A Young Chevening Scholar’s Zeal and Strength of Character

By Neal K

Mahesan Paramanantham, better known as Mash, now belongs to that group of people who can say ‘I dreamed big, did not relent on my pursuit and look where it got me’. The 31-year-old young man may have come from a modest background but that never deterred him from spreading his wings far and wide to do things that his heart desires, things that have made him the successful, well-deserving Chevening scholar that he is today.

Music and the arts have always played a major role in his life as Mash was raised on Classical music training, both Indian Carnatic and Western classical, but his interests also extended to sports and studies and the chirpy youngster managed to excel in all fields.

“My parents always made sure that I did my best in every undertaking of mine,” says Mash who continues to live by his father’s mantra- ‘Being number 1 is not important, doing your best is.’

With that, as his life’s motto, Mash began shaping his life and hopes to continue doing so in the future. He has undertaken many kinds of sports, including cricket, athletics, football, badminton and rugby, as well as other co-curricular ventures like debates, public speaking and storytelling. In fact, he has represented Malaysia and Selangor in cricket and had also represented schools and varsities in debates and public speaking.

“My parents have always believed in me and my passion and even now, they continue to do so. Every road has challenges and likewise mine. In the pursuit of growing in life, I have made mistakes and taken some wrong turns, but I have always had the support of my siblings and family and have always learnt to look at the bright side of matters.”

It is that believe and support from his loved ones that enabled Mash to try his hand at and subsequently excel in various arms of media and communications, including the performing arts, script writing and music production, among others.

Although never a BAC student in the strict sense of the word, the institution has been a prominent factor in his life. “About a dozen year ago I started frequently visiting the BAC campus because my brother undertook LLB studies there. It was through my brother that I began experiencing the BAC ways… from a third party perspective.”

Mash finally got the opportunity to experience a somewhat student life in BAC when he enrolled for the BACKED4LIFE programme under the BAC umbrella. He attended various professional classes and sessions conducted by the BAC team and found the experience provided him with in-depth knowledge of various industries.

As with many youngsters in Malaysia, studying in the UK had been Mash’s dream, which remained unfulfilled due to the lack of finance. “Not having enough money to study abroad, I left it ‘behind the curtain’ for some time,” explains Mash. Instead of wallowing in his misfortune the dynamic young man decided to prove his mettle in the workforce instead.

“In fact, I first found out about the Chevening during my employment with iM4U fm. My ex-boss, being a Chevening alumnus, told me about it and said that I would have a great chance at winning this scholarship. I applied but was rejected. This did not stop me as I applied for the second time and that time I was called for the interview.”

The whole application journey for Mash started in September 2017. He had gone to the Chevening website and created his profile in order to submit his application. The application process, he says, has been an enlightening one, where he had to complete a series of online questions and prepare for four essays.

“It taught me a good few things about myself. Having submitted my application in March, the wait for the outcome was truly agonising. I completed the first part in confidence and was anxiously waiting for the interview call up. If you don’t get this, you are automatically disqualified. It was mid March when I received the email from the Chevening Secretariat, informing me of my interview success.”

Mash says it was a moment that he will remember for eternity. The kind of moment when dreams flashed, hands trembled and he was in utter shock. He goes on to add that it will always be one of his defining moments in life. “I had secured an interview and was one step closer to winning the award. I am a firm believer of the spiritual ways and divine arrangement, and it was in the interview that I witnessed this first hand,” he says, intriguingly.

The Chevening scholar then explains what he means. The interview panel had consisted of three people, two from the Chevening Secretariat and one from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK. “During the course of the interview, I found out that the FCO representative was a big cricket fan and we hit it off talking about my cricketing journey in Malaysia and how studying in the UK would enhance that. What was even stranger was that the other two interviewers had actually heard of an event that I had organized called the Neon Countdown and were intrigued by it. And so it was, during the interview that I explained my job scope and future plans using Neon Countdown as my reference. It was a blessing to me as my previous undertakings and work projects enabled me to ace the interview. Without a doubt, it was intense but the experience was amazing.”

It was in May 2018 that Mash received confirmation of the scholarship award, and it became the day that changed his life. It was a dream come true for one who grew up facing financial constraints, having to always work to earn his pocket money. “It felt like a moment touched by the hands of God. Everyone in my family was over the moon about it – my father, brother and two sisters, sadly, my mother is not around to witness this moment but I know she is watching over me.”

The new Chevening scholar arrived in England in early September to pursue his masters in Brunel University, London, in media and communication and wants to specialise in studying the various ways of enhancing brand communication to end users to enhance brand retention. It is certainly in line with his goal to one day become a media guru – to create an agency that works on experiential tools to create a more efficient brand approach and retention.

Although he has travelled to England before for work purposes, Mash relishes this student experience even more. “The experience of being a student, a Chevening scholar, a proud son, a responsible elder brother and a person on a mission, is very different. I feel new. Like I can take on anything that comes my way. It is with that energy and goal in me that I will achieve my dreams.”

Mash concludes by acknowledging that many people have been involved in his development in life. “My parents, who shaped me as a kid to always learn and not hurt others in the process, my siblings, who taught me compassion and forgiveness, my youth leader Marappan, who, for many years taught me about life and the various ways to learn from it. Last but not least, Mr Raja Singham, my boss and mentor. I learnt from him that there is no struggle bigger than goals and aims in life and it is from him that I learnt about media mannerism and working on different approaches to achieve goals, be it life or work.”

The young Chevening scholar’s zeal and strength of character are evident, as is his resolve to ensure this golden opportunity is put to very good use.