November 27, 2011

Local NGOs you can suport

Nimmu has the land, the spirit and lots of eager children who want to study. But building classrooms has been a struggle.
This community activist who resides in Kotturpuram has done all she can to build a little primary school that can be a warm place for children whose fathers are auto drivers and mothers are maids in the neighbourhood.
For years, Nimmu has managed to run a centre on the fringe of a Slum Board tenements campus on the banks of the Adyar but this journey has been uncertain. And dangerous too - once a bunch of goons attacked the school and threatened this activist.
But Nimmu, who has fought many a civic battle inside courts and outside has not given up.
Now, there seems to be some progress. But she needs money and that is not easy to come by.
"How do you raise funds?" That is the question that is on Nimmu's mind.
It is a question that is also on the mind of another activist. Shekar Raghavan is fairly well-known as the propagator of the rainwater harvesting technique.
For many years now, he has sat on forums, lobbied with government agencies and helped communities set up rainwater harvesting systems in offices, apartments and houses.
Shekar's time and advice comes free. You have to pay for the material and to the men who work to create this facility. Setting up a RWH system does not take much time.
But at the end of the day, Shekar finds that he does not have the funds to keep going. To keep promoting this concept.
A fat donation at the start served him and his team well. Now, the time  has come for Shekar to look around for new benefactors.
But the man who resides in Besant Nagar says he is not sure how to generate funds.
"I don't mind begging for support but small help isn't going to be of much use", he says.
Shekar has not sought donations from people whom he has advised and guided on RWH. He says doing this would mar his campaign. He would be happy if corporates chose to support his Rain Centre in Mandaveli.
There are lots of people like Nimmu and Shekar who work on different projects which affect us all. Many will be happy to receive our support.

November 20, 2011

Remember people who contribute

Offering a tribute is easy. Remembering a person is not.
Three hours from now, November 18, 3 p.m. I will be at the Memorial Meeting at the Union Christian School in Chetput.
The meeting celebrates the life of a young man who went by the name of Jesson Varghese.
Jesson died in his sleep at his home in Triplicane. He was about 50.
He had been to his doc the previous week for his annual medical check-up and was told that all was well with him.
Days later, I had to stare at an Obituary advert in 'The Hindu'.
I stared and stared at the advert before I called up his sister.
Jesson died less than 10 days after I wrote about him here, in my column. I had written on our relationship with the Mac. Steve Jobs had just passed away.
Jesson was a tad disappointed that he could not push what we had started on many, many years ago. A free-sheeter called 'SideWalker'. He didn't share that disappointment with me. His brother John did share his brother's thoughts when the two of us sat and went down memory lane in the room where the Bishop had blessed Jesson's cold body before it was taken to the cemetery.
As I prepare to share my thoughts of the young man at Union Christian, I wonder if I should tell his friends and the community if we could go beyond the Condolence Meeting to remember Jesson.
Many years have rolled by since another friend of mine passed away. A. J. Desouza was one of the finest athletics coaches this side of the country.
He groomed a legion of athletes who went on to win laurels for themselves.
But AJ, as we and the world knew him did not earn many friends and chamchas for his no-nonsense attitude.
Today, AJ is history. And forgotten. But for some reason I have a sticky thought - that this man needs to be remembered. He deserves it. After all, AJ did a lot for this city's sports community.
Should we host an annual Beach Race in his name? Can we have a trophy or a scholarship awarded at the state level to the best young athlete?
The thought remains - how do we remember ordinary people in our communities who have done extraordinary things?

November 13, 2011

Role for mentors

There was a time in my career when I got to watch Thamizh films well before they were released in theatres.
Sometimes at preview halls. Sometimes at post- production time. Sometimes at special screenings.
Those were the days when Rajinikant and Kamal Hassan were strapping heroes gyrating to loud music inside AVM's floors, bashing balding baddies and romancing Madhavi or Ambika on the lawns.
I have moved away from the world of films but have not stopped watching interesting releases.
I wonder if you got to watch 'Vagai Sooda Va'?
I thought it was a good effort. But all the hype around '7aam Arivu' restrained me.
So recently, when I was at a meeting with some 100 young people, I touched on Murugadoss' film.
'Is it interesting enough to watch?, I asked. The feedback was negative. I had made up my mind.
I was not talking about cinema to these young people.
The Mahindra Pride School, located in a huge bungalow in a posh, inner colony in Alwarpet has a mission - to provide basic job skills to young people from economically weak sections and prepare them for employment.
Every season, the School admits over 100 youngsters from the city and outside and trains them in skills required to manage retail stores, communicate at a BPO desk or serve guests in hotels and restaurants.
The task is not easy in this day and time.
One set of young people has preconceived notions and want to live with them. Another set is grappling with the newer challenges in life.
The team of trainers at this campus works hard to deal with these issues even as it holds well-designed training programmes.
To pep up classroom sessions, the School's managers also invite professionals to chat with these young people.
That is how I got here a fortnight ago.
In the course of my interaction, talk and discussion, '7aam Arivu' and 'six-pack bodies' provided the lighter touches to the session.
It was time well spent.
If we look around us, we will realise there are places that will gladly welcome people who wish to share, train or mentor. Make your move.

November 06, 2011

December Season makes Madras!

November 1 is All Saints Day in the Catholic Church calendar.
For us at the KutcheriBuzz web site, it is the day on which we informally launch our backend work for the famed December Season.
Letters to clients, meetings with printers, chats with volunteers, alerts to sabhas, e-mails to artistes and the like.
Besides going a tad hyper on our web site, we also publish two guides on the concerts that rasikas might find useful and, for 18 days in December, we bring out a daily free-sheeter that shares the buzz of the 'season'.
( For those who are new to the 'season', the city hosts hundreds of concerts in Carnatic music and classical dance featuring the best and the brightest at over two dozen venues and, with the best and the worst of all that it has come to be, the 'season' is still a unique event).
Working on the fringe has its rewards.
It took us years to convince sabhas to share with us their concerts schedule so that the info could be made public well in advance to allow visitors to plan their travel.
We also promoted the BB ( bed and breakfast) concept amongst local householders for the 'season' when we got queries from rasikas outside Madras.
Most visitors head to the Woodlands Hotel or to Hotel Karpagam since they are well located but there are rasikas who would love to have a cosy space of their own in the heart of Mylapore!
Over the years, a few fringe events are also taking place during the 'season'. Film screenings, seminars, tours and the like. And these are bound to enrich the package that Madras has to offer in December which is possibly the best time of the year to be here!
For some reason, the state has not made the best of the Dccember Season though M. Karunanidhi did make a grand statement once, when he was in power, that the 'season' would be promoted well.
Staging a dance fest in Mamallapuram, a concept that was launched by some senior, international dancers many years ago is alright.
But doing simple things like launching promos, organising guided tours and offering tips at tourist destinations should draw more people to this city for the 'season'.
After all, the December Season also makes Madras.