To be a better man

AT 58 years old, Arun Rosiah sports the enviable physique of a man half his age and an immaculate full-beard that turns heads. His chiselled, muscular frame is unsurprising, given that the former physical education teacher leads a very active lifestyle, jogging with his wife regularly and hitting the gym five to six times a week. What’s more impressive is that Arun still has what it takes to compete in the ongoing Manhunt Singapore 2021/2022… as its oldest finalist. But don’t be too quick to judge a book by its cover.

Beyond his brawny physique, “Papa Smurf” – as his students used to call him affectionately because of his iconic silver beard – is actually a literature lover at heart. His passion for William Shakespeare’s works, which was ignited by his secondary two English literature teacher Madam Sargeet Kaur, still burns strong today. No wonder he even named his personal Facebook account after the legendary wordsmith!

“Madam Kaur profoundly impacted my life. From Julius Caesar to Silas Marner, she taught me to connect the dots between literature and reality. Life is like a Shakespearean play… there’s a little bit of comedy, tragedy, power struggle and even relationship issues,” Arun mused.

A twist of fate

In 2015, Arun’s otherwise ordinary life took a dramatic turn: the health-conscious fitness buff was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.

Besides enduring multiple rounds of radiation therapy and chemotherapy, he also underwent surgery to remove the tumour, his rectum and 20cm of his large intestine. Arun’s self-esteem took a huge hit as he had to learn how to live with a stoma bag attached to his abdomen for eight months before it was removed through reverse stoma surgery.

Despite the ordeal, the optimistic cancer survivor saw the silver lining in his circumstances. He said: “I see positivity in every negative situation. When life gives you lemons, just make lemonade. In fact, I want to celebrate my cancer journey because it has taught me so much.”

Adapting to the new normal

One side effect that Arun is still living with post-colorectal surgery is his frequent bowel movements, which makes him visit the toilet more often than others.

Nonetheless, this did not stop the avid runner from continuing to actively participate in various sports events, including the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in 2017 and 2018.

Arun and his family taking part in Relay for Life event organised by the Singapore Cancer Society in 2018
Home run… Arun and his family completed a 100km challenge in the Relay for Life event organised by the Singapore Cancer Society in 2018.  

The chatty senior also claims he became less eloquent and would often freeze midway through a sentence while speaking during his recovery due to “chemo fogging” – chemotherapy-induced mental block obstructing his train of thought.

To stay mentally active, Arun started taking drum lessons in 2019, which boosted his mental and physical coordination. That same year, he also joined the Bishan Toastmaster Club (BTMC) to improve his public speaking skills.

Arun receiving best speaker award in 2019
Smooth talk… Arun receiving the best speaker award from Sophia Ngo, then President of the BTMC Exco during the speech competition in 2019. Since joining BTMC, Arun has won three best speaker awards.         

Recalibrating priorities in life

Prior to his brush with cancer, Arun used to be impatient. He did not spend as much time with his family as he would pursuing his personal goals, such as running marathons, taking academic and professional courses. This put a strain in his relationship with his family.

The treatment and recovery journey gave Arun the opportunity to step back, reflect and adjust his priorities in life. He started listening to his three children, Aqil, Amar and Ar’junna, and getting more involved in their lives. He also treated every interaction with his family as an opportunity to strengthen the bond between them. 

Today, the family man who just celebrated his 21st wedding anniversary appreciates spending quality time with his educator wife, Rosiah, 52, and his three kids aged between 19 and 25. In fact, family is so important to Arun now that he even took the bold step to quit his teaching career recently to be a househusband.

“I’m very lucky to be given a second chance in life, and I want to be a better husband and father this time round,” Arun said with gratitude.

Arun Rosiah working out in gym
Warrior, not worrier… Arun, who is the oldest finalist in the ongoing Manhunt Singapore 2021/2022 competition, hopes to raise awareness of colorectal cancer and motivate other cancer patients in overcoming their adversities.

Pursuing new dreams

The former educator may have more time on hand now, but he is far from retiring.

“I am not retired from work yet. Instead, I’m ‘re-fired’ to attempt new goals and pursue new dreams in life. My priorities may have changed but my warrior mindset has not,” shared Arun.

Besides championing greater awareness of colorectal cancer, Arun is taking the opportunity to upskill himself by completing various fitness-related courses and the relevant accreditations so that he could provide quality personal training services in future.

The go-getter is also keen to venture into the property market and is attempting to pass his Real Estate Salesperson examination. His ultimate goal is to save up enough money to buy a landed property for his beloved wife one day.

Arun’s next personal challenge is to be on TikTok! He hopes to create bite-sized video content to promote health and fitness to young students and share relatable parenting skills to help parents interact better with their children.

Who knows, “Papa Smurf” Arun may just pop up on your TikTok feed soon!


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Article published on 20/01/2022