A dancer, a poet and an athlete: Migrant workers stay connected to home through their passions

He rubbed holy ash across his forehead, pulled on wrist cuffs made from fruit packaging, and put on a paper crown.

Then, the dance began.

Mr Paramasivam Karuppaiya, a construction worker from India who has worked in Singapore for more than seven years, has been creating dance videos for his more than 30,000 followers on social video app TikTok since June 2019. 

To date, the 31-year-old’s TikTok channel has over 600 traditional folk dance videos and received about 1.4 million likes. 

Making these videos comforts him when he feels lonely, said Mr Paramasivan, especially during the Circuit Breaker last year when he had to stay indoors.

“I miss my family, wife and children dearly,” said the father of two daughters. “Art is my only solace.” 

He has not returned to his hometown of Periyanesalur village in Tamil Nadu, India, for seven years. 

Mr Paramasivam’s story is part of a video series called Singapore Sonnets which features migrant workers living here. 

The six-part series also tells the stories of an air-con technician who has won gold medals in the sport of Kabbadi, a construction worker who has a poetry reading YouTube channel, and a service engineer who set up a rock band. The men talk about living in Singapore and the lives they left behind in India and Bangladesh. The videos also include interviews with family and friends in their hometowns. 

Created by production house Verite Studios, the video series Singapore Sonnets was commissioned by Singapore Press Holdings in partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) under IMDA’s Public Service Content Fund, to support Singapore’s media industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staying connected with his family through traditional Indian dance | Singapore Sonnets Ep 1

Construction worker Paramasivam Karuppaiya from India started making traditional dance videos on TikTok in 2019 and now has more than 30,000 followers.

Migrant worker performs poetry readings on YouTube | Singapore Sonnets Ep 2

Mr Manu Neethi Cholan has been a construction worker in Singapore for four years and now has a YouTube channel where he performs poetry readings.

Kabaddi athlete from India wants to help S’pore set up national team | Singapore Sonnets Ep 3

Air-con technician Anna Durai Sundar has won gold medals here in the sport of Kabaddi and dreams of setting up a national team for Singapore.

Worker from Bangladesh serves up a taste of home in Yishun | Singapore Sonnets Ep 4

Mr Bepar Sharief learnt cooking from his mother in Bangladesh and now runs a successful briyani stall in Singapore.

Bonding with foreign workers through volleyball | Singapore Sonnets Ep 5

Mr Billal Khan, a construction supervisor, started a volleyball team with other foreign workers here to bring the community together.

Migrant worker sets up Bangladeshi rock band | Singapore Sonnets Ep 6

Service engineer Asaduzzaman Noor Rahad learnt to play the guitar in Singapore and started Dreams Arrived, a rock band made up of Bangladeshi migrant workers.

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