Told by Barani Krishnan, Americas Editor & Founder @ neverforget.cloud

Introversion is the behavior of focusing on inner thoughts and ideas, rather than expressing them openly. Introverts enjoy spending time with just one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds.

Extroversion is all about being expressive and outgoing. Extroverts tend to be talkative, sociable, active and warm.

So, can one be both introvert and extrovert? It’s an interesting thought. If there was an example of such a being, it had to be Thayalan Balakrishnan.

Thayalan as a child: Shy and plumpy

From a shy, plumpy kid to the humor-filled, leaner teen and adult he grew into, Thayalan was remembered for his duality, especially among those closest to him.

At most times, you’d rarely hear his voice. 

Yet, when the occasion arose, few could make you laugh louder than he did.

“Oh, he talked … he talked a lot,” Suresh Singh, Thayalan’s ex-boss, said, remembering fondly of him.  

“But he didn’t do it with everyone,” Suresh told neverforget, shortly after Thayalan’s demise on June 7, 2023. “You had to be in his inner circle to see that side of him.”

Drawing little attention to himself is something Thayalan always seemed to do well.

He wasn’t exactly a recluse: He was regularly on Facebook. But by most standards, his posts weren’t spectacular. 

Facebook: Thayalan’s happy place where he managed to post pictures without drawing too much attention to himself

Often, it was either a picture of himself or with a small group of family and sometimes friends. The messages he shared were largely inspirational, urging one to look within or beyond, at the bigger picture of life.

Thayalan’s nondescript day-job — where he was in charge of site inspections for a sewage services firm — also helped him stay under the radar. He once had a more interesting night job in his early adult days: Deejaying. That somewhat explains his Facebook identity: Dj-t Premz.

But in later years, with a wife and a young child in tow, he seemed to prefer the quieter life.

Despite this, like many whose time on earth appeared to have ended too soon — his was a life cut short by cancer at the age of 39 — Thayalan made an incredible impression on those around him.

Memories of him were rekindled on Feb. 5, 2024, on what would have been his 40th birthday.

The occasion was particularly memorable to those in his inner circle, as it came weeks after the annual Hindu ritual Thaipusam, where a spiritually-charged Thayalan — carrying a wooden-and-steel structured kavadi with skewers on his body — would climb the 272 steps leading up to the Batu Caves shrine just outside the Malaysian capital.

“2024 Thaipusam gave us more tears, we were not able to enjoy anything,” Durga, Thayalan’s youngest sister who worked in the same office as him, wrote in a Facebook post marking his 2024 birthday.

               Thaipusam: An annual spiritual peak for Thayalan

Remarking that the festival will “never be the same for us anymore”, Durga, also known as Renesmee on Facebook, added:  

“We only felt more silence and so much emptiness. 2023 Thaipusam was extra special because it was on your birthday but I was not aware it (would be) your last Thaipusam.”

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 Thayalan with kid sister Durga, also known as Renesmee

To Durga and her family, Thaipusam had always been about Thayalan.

“Every year, we (will) all be so excited and happy for this one day, just to watch and cheer you up (the steps),” she wrote. “We would feel pain each time you get pierced (with the skewers), we would be more worried each time (on whether) you (would) faint once (you have) done your vows.” 

“Never once, we had imagined a Thaipusam without you, Thalneh,” she added, using an endearing term for Thayalan known only to her and three other siblings.

Thayalan in full Thaipusam gear

Suresh, Thayalan’s ex-boss, acknowledged how much the festival had meant for his former employee. “He was active in our kavadi group for more than 10 years. It’s a big loss to us, no doubt.”

Durga wasn’t the only one reeling from Thayalan’s passing. 

His niece Dashini Mathivanan just as devastated.

“Mama kutty, who would I go to after this when I need to get a piece of advice?” Dashini wrote in her Facebook tribute to Thayalan during his wake a year earlier. Mama kutty, or “little uncle” in Tamil, was a pet name she had coined for him. 

Having lost her Dad a decade earlier, Dashini had counted on Thayalan as a stand-in for her father, particularly with his counsel and love.

“My late father used to say it’s the thought that matters most,” Dashini said. “Mama kutty never failed to love and back me up, no matter what happened. He was someone I loved and cherished in life after my late father.”

Thayalan texted and talked a lot on the phone with her, Dashini said.

“From the very beginning, we clicked easily,” she told neverforget, recalling their bond. “He had been more than a mama to me. He made life so easy just by being there in my life. The sense of love and care he gave from the early days till his last days had always been the same.

Thayalan, she said, had a knack of checking in on her whenever he felt something was wrong. “And, most of the time, he sensed me right. He was like a human diary to me in many ways.”

 

  Dashini with her “Mama Kutty”

With Thayalan, she shared her “deepest and darkest thoughts” and he never judged her nor said anything hurtful. “All he did was guide me through the process and he has seen many ups and downs in my life.”

Thayalan was her guiding angel through her school life to college and, later, workplace in Singapore, where she was briefly stranded during the 2020 Covid breakout.

It was also his mentorship that helped her find her sanity after the loss of her Dad, and breakup with her boyfriend. 

“The bond between me and mama kutty has always been the most beautiful and special thing; only we both know what we meant to each other,” Dashini adds. “He has given me way too much love and held me strong when I gave up in my life for so many reasons that only he knows.” 

“I’ve lost my go-to person when life hits rock-bottom for me. I’ve lost my human diary.”

Author’s note:

The passing of someone as young as Thayalan is, without doubt, shattering.

But the years I’ve spent retelling the stories of some of the most amazing people who are no longer with us has taught me something else: Those with a relatively short time on earth sometimes leave us with more profound lessons, virtues and morals than we can imagine.

To this end, Thayalan’s father, Balakrishnan, tells me: “He was everything one could expect of a son, and more. As a father, I tried to raise him with all the qualities I thought would be right for his life. But today, as I look back on how he lived his life, I’m proud to call him my son. I tell myself to be even more patient, gentle and compassionate these days, because that’s how my son would be. And I thank him for that.”

Thayalan Balakrishnan

Feb 5, 1984 – June 7, 2023

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8 Responses

  1. Beautifully said n we will always miss you n u will always be remembered too. No words could explain the depth of our sadness in loosing you n at the same time I know my sister Ananthi with be there with you n protect you always. 🙏😔❤️😔🙏

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Suresh.

      Indeed, people like Thayalan, Ananthi and our one and only Gunalan occupied such an incredible spot in our hearts during their relatively short time with us.

      – from Barani and the team @ neverforget.cloud

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