Not so dear any more

Dear past,

No matter how hard I try to let go and not to think of you, there will always be the remains of you holding the memories, finding its way back to me.

You crawl; you sweep in to my skin in the form of anxiety. I then have disturbed sleep and severe anxiety attacks. I break my nicely grown nails. I scratch my skin. I stop looking after myself, my cheeks crack, my skin goes dry and my once a beautiful straight silky healthy hair starts falling and greying. Why do you keep coming back and forth like the waves of the sea blown and tossed by the wind?!?

Look, I am tired! I am exhausted! I beg your pardon; please let yourself out of my skin. For I need to breathe, I want to feel the inhale and exhale process once again. I want the wind in my hair to make me bright and shine for all over again. I can’t go through this palpitation every day and night. Just get off my body for an hour please!

Sometimes it feels like my body is no longer mine. There is some ghost riding me, commanding me to be depressed, to feel low, and to not sleep but binge cookies late nights.

Do you even have a tiny little dot of mercy on me? Do you, ‘Not so dear Past’?

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Pick a gift

The 12-year old V. T. Khanishkar is sitting holding his chair, waiting for the programme to start and he get hold of his favourite bi-cycle. A little excitement can be seen in his eyes when I ask, “What have you asked for as a gift?” Bright smile appears on his face, and he gleams, “I want a super fast bi-cycle with gear and I will ride it for days.”

His father, T. Vijaykumar is a daily wage labour and it was last year in April when he found out that his son has brain tumour. He is undergoing treatment at Kovai Medical Center and Hospital. Khanishkar also loves painting, travelling and seeing new places.
Around 50 children between the age group of two to over 18 are visiting the Brookefields Mall every evening from February 18 to 22, 2017. Aroh, Giving Hope, a non-profitable organisation has been making the wish of children with cancer come true by getting them the gifts they have always wished for. All the children are from economically poor background.

These are children under treatment in different city hospitals right now. We have asked them what they would like to have and are giving them their wishes. Aroh has tied up with different schools and dignitaries for this event. Around 10 children with cancer come everyday to the mall to receive gifts of their wish. The gifts are sponsored by different schools in town. This is to encourage them,” said Bindu Nair, founder and managing trustee of Aroh, Giving Hope.

The gifts in the list of children are Barbie dolls, bi-cycles; dress like glittery princess gowns, anklets, video games, beds, tabs, and over 16 children are also given smart phones.

An 11-year old girl, Fasila from Tirupur who is undergoing treatment for blood cancer has wishes for visiting Taj Mahal. “We will be arranging her trip after the board exams,” said Bindu.

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​Mega book collection for the govt school students

Sharing an interesting event and it is a little close to my heart.

So, this is an NGO started by a group of college students in 2015. Today they have started a mass book collection drive for one week at the Brookefields Mall in Coimbatore.

When I visited, I am welcomed by a cheerful little Minion in a small kiosk coloured in blue and yellow to everyone; it says ‘Book Drop’ pointing at its wide funny open mouth.

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There is an attractive book tree piled up in the centre of the kiosk that has a collection of story books, picture books, dictionary’s, inspirational and motivational books, science, encyclopedias, mathematics, general knowledge, puzzles, fictions, non-fictions, educational CD’s, inspiring movie CD’s for children and audio books too.

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“These are all by the donors who are walking in and donating new and gently used books. This is our second mega book collection drive. Last year we have collected 15, 000 books to set up Dr. Kalam library in twenty corporation and government schools,” said S. Baranidaran, one of the founder trustees of The Arc Foundation India.

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The book drive collection has been started from today and is on till June 4, 2017. The volunteers and team members of The Arc Foundation India are also collecting books from door steps, one just need to dial +91-9364123123.

The Arc Foundation India, a registered Ngo trust established in the year 2015 has been successfully working along with district administration , Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation and various other organisations. They are a team of 150 members based out of Coimbatore and has it chapters at Cuddalore, Pondicherry and Chennai.

Their major initiatives are Dr. Kalam Library,  Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidhyalaya, Gift Organ Give Life, adoption of Sri Sadhguru Adhivasi Palli -Kallar, Medical Surgeries and aid, women and transgender empowerment.

There is a story telling session where children walk-in and tell their favourite stories. “Next week we have grandma’s joining at the kiosk for the story telling session. We have already received numerous calls from senior citizens who are excited to be a part of this project. All the collected books will be donated to the Dr. Kalam Libraries set up at the government and corporation schools. We wish to collect more than 1, 00,000 lakhs books through this drive,” said M.A. Aparna, one of the founder trustees of the Ngo.

