Hooked on the children's love

GEORGE TOWN - Four years ago, R. Roshan became a father for the first time - to 24 children.

He had just given up his family-owned restaurant business when he was approached to help out in the setting up of Penang Shan Children's Home, a centre for orphans and children of single parents who were unable to care for them.

"The restaurant business was mine and my father's, but after he died, I decided to give it up," said Roshan, 38.

"(Penang Shan Children's Home founder and chairman) Dr S. Balakrishnan then approached me with his project.

"He knew I could cook and I loved children so he asked me if I would be interested to come on board," said Roshan, who was then active in social work and temple activities.

It didn't take long for him to get hooked on the job.

"When you receive love from the children here, it's hard to leave.

"They're always cheerful and even when we (the staff) have problems, we just look at them smiling and everything else is easily forgotten.

"With all they have been through, they never hold on to the past," said Roshan, who does everything from cooking to counselling at the home.

Home executive administrator Dr S. Poornachandran said the children would throw lively Fathers Day and birthday celebrations for Roshan, who had seen many of them through tough times.

"When the majority of children come here, they are thin mostly due to the financial constraints of their families.

"Roshan cooks a lot of the food at the home but when the newer children refuse to eat, he will patiently spoon-feed them," Dr Poornachan­dran said.

As for the children, they all swear by the taste of Roshan's food, even when asked out of earshot of the staff.

"Really, everything is good! I especially like the fried rice," said 10-year-old S. Sarveen.

The cartoon and basketball enthusiast saved his pocket money for a week to buy Roshan and fellow staff member G. Jay, 30, a red rose each in conjunction with a Fathers Day celebration at the home yesterday.

"Appa (Tamil for father) is very kind and a big joker. He helps me with my homework and sometimes does a bit of it too!

"It was worth it to save up for his present," Sarveen said.

Another child, V. Jayanti, 14, said the 21 children currently staying at the home had saved up to buy Roshan and the others a chocolate cake.

When asked whether he was eager to start a family of his own some day, Roshan, a bachelor, said: "I already have 21 children!"

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