I was born in November 1995 into a family practising Nichiren Buddhism; that makes me a “fortune baby.” My name “Sadira” means “lotus” in the Persian language. Growing up, my family had always been plagued by financial problems and it worsened after my twin sisters were born.
After a few years our situation took a positive turn, and my father opened a restaurant. However, it was soon wound up due to poor financial management. Our situation went downhill so quickly that money for food, formula milk and petrol became a daily issue.
From there, I kept witnessing the sacrifice of my parents to make ends meet, including how my mother bled and bruised her hands to hand-grind ginger paste for sale and my dad who had to leave us for a job in Brunei.
Despite enduring these hardships, I consider myself fortunate to be part of the Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM). Fellow SGM members around us tirelessly supported us with food or clothing aids. With their encouragement through sincere dialogue, my mother was determined to accumulate good fortune for our family and turn our situation around. She started to contribute through all sorts of activities including the Cleaning Group at SGM centres every weekend.
As for me, I participated actively in the SGM Culture Groups since I was young. Not only have I established great comradeship here, but I also learned about the importance of having good fortune and how I could accumulate them through Kosen-rufu activities and strong prayers. I went all-out and would even persevere with weekly practices despite facing major examinations.
Later in Form 1, my father was offered a job opportunity in Sabah, and our family decided to relocate there. Although I didn’t like the decision, I couldn’t resist without proper reasoning. After we moved, I began rebelling and completely isolated myself, not speaking to my family or eating proper meals.
Concerned with how I could not adjust to the new life in Sabah, my mother once again sacrificed and brought three of us siblings back to Kuala Lumpur. Despite suffering from being apart from my father again, she firmly believed that our situation would change with strong faith in the Gohonzon.
No matter how difficult it was to bring up three young girls alone, my mother never complained nor stopped participating in SGM activities after work. This was also how I engraved the spirit of contributing to SGM in my heart. With my mother’s trust and confidence in me, I grew up independent and had all the freedom to pursue my hopes and dreams.
Since we moved back to Kuala Lumpur, I happily resumed participating in SGM activities. Fortunately, not long after in Form 4, my father received an offer to work in Putrajaya with better wages. Our family was finally reunited!
As I completed the SPM examinations, I resolved to gain admission into a government matriculation course to reduce the burden of financing my tertiary education. Realizing the low probability of success, I prayed fervently to the Gohonzon and was truly fortunate to have my prayers answered. I was convinced it was due to the good fortune from exerting myself in Kosen-rufu.
After completing my matriculations, I chanted for clarity and to enrol in a course where I could contribute to others and grow as a person. Moreover, I wanted to attend a university to help me achieve my dreams. Hence, I applied to pursue pharmacy at several universities.
Several offers came. I leaned towards accepting Manchester University’s attractive offer and gained my parents’ support in pursuing my dream to study overseas. With the visa and arrangements complete, I was ready to depart in a week. Then, an offer from the University of Malaya (UM) arrived, landing me in a dilemma.
I weighed my options and saw that if I studied here our family would not be financially burdened and I could be with them. Chanting abundant Daimoku, I decided to put my dream aside to stay in Malaysia.
In university, despite studying Pharmacy, I developed an interest in entrepreneurship, where I took part in a social enterprise club, Enactus. I was passionate about giving back to the community and participated actively. I also competed in several speaking competitions and engaged in the Student Division activities with my SGM comrades. I continued to strive in both academics and in Kosen-rufu.
In my final year, I unexpectedly obtained an opportunity to travel abroad to the UK and Canada for competitions representing the university. I believe these were inconspicuous benefits I gained from chanting Daimoku and striving in kosen-rufu.
A visit to London made me realise that the UK was not a suitable environment I’d favour, and I got severely homesick within a week. This incident sparked my realisation that Malaysia is the place of my mission.
My university life flourished, and in my first year I met a business partner with whom I had a shared vision for a business venture. However, we needed funding to launch it. Participating in competitions, we pitched our idea and competed against even corporate participants and experienced entrepreneurs. As we met mentors who advised us, I chanted wholeheartedly, thinking, “If this opportunity allows me to grow, learn, and connect with people, please let us be successful!”
Fortunately, we were able to secure the necessary funding, and I became the first student at UM to have this opportunity. While it was a great stepping stone, I had to develop entrepreneurial skills while also managing my academic workload. The journey was not easy, and there were days when I felt emotionally exhausted.
During those moments, I was grateful to have the Gohonzon, a truly supportive business partner and mentors who guided us with humility and kindness. Our business venture, Readpublic is an online marketplace that curates and compares book prices from online bookstores and even second-hand booksellers. Our goal is to offer the best book prices to consumers and promote a reading culture in Malaysian society.
With the hope of sharing our passion and inspiring more people, we entered various competitions and were delighted to find that our ideas were well-received. In 2017, we won the contest to represent Malaysia in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA) in Germany, where we achieved second place. I was even the only Asian female participant among the top five finalists.
During my time in Germany, I met people who made me feel that I must stay in Malaysia to contribute to society. The decision to live in Malaysia has helped shape who I am today, and I am very grateful for that.
After graduating from university, I transitioned from Readpublic and am now running a private label company for skincare and healthcare products that utilizes patented technology from Taiwan. Specifically, our company focuses on Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM). The journey thus far has been incredibly humbling, and I remain committed to constantly challenging myself.
To my surprise, I was also awarded the ‘Higher Education Director-General Special Award’ at the Anugerah Tokoh Siswa (Undergraduate Leaders Awards). This award recognised my contributions in promoting Malaysia through international competitions. It was a surreal experience to receive this recognition, as my sole motivation has been to give back to society and inspire fellow students to step out of their comfort zones.
Throughout my life, participating in SGM activities has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. By doing so, I have been able to create great value in my youth. I have also experienced the importance of perseverance as most times, we don’t see the benefits right away. With strong faith and determination, good fortune will always manifest.
I also believe it’s important for parents to encourage their children to participate in SGM activities, even if they’re busy juggling their own responsibilities. As parents, being exemplary role models can inspire children to follow in our footsteps. I know first-hand the positive impact SGM has had on my life, and it’s thanks to my mother’s support and guidance that I am who I am today.
Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone.
Finally, always have faith and conviction in the Gohonzon.
Adapted from Cosmic January 2019