Thiru Arul Pillai was born in Tanjore (Thanjavur), Tamil Nadu, which is now in India on the 14th of May, 1888 and grew up there. He was a Tamil-speaker of Tamil ethnicity. Thiru Pillai was considered a Brahmin and a member of the prominent Vellalar caste of landlords, who have been landed since circa 500 B.C.. Although “Pillai” is a title, it was used as a surname during his life. His given name, used only within his family and close friends was “Pakyem”.
For a brief period circa 1914 he lived in Ceylon, which is now known as Sri Lanka.
He moved to Karachi, which is now in Pakistan, as a young man and became a significant figure in the small Tamil community there. He looked after his younger brother, Anugragam Schwartz, who followed him to Karachi from Tamil Nadu. He was trained as a chemist and worked at a public laboratory. Despite that, he became Chief Accountant of the prestigious Karachi Grammar School and lived on site at 94 Depot Lines, Saddar, Karachi for much of his life. Thiru Pillai resigned in 1937 and his work was commended in two school publications. He died in Karachi and is buried with his mother, Jeevaratanam, in the city’s large Christian cemetery, Gora Qabaristan.