From 2005, he has been donating atlases, stationery and dictionaries to class I students of select govt schools in Chennai

N. Subramanian would walk eight km to a high school at Polur in Tiruvannamalai district, because the bus fare of 2 annas was a luxury. During the monsoons, he had to choose between getting drenched and missing school — his family could not squeeze an umbrella into its tight budget. And, he would look wistfully at the maps in the classroom.

Today, many decades on, he puts aside a sizeable part of his pension towards giving schoolchildren what he himself missed.

After his retirement from Southern Railways in 2001, 70-year-old Subramanian began to donate kits comprising an atlas, stationery, a Tamil-to-English dictionary and a Tirukkural book to class I students from unprivileged families. “I chose these books, because they will be relevant throughout their lives,” he says.

From 2005, he has been carrying out this service on a regular basis, targeting these students in select government schools in Virugambakkam, where he lives, and also in Kuruvimalai, Vannakkambadi and Kilpennathur villages, where he used to live and work.

On why class I students, he says, “Most children in the institutions I visit join school only in Class I, without kindergarten education. Therefore, it is the most challenging class for them.”

However, Subramanian also explores other ways in which he could reach out to underprivileged children. “I give away books to eight Narikurava children in Vannakkambadi and two orphaned sisters in Kilpennathur,” he says.

He has also donated a raft of furniture and miscellaneous items to many schools, but this does not compare to the joy of distributing books. “Furniture goes to the schools, but books directly benefit the students,” he says. A Spartan lifestyle has enabled Subramanian to continue this service.

At present, he is sorting out a set of books, which he intends to distribute to Class I students of an Adi-dravida Welfare Middle School in Virugambakkam, on Teachers’ Day.

Contact him at 044 24790133.