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After the week kiosk at the Mall, the Ngo would put up similar stalls in schools and colleges to collect more books. Except school academic books and magazines, any kind of books that would be helpful and interest children, are welcome.

Dr. Kalam Library is an initiative of The Arc Foundation India and Coimbatore Corporation to set up colour themed libraries at 100 local Government and Corporation School and also involve in activating the libraries through various storytelling activities, literacy and cultural programme and competitions.

 

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MBA grad ventures into tutorials

A godown room has turned into a learning centre in one corner of R.S. Puram where every day around 100 children walk-in to prepare for their respective exams. It is a tuition centre started by a 24-year old MBA graduate B. Sevugapalaniappan known as ‘SMS Tuition Centre’. The tuition centre is not only for the students from LKG to class 12, but there are also around eight students above 45-year old men and women who come here to learn spoken English language.

“The idea to start this tuition centre began when I was in school. My parents didn’t have enough money to spend on tuition classes. I studied in a government school and when I was in class 11, I felt the necessity of having a tuition tutor. When I enquired about the fees, I was shocked that per subject they were charging Rs. 800. I had to forget about it because I couldn’t afford it at all,” recalls Sevugapalaniappan.

After completing his MBA last year, he didn’t take the job offer from a private finance company and decided to start his own tuition centre to benefit many students coming from lower economic background. His father P.S. Baladhandapani is a painter and mother B. Bhuvaneshwari is a cook. His decision of rejecting the job made them furious and they were disappointed from him.

“I somehow arranged a small room which is a godown basically to take tuition classes. I borrowed some money from friends as load to give the godown room an educational centre look. I had to do the flooring, bring electricity in the room, fans and blackboard. I just kept the board outside the main gate and there were three children from the near by slum area walked in. This is how people came to know about my tuition centre,” he said.

Tuition fee he charges is from Rs. 350 to maximum Rs. 1, 000. Monday to Friday classes are from 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm and on Saturday and Sunday they have classes from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm and then 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm classes.  His future plan is to form an association to organise coaching  classes at a minimal charge for the students preparing for Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission exams.

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The Hindi Medium

Getting admission in Army School wasn’t very difficult​ but, the problem starts after class IV. This school is just till class IV and no one speaks in English in this school. Our Piku can’t speak in English like your friend’s daughter, Poulami who is studying in St. Mary’s.

Meet Mrs. Rina Saha, who is stressing over the admission of her six-year-old daughter in one of the top English medium schools.

Her husband, Prashant Saha is a businessman who never had the opportunity to go to school. He could only go to school till class V. “Her parents are well educated and have a good command over the foreign language. This school conducts written and oral examination for parents followed by the personal interview. Only if parents pass the tests with bright numbers, their children would get admission in St. Mary’s. No one speaks any other language than English there.” He seems to be worried too. 

Rina has the same story. She too couldn’t go to school after class VIII. She studied in a government Hindi medium school in a small district in Bihar where girls eduction is not considered equally important to boys. She is wuite dedicative to everything she puts her hands into, from books to household chores.

“You know what, I came across this book on TV the other day, it’s  Lkdd ‘Rapidex English Speaking Course Book.’ Could you please get me a copy of this book? If I could learn a bit of English, I can teach you and then both of us can attempt for the test in St. Mary’s,” she stops sweeping for a while in excitement and is now lost in her fantasy dream for 10 seconds.” 

“Have you really lost your mind? Don’t even dream of entering to that school. We are never, every at least in this life, going to get our daughter’s admission in that school. Even though I’m ready to pay a heavy sum of capitation fee by borrowing money from friends or applying for a bank loan, it is not at all possible for us. The principal of the school treated like a doormat because she thinks I’m inefficient to sit next to the so called filthy rich educated elite class. Why do you think that I have never tried my best? I did try, Rina. A week ago I cycled to the school covering 10 miles on my bi-cycle in the scorching sunny afternoon with a hope that this time I will definitely convince the school principal. But, I can’t even tell you how badly I was treated just because I don’t speak, read and write English,” he shares with his wife trying to hide his eyes full of tests recalling that humiliating moment.

Surpassing all the education and social barriers, their daughter, Piku lives alone miles away from her parents to make her own living.

This is one of the challenges Piku’s parents faced and they still do when they have to make themselves fit with the elite English speaking society. Watching the recently released Bollywood cinema, ‘Hindi Medium’ brought back the memories of difficult times when Piku saw her parents so helpless requesting school teachers and principals to accept their daughter’s admission form. 

