For some, it was the need to understand the language spoken by their clients; for others whose ancestors migrated to the city aeons ago, it was perhaps the desire to reconnect with their past and master their mother tongue. They attend free Telugu classes conducted every weekend by the World Telugu Federation (WTF).

N.S. Murali, a 60-year-old former banker travels from Valasaravakkam to T. Nagar to learn the language. “I wanted to learn the meaning of the Thyagaraja Krithis. I have started learning the ‘aksharalu' (letters). I hope I can understand and appreciate Carnatic music better after I complete the three-month course,” he said.

In the session, organised by the World Telugu Federation in T. Nagar, people of various age groups from different parts of the city studiously take notes as their tutor explains the nuances of the language, first in English and then in Tamil.

While attempts of some city-based associations to teach Telugu have been futile, organisations like World Telugu Federation and Andhra Mahila Sabha have persisted with their efforts for almost a decade now.

What started in Tiruvottiyur in 2003 in a small way has now branched out into batches across six centres. While classes at National Star School, Arumbakkam are held on Sunday, there are also plans to start classes in Velachery and East Coast Road.

At Andhra Mahila Sabha, classes are often held on an individual basis. About 50 students have been trained in the language so far.

WTF's secretary Srilakshmi Mohanrao notes that among the students are doctors and businessmen, who are keen on interacting smoothly with their clients. “Books are printed and distributed free of cost. We are also really specifically glad when students write letters in Telugu to thank us,” she said.

J.M. Naidu, WTF's general secretary said, “Many Telugu people who have settled in Chennai and are of the third or fourth generation, do not know to read or write their mother tongue. We started offering free classes to promote the language and culture. Nearly 1,500 people have learnt Telugu so far

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