On this day (Sept 5th) when India celebrates Teachers' day, I respectfully think of all my teachers that have shaped me into the individual that I am today. I also thank my parents for making sure that I had an education even during those times when life was hurling us lemons after lemons. Just like many of us do, I try to give back to the community as well to make sure someone else also has a fair shot at life. But, very few like my friend Siva, commit themselves to giving back to the community in more ways than possible.
Siva and I were college buddies. Today, Siva works as a senior executive in a global software company. He is married with two kids. He picked up a passion for agriculture and over the last few years, he has been taking care of his relatives' lands in a small village called Kurungulam. He does this with absolutely no payback other than his own self-satisfaction of being able to pursue his passion. Without fail or any fatigue, he will drive every single weekend out to Kurungulam, a place close to Mayiladuthurai, 5 hours by road from Chennai, where he lives. He spends a couple of days there working with the local help and the farmers in maintaining those lush paddy fields. Other than rice, they grow all types of vegetables and fruits as well. He is looking into more modern ways of doing farming including rotation of crops, using modern farming devices, goat farming and so on.
In that same village, the public school was in shambles. Lack of extra classrooms, supplies and quality teachers made it very difficult on the local children. So, carrying his father's torch, Siva has made it a personal cause to ensure that the school gets all the necessary help to make sure that the children have a good platform to study. As I said, this is a public school and technically, the Government should be doing all this but from what I learnt, there is only so much that they do!
When I visited the school with him, almost all the children knew him and wished him with a beaming smile. He also knew a lot about the kids as he narrated a few of their stories to me. Stories like that of a child whose parents are no more but is being raised by a local farmer, who is not well-off himself. Then, I look at the child whose face is beaming with hope of a brighter life ahead. Heartbreaking to hear some of the stories as I sit with the rest of us here, taking too many things for granted.
He then visited the Principal's office, where he was greeted with so much respect. I looked around and saw the pictures of the three most apt figures related to education and personal inspiration - Dr. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Abdul Kalam and Mahakavi Bharathi. Loved it. The cracks in the walls and the cobwebs around were wailing petitions for maintenance. He then distributed a few bags of stationery including pencils, notebooks etc. When I asked him how he procured those, he told me that his corporate colleagues donated towards the cause. he carefully counted all those materials one-by-one and the Principal wrote it up in an accounting book.
We then took a tour of the school. I saw kids sitting and reading under trees and on corridors. He told me that the new classrooms were under construction at that time. He walked me upstairs to the newly built classrooms. I walked into a few of them and just felt an indescribable feeling of inspiration run through my veins. Realizing that some of the changes we seek in our tomorrows could be from a place like this was just thrilling.
I am sure that there are plenty of everyday heroes like Siva but personally knowing someone like this up close was so inspiring. If you wish to know more about the school, he runs a blog at this URL - http://kscup.blogspot.com/. Check it out. The reason why I called out this program on this day is that education is not just about the teachers alone but it is also about people that value education so much that they will go to any extent to help a student to get that education. Great job, Siva! Keep up your awesome work!!