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.