When they could not do what they had planned for Tambaram, members of Mahalakshmi Welfare Association shifted their attention to R.A. Puram, says LIFFY THOMAS

Their aim was to gift to West Tambaram a temple and a choultry, but they ended up establishing two auditoriums in R.A. Puram, which now serve as platforms for upcoming artistes, art and culture enthusiasts.

For members of the Mahalakshmi Welfare Association this shift from West Tambaram to the heart of the city was a forced move but one that still was in keeping with their mission to serve society.

Started in 1973 by government officials belonging to the Sales Tax Department, the association was initially named Mahalakshmi Temple and Kalyana Mandapam Association.

V.S. Arunachalam, who retired as Member of the Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal, wanted to bring together Commercial Tax Officers and other well-wishers to do welfare activities. However, various hurdles forced them to look beyond Tambaram and the association was revamped in 1991 and its welfare activities are now focused in and around R.A. Puram.

At its auditoriums, in Park View Road, R.A. Puram, where it shares space with NGO Sneha, religious discourses are held on Sundays. On alternate Fridays, talks are conducted. “Nearly 50 cultural programmes are held in a year,” says G. Subramanian, secretary of the Association. The Mangalam Ganapathy Music Trust has been associated with the Association for the last seven years. It also assists the organisation in publishing books. The auditorium can accommodate around 100 people. When no programmes are scheduled, residents associations in the area find it an ideal place to conduct their meeting and events at a pocket-friendly rent.

Talking about the Association, G. Narayanaswamy (86), a committee member since its inception, says “Arunachalam’s initiative in bringing together the officers paved way for the formation of CTO Colony, wherein people from the department invested in plots at West Tambaram.

However, the Association’s land was encroached upon and the committee members, mostly retired government officers and residents of the local area, were not keen on fighting the local people. So, the proposal to work in Tambaram was shelved.” Now there is little connection between the Association and Tambaram, but for a temple in CTO Colony, Members provide funds for activities at the temple. “There were some 100 commercial tax officers in the colony [West Tambaram], but now it exists just in name,” says S. Rajaratnam, an active committee member.

The Association is looking to extend its welfare activities. “We are open to fresh ideas,” says Subramanian.