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I Was A Wild Student Who Got Expelled 3 Times. Today, I’m An Award-Winning Wildlife Photographer

"Never expect & never give up are the keys."
“I couldn’t write or speak English, was expelled from school three times, started working at a young age and traveled to another country to work as a security guard.

“But those tough times were just a part of the journey. I’ve worked hard, and now I’m working as a security trainer. Also, I’m a proud Malaysian who has won multiple awards in the field of wildlife photography.

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“My name is Mohan Raj Nair and this is my story.”

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Mohan raj nair with his treasured camera
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

Rough times

Born and bred in Perak, life for Mohan was relatively smooth-sailing until he stepped into secondary school, where he encountered a tough time due to family issues.

As a result, he found himself unable to concentrate on his studies and began turning into a rebellious teen, which led him to be expelled three times.

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Young mohan raj nair
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

“Not long after, I decided to enter the workforce and began my first job as a technician. But I soon realised I wasn’t cut for it.

My challenges only increased when I later worked as a helper for three months without pay, relying on a diet of Maggi and Milo provided by my employer,” he said in an exclusive interview with WeirdKaya.

Unable to tolerate the mistreatment, Mohan eventually broke free from his employer’s vice grip and looked to seeking better opportunities in Singapore at his father’s suggestion.

I was a wild student who got expelled 3 times. Today, i'm an award-winning wildlife photographer | weirdkaya
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

When he turned 19, Mohan found a job in Singapore but found the conditions to be rather harsh, where he once slept at the garden due to a lack of accommodation.

He eventually secured a job as a salesman at a clothing store, where his enthusiasm caught the eye of another employer, who offered him work as a supplier.

Sadly, that didn’t last long either as Mohan suffered from burnout due to long working hours and lack of rest, leading him to quit and return to Malaysia.

“Back in Malaysia, a friend recommended that I work as a food delivery rider. However, the job became physically challenging for me as I couldn’t ride a bicycle for extended periods after undergoing two leg operations.

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“After a year, I quit the delivery job which provided a salary of $800 a month and it seemed nothing was going right for me,” he recalled.

I was a wild student who got expelled 3 times. Today, i'm an award-winning wildlife photographer | weirdkaya
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

Life-changing job

Upon a friend’s suggestion, Mohan explored the possibility of landing a job as a security guard. However, he had to undergo tests such as roleplay and oral assessments in order to qualify for the security license.

This posed a challenge for Mohan, who struggled with both written and spoken English at the time.

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I didn’t know how to speak or write a single word in English.

But, Mohan refused to let his lack of English proficiency deter him and returned to Johor, where he completed a one-month course to qualify for the job. He also supported himself by selling cartoon sketches in malls, earning RM20–RM25 per drawing to cover his daily expenses.

To Mohan’s delight, he was given the job a security guard in Singapore for a private company, where his role was to safeguard the main panels and control rooms.

Over the course of eight years, Mohan steadily climbed the ranks and was promoted to the supervisor role, where he now leads and trains new security personnel. On top of that, he can also speak and write fluently in English with no issues whatsoever.

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Mohan at singapore working as a security trainer

Unlocking a new talent

Despite holding the title of a supervisor, Mohan had greater dreams for himself which he yearned to fulfil.

In the search for my identity, I wanted people to know me as ‘Director Mohan’.

“As such, I attended multiple workshops with local filmmakers and decided to direct a short film along with my friends.

“One night during a shooting session, we were sitting in the garden and I spotted a squirrel in a tree. I quickly captures some photo of it and my friends were amazed by it,” he said.

One of squirrel photos that mohan took
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

Unfortunately, all film shooting sessions were halted when the pandemic came in 2020. However, Mohan refused to sit idly and delved deeper into photography after his friends commended him for his skills.

“I began exploring camera and lens techniques on YouTube, where my main focus was on wildlife photography.

“I also had the opportunity to pick the brains of other photographers who were gracious to share insights with me of the field during my hiking trips. Through this, I gained valuable knowledge and methods to capture better and clearer images of wildlife.”

Mohan and his fellow wildlife photographer at a safari talking about a shoot
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

Sharing it with the world

It wasn’t until a year later did Mohan finally hone with photography skills and was ready to showcase it to others, where he shared several of his photos on social media.

He also began capturing more photos of wildlife while on a safari trip or within the jungle, regardless of the scorching sun or heavy rain.

Mohan raj at a safari taking photos of wildlife
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

Mohan finally got his big break when he shared a photo he took of a monkey feeding its baby, which earned him an international award.

As time went by, his photography skills caught the attention of artists in the local entertainment industry, who approached him for collaboration. Some of his photos were featured in Canon Malaysia as well.

Aside from collaborations, some individuals have even offered to purchase his photographs too.

Outpouring of awards

As word of Mohan’s superb photography skills began to spread, so did the amount of awards coming his way.

From winning the Best Photos Award at the 8th 35Awards National Photography Award to securing the Top 7 Wildlife Photographer Award 2021, Mohan was also bestowed the IPA Nature and Wildlife Photography Award 2021— cementing his reputation as a renowned wildlife photographer.

A picture of southern pig-tailed baby macaque taken by mohan raj
One of the photos taken by Mohan that earns him an award. Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

When asked what was the secret of his success, this was what he had to say:

Have no expectations. This was my mindset when I ventured into wildlife photography.

“I never had any intention of earning money in this field. I’m doing this solely out of my passion for wildlife photography.

“Once you start to put a price tag on every photo you take, it won’t be fruitful as you will always be thinking about how much it sells. But when you do your work with passion, it will turn out even better that you expected,” he advised.

I was a wild student who got expelled 3 times. Today, i'm an award-winning wildlife photographer | weirdkaya
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

Look forward, not behind

Moving into 2024, Mohan’s all set to explore more forests and safaris in destinations across the world.

However, he also notes that he’s not immune to criticism or being looked down upon for his job and hobby.

Many relatives of mine have mocked me, but now they’re treating me with respect now that I’ve gained much recognition, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Mohan with monkeys during a shoot at a forest
Photo provided to WeirdKaya.

“I also don’t have plans to leave my job as a security supervisor as it was the job that led him to the path I’m walking down right now,” he said.

Although he isn’t earning much from his full time job or hobby, Mohan is perfectly happy with what he’s doing now.

“Juggling a full-time job between Singapore and Malaysia, along with various commitments and hobbies, can be tough. But, keeping a well-planned schedule is the key to handling this situation effectively now.” he shared.

“Use every opportunity that comes your way, no matter how big or small it is. Give it your best shot and most importantly, never give up!” the 30-year-old lad said.

Check out one of his breathtaking wildlife clips here:

Exclusive Story by WeirdKaya – Reproduction requires proper crediting and backlink to us. Kindly acknowledge the efforts of our editors in sourcing and conducting interviews.

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