Building auditoriums at schools in suburbs — that’s how R.T. Chari gives back to society

R.T. Chari’s commerce is in power transmission accessories. And, his public work is pay-back, first through Ramu Endowments, a Trust started to fulfil his father’s wish, and later outside it under the TAG (Thiruvenkatachari and Gopalan) banner. The funds have gone into building classroom blocks, hospital wards, recreation centres and corpus funds for 35 years now.

At one point, Chari saw the need for schools, particularly in the suburbs, to have large, well-built auditoriums. “We would persuade them to provide us space to raise an auditorium,” says Chari. SSM School (Chromepet); Sankara School (Tambaram / Pallavaram); Emmanuel Matriculation School (Pammal); Lady Sivaswami Aiyar Girls Secondary School — LSGHSS (Mylapore); and Ramakrishna Mission School (Madras South) have benefitted.

The super-tech 400-seater at Guindy Engineering College (GEC) inaugurated this October is an exception. “My brother and I studied there,” he says.

The one at LSGHSS, with its quadrangle, wooden floor, metal roof, stage and flood lights, is multi-purpose. “More than 1,300 kids assemble here for indoor volleyball, special classes, morning assembly, cultural programmes and school exhibitions,” says headmistress Ruby Puthotta. The pretty 500-seater at Ramakrishna Mission is also used by “near-by schools for their functions”, says Udaikumar, headmaster-in-charge. The place is given out for meetings and music concerts too. “My brother’s school,” murmurs Chari, walking around the sturdy structure.

Selection process

The selection of institutions is not random. Chari’s group must be convinced the educational institution is run efficiently, and its seats are sought-after. Maintenance is monitored and good work is rewarded with upgradation and additional facilities. “Those built 25 years ago are standing well,” he says — a high-five as much to the schools as to the construction.

The TAG-GEC structure, his pride and joy, is gift-wrapped with fine sound-visual technology. Perforated gypsum boards and glass-wool insulation keep its walls echo-free. Expensive wood-fibre insulation of the stage walls won’t allow a whisper to bounce off. The linear-array speakers hanging above the stage have a series of ‘pods’, each of which directs sound to a bunch of seats, thus replacing speakers that usually line the sides of the auditorium. “There is no time lag in sound travel and those seated at the back get the same quality of sound that front-seaters do,” says Mark, sound engineer.

Accessible to wheel-chair users, the auditorium is multi-functional — it’s a concert hall, theatre and conference room. On the large remote-controlled screen students can project PPT presentations, movies, and using the DTH, live sports programmes. The stage has green rooms for culturals and can host live classes from across cities. “The college deserves the best because they made us who we are,” says Chari.

Historian V. Sriram says, “Chennai is a cultural capital, but has very little space for the increasing number of public events. Such auditoriums nurture student talent and allow cash-strapped cultural outfits to organise their events.”

To which Chari says, “Gifting is fine, but how it is received is important.”