My time with Dr Ravi Ponniah began the day before our ambitious photo shoot on one of his company’s yachts named the Sea Falcon, a custom-built catamaran with a wealth of luxury amenities fit to host a medium sized swanky party.
As our team made our way onto the top sun deck of the vessel from the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club’s quay to the welcoming smiles of the crew, the man of the hour seemed to be missing in action. No sooner after we were welcomed with some chilled refreshments, he arrived to the delight of both the Tatler team and his crew, a recurring trend I noticed that seemed to take place over the course of the next few days we had with him.
As the Tatler team departed off into the sunset, the conversation with Dr Ravi steered past opening pleasantries into inquisitive waters. We wanted to understand his motivation behind starting Naam, the multifaceted company he spearheaded in Langkawi three years ago of which the yacht my feet were planted on belonged to. The journalist in me wanted to better understand this charming personality and his knack to attract such admiration from people around him.
(Video: The Tatler team take to the skies with Naam Langkawi to do an aerial photography shoot with Dr Ravi Ponniah)
Even others in the social circle seem to have nothing but respect for this man—a popular face in the medical fraternity. With a young but successful premiere water sports and leisure company rapidly gaining attention not just in the country but also outside its borders under his belt, just who exactly is the man behind it all?
Spend some time with Dr Ravi and you will discover that he is a Malaysian who counts himself as a patriot and a proud Melakan. Although 60, he has a complexion and youthful character that belie his age. A healer by trade, he is a practising doctor of integrative and rejuvenative medicine, possessing a keen insight and the ability to determine physical ailments from examining the eyes of an individual before treating them.
Using his gifts, he doles out aid on a regular basis, truly believing that charity is an appropriate thing to do. “I believe in karma as it’s a very logical process. The whole ethos of living is very logical. In life, the givers get given and the takers get taken,” says Dr Ravi with his trademark cheeky smile.
A garden, both literal and metaphorical, requires effort, dedication, persistence, love and care to blossom. Some have the ability to nurture an empty plot of land into a fruitful orchard, yielding bountiful produce for their efforts. Dr Ravi is such an individual and is currently cultivating his latest ‘garden’—Naam.
As the doctor best puts it, he enjoys it when he manages to successfully build a business that eventually becomes self-sustaining, allowing him to sit back and relish it when his garden starts to blossom. “The fruit from your own garden will always taste better,” says the doctor. “I see myself as one who ignites the torch and passes it on to others to light the way,” he adds.
Naam is a fairly young premier water sports and leisure company in Langkawi, focusing on delivering nature adventures with panache. The discerning doctor envisaged the company a few years ago chiefly to showcase the island as a world-renowned tourist destination but due to a lack of substantial facilities, he felt that this inhibited outsiders to examine and subsequently understand Langkawi’s allure. Besides endeavouring to elevate the island’s status, an additional inspiration behind the formation of Naam is the doctor’s quadriplegic sister.
As she adored the ocean, he once brought her to Langkawi to bask in its tropical charm, a feat that managed to lift her spirits up. Following this, he and his team once took a group of orphans on a cruise of a lifetime. They loved the fact that a simple act of kindness could bring such happiness to all participants, which in turn reinforced the platform for the birth of Naam.
The good-natured doctor likes to think in circles, an evolution of his beliefs that no doubt stemmed from a combination of principles passed down from his parents and an early education in a variety of martial arts, notably tai chi where the spiritual aspect of it has had a great impact on him.
“Everything in life goes in cycles,” says Dr Ravi with certainty. While he is able to dish out philosophical and spiritual views with little difficulty, the doctor often juxtaposes his solemn outlook on life with a friendly demeanour and an arsenal of witty jokes that always manages to steal laughs from his audience.
“I’m very spiritual, yes. I normally have my whisky on the rocks,” he jokingly retorts in reference to his stance on the matter. His preference to think in circles adheres to the familiar idiom ‘what goes around comes around’.
“When you try and control life, you lose it. You can choose to be like an oak tree or a block of steel, or you can choose to be like water. Water flows, it can be gaseous or it can be solid. Thus water can transform and transmute to overcome any obstacle,” he says.
Photography: Allan Casal; Styling and grooming: Calvin Chong; Blazers (worn throughout): Lord's Tailor; Yacht: Naam Langkawi
To read the full feature of Dr Ravi Ponniah, get a copy of Malaysia Tatler January 2015 issue, available on newsstands now or click here to purchase the digital version.