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Saturday, June 9, 2018

people living to serve the Society - providing education to downtrodden ~ Hail Sriraj

In my school days (mid 1970s) I have observed cinema posters appearing on Wednesday night & on Thursdays ~ as new films would hit the screen on Friday (sentiment !) Slowly the culture permeated so deep that posters hailing 100th  day – degenerated to 25 days and even successful opening.  There were some hailing the audio release and pooja of proposed films even. Posters used to be the most preferred form of advertisement for political parties too – in some places, even death would be communicated through posters. Now a days, one gets to see lot of flex-boards .. ..

yet, this one seen near V Illam Bus terminus was different – I was naturally attracted to it – as the person is well known to me (to most Triplicanites endeared by his service )  .. .. .. it is worth recapitulating what I had written in Bliss of Mar 2005 and posted in my blog on June 3, 2014 – in the series ‘Jewels of Triplicane’ – Sriraj, the man who taught kids !

In Triplicane, the holy place with great heritage and rich legacy … many eminent Lawyers, great Doctors, Teachers and more importantly very responsible citizens have lived in this famed land, as you walk on the road, you might brush with very ordinary looking people, whom you may not cast your look for a second time…..but looks are deceptive – they could well be a great learned person contributing immensely to the Society …. Here is a person bent on eradicating illiteracy.  He looks very simple and many of us would have seen him in the four streets around the temple, little realizing his greatness and his services.  He may look like a very simple next door neighbour,  I found him to be waxing  eloquence and  a true karmayogi. This is a small tribute to such unsung people.

இம்மை பயக்குமால் ஈயக் குறைவின்றால்
தம்மை விளக்குமால் தாமுளராக் கேடின்றால்
எம்மையுலகத்தும் யாம் காணோம் கல்விபோல்
மம்மர் அறுக்கும் மருந்து.

Education is the most important thing in life – it will give Worldly pleasures  and give pleasure to the world too; it will not diminish by giving; it will spread the fame of those possessing it; cannot be destroyed… there is no better medicine  than Education that can cure all ills.   At SYMA, we realize that  Education can refine a person and ensure one’s success in life.   We at SYMA, feel strongly the primary responsibility  of improving the Society and helping the underprivileged.  Our journey in right earnest began on 6th  July 2008 and  on a very auspicious day – SYMA Growth was born. Here is a person associated with SYMA too – a person, who has outdone what an Organisation could to – it is Ramanujapuram Ananthanpillai Sriraj, popular as “Sriraj” ...  1947 - the year in which our Independence dawned,  this humble person was born at a small obscure hamlet near the gold mines of kolar in Karnataka.

Tamilnadu was to reap the benefits much later.  This man had his schooling in the famous Hindu High school of Triplicane; did his graduation (Bsc Physics) and qualified himself with AMIE – Mech. As all young aspirants would do,  joined Bhilai Steel Plant – a veritable industrial establishment in those days; subsequently turned towards business – their own establishment dealing with printing machineries.  The story would  have been a simple one on predictable lines – rise to wealth.  This feature is on normal people, in society’s higher echelons but for the gritty some who fight with tenacity towards eradication of the social evils. 

This man took up on illiteracy.  Chennai though considered the wisdom capital of the Bharat has clusters of slums inhabited by people with little access to education.  The geography of Triplicane is too well known – all of us know the existence of slums and the standard of living of those inside; many may be blissfully ignorant of their trials and tribulations.  Not for Sriraj.  The urge to serve the weaker lings was always burning within.  Here was a man motivated by Dr Hedgewar’s policy of educating and motivating the society. 

He made a humble beginning by teaching  primary school children of  Hanumanthapuram in the evenings., for moulding should start when very young.  As the numbers swelled, he had to look out for a bigger place.  He did not look outside for solution but shifted the tuition centre to his own house.  For more than 15 years this noble person continued rendering service in style.  At peak, he had more than 100 students with nearly 18 volunteers teaching the school curriculam.  He was keen that along with education was imparted ethics, good conduct and more than anything else the cultural heritage of this wondrous motherland.  He organized school books and guides also for the group which by choice  was  from the economically poor slum children.  Many of his wards graduated (literally yes – completed B Com & et al) with a couple even completing post graduation. At a particular stage, he even made them Computer-literates too,  by having 4 systems properly manned, teaching them the soft-skills.

Years back in Mar 2005, I interviewed him and did an article for SYMA Bliss ~ recently, went to his house thinking that a photo-feature on my blog would be good…….. he politely refused and after a lengthy discussion, he agreed upon a condition (can you imagine what it was ?  … read the last para)

Sriraj the initial mindblock for those children was learning English but  was quick to add that for any one with keen sense of hearing, memory, retention and more importantly the interest and attitude, learning will seldom be a far cry. He rightly points out that the present day English learning is after all something which dawned on this country not more than 160 years  ago or a little more.  His mantra for success is methodology, organized way of doing things,  regularity in doing them, sincerity coupled with hardwork.  He has practised his preaching that to overcome the social divide teach other and help in up-liftment.  If only we had more like this unassuming person, perhaps one day illiteracy can indeed be eradicated.

SYMA (and I) salute his indomitable spirit.  SYMA honoured him with Seva Award in 2003.

Sriraj lives a saintly life, taking care of his old mother in the best manner. Before permitting to take a photo, he went to his mother said that a known person from SYMA has come and asked her what she would feel about allowing a photo to be taken – was so intent on avoiding any public glare…and so much of respect for his mother. His house in Car Street (which housed Anand Vidyashram) is too well known – still, he believes that one should do something to the Society but should never think of any recompense…

With great regards to him – S. Sampathkumar.

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