They made news this year. Won awards, wrought changes, made a difference. They kept faith, did not give up and followed their heart. Coimbatore is home to some pretty amazing people. They go about their missions quietly, but with zeal, determination and commitment. They care about the infirm, they worry about the planet, they are writers and artists, they inspire their students, they work with the underprivileged, and they care deeply about children. They bring quality and integrity to whatever they do. Following are a few good people MetroPlus met
Eco warrior: M. Yoganathan
Bus conductor, environmentalist, and social activist M. Yoganathan won CNN-IBN’s ‘Real Heroes Award’ this year. The award came in recognition of his work towards increasing the green cover in Tamil Nadu. He has planted over 1,20,000 trees in the State and 80,000 of them are in good condition. Yoganathan has inspired school children to plant trees through his “Uyir vaazha oru maram” scheme. With a collection of hundreds of slides of flora and fauna, he regularly conducts slide-shows in schools and colleges.
Winning notes: D. Sathyaprakash
D. Sathyaprakash might have lost out on Vijay TV’s “Super Singer 3” title, but the lad’s on a musical high. He’s already recorded four film songs — the remix of Po Nee Po (“3”), composed by Anirudh ‘Kolaveri’ Ravichander; two songs under the baton of G.V. Prakash Kumar, including one for veteran director Bharathirajaa’s “Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum”; and a number for “Mayanginen Thayanginen”, composed by Kannan. The talented Sathya lost out in the contest due to fewer public votes. But the judges gave him top billing for his performances. “That is what keeps me going. I’m happy for that recognition,” says the engineer-singer.
Art therapy: Aarthi Shankar
Aarthi Shankar, a young Bharatnatyam dancer from Coimbatore, teaches the art form to special children at Vidya Vikasini Opportunity School.
Aarthi, who had worked with people at Down’s Syndrome Association of Tamil Nadu, teaches Bharatanatyam to children suffering from Down’s syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and other disabilities.
Behind the lens: Gaurav Ramnarayanan
On October 19, thirteen year old Gaurav Ramnarayanan had the honour of seeing his photograph, ‘The Warning’ displayed at the Natural History Museum, London. The photograph that was captured at the Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Rajasthan) was chosen amongst a whopping 41,000 entries for the Veolia Envirronnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. Gaurav was placed in the highly commended category in the age group of 11-13 years.
Empowering villagers: Meera Krishna
Meera Krishna played a significant role in the lives of the people of Thennamanallur. She set up a Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (CORD) office in the village. Through CORD, Dr. Meera formed magalir mandrams, self-help groups and farmers’ clubs. Apart from medical care, they were provided new ways to earn their livelihood — women made pain balms, sanitary napkins, paper bags, paper packets and wire baskets and sold them in a shop in the village. A team of dentists from Melbourne, London and Coimbatore conducted a free seven-day dental camp. Advocates, farmers and environmentalists addressed members of self-help groups and farmers’ clubs. Thennamanallur was abuzz with activity all through the year.
Green champion : P. Vincent
P. Vincent bats for the humble vetiver, the aromatic herb used by more than a 100 countries to prevent soil erosion. It’s not as popular in India, but he wants to change that. Vincent, who raises the plants in netpots that are easy to transport, has sent over a thousand vetiver ‘mother plants’ to Assam where they help prevent erosion on the banks of Brahmaputra’s tributaries. He trains people to raise kitchen gardens on rooftops. He also seeks to augment the income of tribals using sustainable agricultural practices on his 20-acre farm. He blogs at http://maravalam.blogspot.com
Making a Difference
Make a Difference, a national level youth volunteer network that works with under privileged children opened their Coimbatore chapter in September. With 49 volunteers teaching 94 children in three different shelters here, this group of youngsters from various colleges in the city take out two hours every week to educate these kids. To raise funds, M.A.D organised a baking workshop right before Christmas called ‘Santa’s Kitchen’ at the Vivanta by Taj Surya that was very well received.
In tune with Nature: Chelladurai
Chelladurai aka Osai Chella, web media strategist, is on a mission to reduce his carbon footprint. In his two-acre farm in Varakampadi, Kerala, he has returned to the roots. He does not use anything chemical. He keeps track of his energy consumption. He harvests solar power. He raises vegetables and herbs, and allows weeds to flourish. Chella also organises low-impact photo treks and hosts those interested in an alternative lifestyle. He blogs his chronicles at http://lifefarmstay.blogspot.com
Food for thought: Ranjana Singhal
She introduced Coimbatore to a melting pot of cuisines, with That’s Y Food and On The Go. This year, Ranjana Singhal was part of the Women Entrepreneur Development Program initiated by Goldman Sachs and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
This programme seeks to empower 10,000 women entrepreneurs the world over. It compresses a full MBA programme into a three-month module, a combination of classroom sessions and mentoring to develop a business plan. Ranjana’s plan was about making a foray into newer markets. Her project was adjudged the best business plan.
All about children: Archana Dange
No compromise on quality, when it comes to children – says Archana Dange. Through her resource centre Anand Deep enterprises, she and her team work hard at bringing cheer to kids. They take story tellers to schools, set up libraries and conduct drama and other creative workshops for them. They also hold regular workshops for teachers. Let education become happy, exciting, creative and meaningful, is Archana’s motto. Archana is on another all-consuming mission – to put an end to child sexual abuse (CSA). She is going all out to make a noise about CSA and spread awareness about it amongst parents, teachers, children and the common public. She works with Tulir an organisation that works with CSA at a national level.
Prize-winning shot: R. Prakash
R. Prakash, a wildlife photographer from the city, captured a male leopard and a melanistic (black) female leopard on his Canon D 40. This rare photograph created a buzz amongst wildlife enthusiasts and won him the third prize from 16,000 entries for the RBS Wildlife Award (instituted by Sanctuary Magazine). Prakash finds Indian wildlife thrilling and leopards are his favourite animals because “they are elusive, nocturnal and harmless”. He adds that while tigers dominate the forests, leopards generally live on the fringes.
A class apart: R. Selvi
Biology teacher R. Selvi does not stop with teaching in the classroom. She introduces her students to the world of Nature through a number of outdoor activities. Her students have the names of Coimbatore’s winged visitors at their finger-tips, thanks to her.
As part of a project with SACON, her students have come up with 50 Tamil names for butterflies. She regularly takes them on bird-watching expeditions, organises plastic awareness campaigns, encourages children to plant saplings and assists them in several real time science projects.
Online library: N. Hariraj
I. T. professional N. Hariraj established ‘Long Long Ago’, Coimbatore’s first ever online library for kids this year. Hariraj designed a website, http://www.longlongago.in/ through which children can order books which will be delivered and picked-up from home. The library has an extensive collection of children’s books in languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarathi, Marathi, Urdu, Spanish, Dutch and German, apart from English. With over 4,000 titles, Long Long Ago also does library consultation for schools in the city.
Chronicling cinema: V. Jeevananthan
Artist V. Jeevananthan’s book ‘Thiraiseelai’ won special mention in the Best Book Category of the 58th National Film Awards in May 2011. His work is a compilation of articles on cinema written by him in the Tamil monthly Rasanai. Some of the greats of the film industry and their works grace the pages of Thiraiseelai. Written in a conversational style, the book is an attempt by Jeevananthan to introduce good cinema to the common man.