Kamal Haasan inaugurates book collection drive

It was a rather special celebration of ‘Teachers' Day' here on Sunday, when actor Kamal Haasan placed a few books he had brought on the ‘Aviva Great Wall of Education' presented by The Hindu. It marked the formal launch of a large book collection drive to support children from underprivileged sections.

“I am not wondering why I am here this morning. I am a high school drop-out. Thanks to books and my extramural teachers who taught me a lot, I am here today. They were also kind enough to lend me books,” the actor said.

Emphasising the role of books in shaping individuals and giving them access to knowledge, Mr. Haasan said the drive might look simple, but was a great one. “I feel honoured to be here.”

The ‘Aviva Great Wall of Education', presented by The Hindu in Chennai, is an initiative of Aviva Life Insurance to involve the community and collect books that would later be distributed to students of disadvantaged sections, with the support of the State's Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan wing, and non-governmental organisations Save The Children and Vidyarambam Trust.

Speaking at the launch, T.R. Ramachandran, CEO and MD, Aviva India, said the initiative was grounded in the belief that education is insurance for a better future. “We envisage an educated, stronger India,” he said, adding that the drive was part of the 'Street to School' campaign taken up by Aviva.

In other cities, the response to the initiative was heartening. In New Delhi, over 1.20 lakh books were collected last year and in Kolkata, too, where the drive was carried out in the last few days, the response was overwhelming. Mr. Ramachandran urged the residents of Chennai to come and generously contribute to the cause.

What books?

Organisers said contributions could come as activity books for children in primary classes, colouring books, alphabet books or story books in Tamil or English. Other books – old magazines or novels – were also welcome. They would be recycled into notebooks or drawing books and distributed to children, they said.

Nirmala Lakshman, Joint Editor, The Hindu said several public-private partnerships had been initiated in support of social and economic causes.

“This drive seeks to build an infrastructure of the mind, through books.” she said. Appealing to residents to donate books, she said the drive sought to invest in the younger generation by giving them access to knowledge. The Hindu's library has donated over 1,500 books in English and Tamil.

A message board was placed at the venue, the Express Avenue Mall, Royapettah. Kamal Haasan's message read ‘Love to learn'.

“Give a child a book and give her a life...” read Ms. Lakshman's message. “Give a child a book everyday. Keep the children near us,” another participant, Seshachalam Gopalakrishnan had written.

Ten-year-old V. Nishanthini was smiling even as she was parting with some of her fairy tale books and Panchatantra story books on the ‘wall'. “These are lovely stories,” she said. On why she chose to donate them if she loved them so much, the little girl said: “I have many books. I just wanted to share.”

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