Kulandaiswamy and Shenbagavalli have been trying to make the Mahatma's principles relevant to younger generation. Liffy Thomas on their approach
Tucked inside Ambujammal Street in Alwarpet is Srinivasa Gandhi Nilayam, where the Gandhi Peace Foundation is housed on the first floor. There is nothing impressive about this 500 sq.ft. centre except the symbolic chakra and some books on Mahatma Gandhi. But Gandhian principles presented in a light manner by S. Kulandaisamy and C.Shenbagavalli, the secretary and joint secretary of the foundation respectively, draw school and college students here regularly.
The two have been propagating Gandhian ideas for decades to school students from this space, for which they have been paying an honorary rent of Rs. 500 since 1995. They do not follow the lecture approach and send across the message through skits, songs and games.
All they ask from schools is to spare a free period or alert them when a teacher is on leave so that they can take an an enlightening session. But getting permission is a challenge.
“Most of the so-called elite schools refuse to entertain us saying they cannot spare a class on Gandhiji in between academics,” says Kulandaisamy, who was inspired by the Mahatma’s teachings while pursuing his chemical engineering at Annamalai University.
On most days, the two make a trip to the outskirts of the city where they are welcomed by schools. They start by listening to the problems faced by students and then enact a role play. Gandhi’s principles are discussed only at the end, they say. “We are good singers and Shenbagavalli is good at mono acting, so children like us,” says Kulandaisamy.
A few years ago, they had an exercise where students had to collect Neem seeds which were sent to a Sarvodaya centre in Tamil Nadu to extract oil. “On the face of it may look like a simple task but through the exercise children learnt maths and science. They also learnt about its medicinal benefit. That’s the basic education Gandhiji taught,” explains Kulandaisamy. The foundation has a tie-up with 15 schools, which they visit often and conduct field trips too.
Thirty college students help by volunteering to take classes in these schools. Sometime back, MA (Tamil) students of Bharathi Women’s College, Broadway, approached the centre to do internship. “Together we have brought out a book Sikkal Theervu Kalai, which will be released on October 2,” adds Kulandaisamy. This is an addition to the 22 books that he has authored.
To contact Gandhi Peace Foundation, call 04424993839.