Raman Iyer was honored in January with the award of Outstanding Person of the Year by the United Indian Association for his “ongoing efforts, valuable contributions and commitment to the community through his profession”.
Iyer is a highly regarded member of the Indian community, and his contributions to society as a writer and philanthropist have been enormous.
During his illustrious tenure as a journalist at The Times of India in Mumbai, he mixed in circles with some of the great Indian writers such as the now late Khushwanth Singh, BG Verghese, and cartoonist RK Laxman. He also met and made friends with legendary singers like LataMangeskhar and the late MS Subbulakshmi, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar.
Iyer’s living room is a treasure trove of photos, including moments of his various famous celebrity encounters he has had as a journalist. When asked about his favourite photo, he gestures to the one with himself and LataMangeshkhar.
“I wanted to hear Lataji singing, so made the request to her and she obliged by saying, “I shall sing one song”. The song was ‘ItnanaMuj Se PyarBhara’, and she requested that I sing along with her. I got the shock of my life… but I sang. At the end of the song, she clapped and said “bahutachagaya” (you sang well). There were only three people in the room; Lataji, the photographer, and me. The photographer later confessed that it was not because of my singing that Lataji clapped, but my courage to sing,” says Iyer.
Starting life in Sydney was not an easy task for Iyer and his wife Jaya, after he left his job at The Times of India. He started his career in Australia as a successful encyclopaedia seller for two years before being employed at Macquarie University as a librarian for 22 years.
Working as a librarian did not deter Iyer’s passion to write. For the past 20 years he has written in various publications under the name ‘K Raman’ for Indian Australian magazines like The Indian Sun, MalayaleePathram and India Down Under.
Mr Iyer’s dedication as a father and husband, as well as his passion for music, shines through. In 2000, he was instrumental in establishing the Swathithirunal Music Festival with another music enthusiast, PremaAnanathakrishnan. The annual Swathithirunal event, held at Dundas Hall, now draws a crowd of more than 200 people. He is also one of the founding members of the Sydney Malayalee Association, which is in its 40th year of inception.
Iyer was intrinsic in spearheading a few ghanamelas here in Australia, through which the Kerala Music Club was formed. Money raised went towards charities such as the Cancer Council, Blood Bank and Westmead Children’s Hospital.
He was recently actively involved in raising money for Norwest Disability services, a disability centre his daughter Maya attends. He and a team of dedicated volunteers raised over $20,000, which will go towards building accommodation for those attending the centre. Iyer attributes his familial experiences to the drive he has to toil for charitable services.
A close associate of Iyer and president of Soorya Sydney, Sudhir Das, describes him as a “music lover, a great human being and an encyclopaedia of everything under the sun”.
When asked about what he is most proud of, Iyer doesn’t allude to his decade’s worth of publications, substantial charity work or commendable musical endeavours. Instead, he mentions his family.
“I am blessed to be surrounded by lovely, kind people,” he says.