When Cultural Medallion winner K.T.M. Iqbal’s father was a young man living in Tamil Nadu’s Kadayanallur, he was one of many Indians who admired the great poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, renowned for penning the famous Indian patriotic song, Sare Jahan Se Accha. So, when this young man was blessed with a son, he named him Iqbal in the poet’s honour.
Eleven years later, the boy and his father moved to Singapore after tragedy struck the family. An epidemic had killed the boy’s mother and three younger brothers. It was a testing time for father and son when they moved to Singapore in 1951. The young Iqbal, who had only two years of schooling till then, enrolled in the Umar Pulavar Tamil School but he lasted only a few months. He had to take up different kinds of jobs to keep himself going.