Hindi Medium features Irrfan Khan as Raj Batra and Saba Qamar as Mita aka Mithoo. Raj owns an apparel store famous for its bridal collection in Delhi. Raj married his childhood crush, he is a successful businessman is capable of buying anything his wife and only daughter, Pia wishes for. The only place he lacks, his education and inefficiency to speak, read and write in English. His wife, Mithoo as he fondly calls her, aspires to walk along with the high elite class family in the society. She also aspires their daughter to get the best education in one of the top private schools in Delhi. Both husband and wife have studied from government run Hindi medium school and they don’t want the same for their daughter. They go to all extent to get their daughter’s​ admission in one of the top five schools in Delhi. From preparing themselves for parents interview with the help of a grooming consultant, meeting influential politicians, trying to bribe the school principal with donation money to even creating forged documents in RTE quota. The sequence of their lies drag them to live a fake slum dweller’s life. The couple somehow managed to pull off their lies and got their daughter’s admission. But, in the process, life happened. Circumstances brought Raj  loser to humanity where a poor man from the same slum area risks his life to arrange school admission money for Raj as he isn’t aware of their lies. On the day of RTE lottery announcement, poor man’s son couldn’t get the admission but Raj’s daughter got it. This left Raj in shock and in the state of guilt for the rest of his life that he stole someone’s right to get a better education by fooling the hypocrite education system. 

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A Blend of Fact and Fiction on canvas

One wall tells colourful tales of people’s life and the cultural values of  India and the other side. Another wall features fiction. Raw realities and fancy fiction make an exquisite ensemble at the  art exhibition cum sale  at Kasthuri Sreenivasan Art Gallery.

The exhibition was held in July, 2016.

“There are so many beautiful things in life to look at and live with. Instead of focusing on what we have, we run behind what we don’t have like money, property, cars and so much. The ‘Magical Life’ doesn’t exist at all because we need a ‘Concrete Life’,”
explain artist B. Dhanasekaran. His paintings are pen drawings. The 
difference he says in pen drawings is it is a little risky as one error canruin the entire sketch.

The element of  water dominates his paintings. “I have always been close to ocean, lakes and rivers. I mostly bring elements which are missing today in reality. That simple life and beautiful people with smile…  where do we find?”

The canvas of oil, acrylic and water colours takes us on a ride to the colourful spectacles  in Thanjavur, car festival in Dharmapuri’s Sri Theerthagirishwara Swamy temple and the crowd at Varadharaja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram. “I love travelling and capturing beautiful moments and later portray on my canvas,” says R. Achudan.

A little young girl from the village of Gummidipoondi in Thiruvallur district is sitting on a log and her tender feet playing in the ripples of lake water. Another girl in Dharmapuri is beautifully draped in saree holding a manual grinder in the kitchen. A teenager gets dressed and looks at the mirror before leaving for a wedding.

On a sunny morning in Chennai, women sell flowers outside the temples and streets, there is a balloon seller with different sizes and colours of balloon attracting children. A little girl jumps to reach temple bells and ring it Tirupati.

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Emotions of sorrow to solace on canvas

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An independent woman who has chosen to live life in her own terms; the power of love and affection beyond boundaries; the pain of society’s bully against transgender; a bleeding hurt face of a woman in pain and distress, a woman cries her heart out and there are many more emotions on the canvas. The exhibition cum sale of paintings titles with ‘Piece by Piece’ by transgender artist, activist, poet and performer Kalki Subramaniam was held in the month of July, 2016 at Jenny’s Residency, Coimbatore.

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Kalki’s paintings speak multiple emotions on the canvas. These are stories revolving around her, the hardship as a transgender she has gone through and the people around her. “The paintings are my own journey as a transgender. It’s the story of everyone who is living around me; their mixed emotions are speaking through the expressions on their face. The paintings convey the journey of transgender people, their pain, agony, anger and mental trauma the society put them through,” said the Pollachi based artist.

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A painting on ‘Love beyond Gender’, shows love has no border. Love is beautiful, there is no judgement involved when someone loves someone. Love brings out the best in a person and it completes one. It is beyond gender, caste, race and any restriction.

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There is a painting titled with ‘The Victim’ that shows violence against women. The painting depicts the silence of millions of women in different corners of the world who are abused in the name of culture, race, identity and gender.

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“Art nurtures a soul; anyone who can paint their emotions on canvas has a lifetime gift,” says Kalki. She uses a lot of colour in her paintings, the colour of life, emotions from sorrow to solace to serene life.

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