People C. Maheswaran, a traffic policeman, has made two short films — Pinju Manasiley and Ippadikku Police

He played Adhiyaman, the noble king from the Sangam era. His classmate Malar was Avvaiyar. And the drama unfolded at Vellalakundam Panchayat Union School in Salem District. “I was in class V,” remembers C. Maheswaran, who is a traffic policeman at B4 Police Station. “It was my class teacher who pushed me to perform as Adhiyaman, who offers the nellikai, supposed to be an elixir, to Avvaiyar.”

And thus began his exciting journey into the world of stories. Maheswaran has compiled 18 of his short stories in a book titled Pugantha Veetai Purinthukol Magaley. He is also a short-film maker. His first short film Pinju Manasiley was released recently by V. Ponraj (scientific advisor to former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam).

“In the age of nuclear families, youngsters abandon their parents. The 23-minute Pinju Manasiley instils a sense of responsibility and love in children. The thought is inspired by Abdul Kalam's vision. He says ‘plant saplings, nurture them, and they provide the shade for the future'. It holds true for children too,” says Maheswaran. He moved to Coimbatore in 1994 after he was selected for the Tamil Nadu Special Police and has made the city his home ever since.

Maheswaran's second short film that is underway is titled Ippadikku Police. Sponsored by Kalvi Siragugal Foundation in Ramanathapuram, the film tackles the hazards of drunken driving. It shows how the dream of a family shatters when it loses the breadwinner to drunken driving.

Staying united

Rewinding to his school days in Vellalakundam, he says: “My teacher ignited our minds with short stories. Through the stories of ants, pigeons, lions and cows, she taught us about good deeds, gratitude and unity.”

Later, when he moved to Government High School in Mettupatti for his Higher Secondary, he enrolled as a member of Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK). And, it marked a new beginning in public welfare space and social service activities. “During one of the NYK meetings, it was decided that 50 toilets would be built in every village through a village sanitation programme. I felt so ashamed that my village didn't even have proper names for the streets. Everything was referred as santhu and ponthu,” he smiles. So he sketched the map of Vellalakundam, approached the village officer with 50 street names — Akbar (for the Muslim locality), Kambar (potters area), Kamarajar (Nadar population), Ambedkar, Kalaignar, and Arignar Anna. “Even today the names continue,” he says with pride. Another milestone in Maheswaran's life was a cycle rally from Salem to Delhi in 1991 was a milestone. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had called for the rally which concluded with a youth conference in Delhi represented by 1000 youth from across states. “Even today, it seems like a dream that I participated along with three others from Salem. My parents gave me permission only after I told them that I could get a job with that certificate! We packed medicines, clothes, and cycle repair items and cycled 120 to 130 kms a day. I got the certificate from Mamta Banerjee.”

Every day was new experience at the cycling rally. “We learnt so many languages and different cultures. We spent time at the Taj Mahal, the Jhansi Rani Fort in Gwalior and others during the journey. Once, when we landed up at a police station in naxal territory in Andhra Pradesh, the police rounded us up. They mistook us for naxals! One of the members in the team knew Hindi, and after they learnt about our mission, they saw us off with respect.” All these experiences find their way into his short stories. “I just share whatever I have learnt from society.”

Maheswaran plans to distribute the Pinju Manasiley CDs free in schools. “Every teacher should tell the students to love their grandparents. It will stay in their minds forever. Even if 10 out of every 100 students care for the old, it will make a difference,” he smiles.