You might have caught sight of him, hauling a black cabin bag and striding purposefully through the corridors and hallways of the NUS Medicine campus, moving from the Deanâ€™s Office in the Tower Block to University Hall on Upper Kent Ridge Road and then back again. Mr Krishnan s/o Kumaniar covers the same route twice daily, Mondays to Fridays, in all weather.
He does this as the daily despatcher for the School, delivering mail to and from the School and covering a combined distance of about 12km in 10,000 steps. He knows, because heâ€™s measured the trip out and back on his iPhone app. And if thatâ€™s not enough of a workout, the 65-year-old throws in thrice weekly mail runs to the Singapore Post Office on Pasir Panjang Road. For these long haul trips, he takes a bus â€“ and walks some more. On those days, itâ€™s 14,000 steps by dayâ€™s end.
Uncle Krishnan, as he is fondly known by staff at the Deanâ€™s Office, swears by his Nikes. He wears out three pairs every year doing the daily NUS Medicine mail run. Itâ€™s a job heâ€™s been doing for as long as the School has been at Kent Ridge. â€śIt gives me a good workout every day and I donâ€™t need any additional exercise,â€ť he chuckles. While many people are aware that the School began at Sepoy Lines, few have direct, personal recollection of how the School was like when the heart of the institution was at the College of Medicine Building in Outram. Photographs and stories from alumni and commemorative books abound, but the man with the hearty chuckle has vivid memories of days before the School moved to Kent Ridge in 1985. He joined the School in 1974.
â€śWhen I first joined, we had only 10 staff in the Deanâ€™s Office. We worked closely together, everyone knew each another.â€ť He started as an administrator and the office was located on the first floor of the College of Medicine building. Examinations were held at the New Lecture Theatre on the third floor.
Pre-Internet, wifi, email, air-conditioning, mobile phones and all things electronic, office work literally meant getting hot and sweaty, and oneâ€™s hands dirty, Mr Krishnan recalled. â€śExam paper preparation, sorting, invigilation, and I was in charge of the printing of papers and meeting minutes. We had cyclostyling machines to make copies of documents for distribution. You type the words onto stencil paper and then you print. The paper was rough and I got ink on my hands all the time. No computers then,â€ť the veteran recounts with his trademark smile. â€śRuby and I used to work together, she handled the coordination of materials and I collected them for printing.â€ť Mrs Ruby Foo is a colleague who began her career with the School two years earlier in 1972, and is the secretary to the Director for Administration.
A family portrait taken in 2003: Mr Krishnan with his wife, Piremabathi, elder son Shankar (left), and second son, Murali.
â€śKrishnan joined us after his NS. Weâ€™ve worked together all these years and Iâ€™ve never seen him get upset or angry. Heâ€™s just such a kind man. He would go out of his way to help you,â€ť she said.
If his work is bracing, domestic life is nurturing for the confessed homebody who goes on holidays to India and Malaysia once every few years with his homemaker wife, Piremabathi â€“ the childhood sweetheart he married 40 years ago and with whom he had two sons, Shankar, 39 and Murali, 34. Both are married: the elder is a regional manager in an oil firm and the younger is a manager in the sports retail industry.
The proud grandfather of a three-month-old boy is no couch potato: heâ€™s an active leader of the Sri Mariamman Chariot Procession, a Hindu ritual that takes place every year and which is attended by Hindu residents around the Jalan Bukit Merah area. The next time you see Mr Krishnan, give him a smile and a wave and watch him light up with that toothy grin. And then walk a mile or two with him.