, exchanging thoughtful gifts during Christmas; enjoying tasty Chinese New Year goodies and fire cracker sounds; soaking in Deepavali lights … not only provide something for his children to look forward to, but help them form valuable childhood memories, something they can cherish and fall back upon in their growing-up years.

The children play soccer regularly in a multi-purpose pavilion, in his HDB estate. A kind of kampung* spirit stirs quietly in this open, common space. When his boys’ curiosities are piqued by the oddness of having Chinese funerals, Malay weddings and baby showers all under the same roof, he explains the customs, rites and practices of other races and cultures.

The Fuzziness of a Husband and Father’s Love

Chandran and Amy had decided that, for a year, he will take a sabbatical and stay home to look after Joshua and Jivan, whilst she furthers her studies abroad.

It is his way of giving her a break and supporting her quest for personal development. He feels happy and gratified to be able to take care of things at home, with support from their domestic helper and relatives, while Amy concentrates on her studies.

Already connecting well with children in theatre, Chandran believes the home-alone time with his own kids is boosting his confidence and growing him as a father.

He reflects, “Here, it is a responsibility … you never know to what extent it is … you have this vague idea of what being a husband … a father is…until you get married … it doesn’t end there, but is actually the start of an adventure … you begin to wonder if you can be a good husband to someone else, that that person can be proud of … Love is very vague … I don’t think anything prepares you for it … and every child is different …”

Yet, watching Chandran patiently entertain Jivan’s repeated pleas for his papa’s undivided attention while mimicking “Hi-Five!” moves (during the hour-long interview), provides a glimpse, perhaps, into how this love has permeated his roles or responsibilities as a dad and family man.

Discovery of Children and Self

The one-year sabbatical is giving Chandran a deeper understanding of the needs, ways and unique characteristics of each of his boys, and bestowed him with a special toolbox which will prove handy for his fathering journey ahead.

Chandran discovered Jivan’s rich imagination and strong impetus for story characterisation through their nightly storying sessions when his son imposed the “use-an-animal-once-only” rule for all bedtime stories.

He also found himself holding “technical” discussions with bus and taxi drivers to find out how gearbox and brakes work –in order to help Jivan construct a mini vehicular mock-up, complete with cup-holders, as requested by the observant pre-schooler.

Chandran is touched when Joshua waits patiently for him to have dinner together, in order to catch up on the day’s happenings. This seems to be the youngster’s way of looking out and caring for his Dad whilst Mummy is away. Sometimes, Chandran would chill with the teenager and tease him about “girlfriends”.

Such “DIY” projects and “man-to-boy” talks help Chandran bond more intimately with his sons.

Looking for Joy in Life

Chandran’s philosophy is to pursue the joy in life, rather than to focus on hardship.

If only children are shown from young how varied the world is, and the possibility of taking up the wonders it offers every day, it would help them see the positive side of things, so that growing up can become exciting.

He believes parents can do aplenty with the positive energy harnessed from a healthy attitude. By taking a bit of time to spend with their children, they can equip their children with the tools to find joy.

*Kampung means village in Malay.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 16-08-2012


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