Siragugal @ Ooty: Kalyani takes off

kalyaniIt has been a while since  I heard from my friend and blogger Kalyani in Ooty.  So  it was a pleasent surprise,  when I got a mail  from her the other day,  in her  avatar, as secretary,  Siragugal.

The last time  we interacted,  this was a few years back , she said the library she started for municipal school kids  wasn’t setting the Ooty lake on fire.  In a blogpost last month  kalyani wrote, ‘ children drop in at the library sporadically’  and those showing up on a given Sat. didn’t necessarily turn up the subsequent weekend – ‘so its hard to sustain any program’.

That was when Kalyani had occasion to attend a PTA meeting at Thalaiyattumund Municipal school,  and interact with some parents.  What did they want their children to learn ?  To speak English,  to learn Hindi, computer, karate, drawing…. the sort of things children  didn’t get at a municipal school,  but would need to get ahead in life.

Reinventing itself in 2013,  Siragugal has started  a three-month  ‘Speak English’  programme for 20 municipal school kids.  An Omni van transports them to Siragugal  library daily  after school.  The parents are asked to  pay Rs.500 per month towards transport and so they have a greater sense of commitment,  says Kalyani. She adds that they use material bought from Eureka, Chennai…Every week they pick a topic,  teach  vocabulary, with stress on dialogue,  question and answer, related educational games and activities. Volunteers are welcome to drop in,  so that children can interact with people from varied walks of life.  Saturdays are for painting, games and much else.

The next time you happen by Ooty, do  find time to drop in at  Siragugal for an evening with Kalyani’s  children.  Her mail


Networking with non-onliners

100_0400We stopped by at blogger Kalyani’s place in Ooty the other day on our way back to Mysore. We had been to Coonoor to vacate our apartment there. Coonoor had been our home before we shifted base to Mysore four years back.  We held on to our three-room abode on the hills this long, in the fond hope of returning there for occasional weekends with old friends. Such weekend visits to Coonoor didn’t materialise; and the idea of social get-togethers remained notional.

So we sold our flat to Ashika’s parents. Letting go of the place in Coonoor with which we had emotional attachment wasn’t easy. But then, during our recent visit we found Coonoor wasn’t the place we had moved into a decade back. We missed the familar faces we used to greet, meet or chat with on our door-steps.  Row houses of Tamilnadu Housing Board were designed for door-step chats and informal neighbourhood networking.

100_0361As it turned out,  most houses on our row have changed hands, leaving strangers for neighbours. Friends in the neighbourhood have moved out;a few, died. Socio-cultural environment that we had developed has vaporised into the Nilgiri mist.

A Coonoor neighbour and friend, Mr G V Raman, now spends more time in Coimbatore,  where his NRI son has built a house. He too plans to move out of Coonoor for good. “There is nothing here to hold me to this place,” he said.  Mr Raman happened to be in town during our recent Coonoor visit; and we went into a flash-back mode, remembering our days spent together in Coonoor. A fan of classic Hindi movies, Mr Raman summed up our current Coonoor scene with a haunting number from Guru Dutt’s PyaasaBechade sabi bari bari.

100_0397At Kalyani’s place we ran into Mr Vittal Murthy, who maintains two establishments. Though he has had to move to Mysore for personal reasons Mr Murthy maintains his flat in Ooty, where he spent his entire working life; and where all his friends still are. The Murthy couple spend the summer in Ooty,  moving to Mysore during the monsoon and winter months.

Kalyani’s social circle includes many such winter-migrants.  And Coimbatore is their preferred alternate address.  As a blogger, Kalyani has also forged a network of onliners.  Over lunch we mulled over the idea of connecting them with Kalyani’s social contacts who aren’t into online networking; and are not all that inclined to learn the ropes of Internet networking. The idea is to connect Kalyani’s contacts on parallel tracks,  by organising, once or twice a year, a weekend family gathering of the like-minded, at a mutually convenient venue – Kalyani thought of Masanagudi. Any thoughts on this ?