Seventy-seven-year-old Sengai Podhuvan tried hard not to drop the cake on his plate as he went around talking to people.

Abirami Narayanan (16), on the other hand, ran about trying to meet a world of Tamil scholars that had assembled.

On Sunday, Sengai Podhuvan and Abirami were part of a small but dedicated group of volunteers that gathered in the city to celebrate the 10th year of Tamil Wikipedia.

With 55,000 articles, it is the biggest online collaborative project in the language.

The diverse group of volunteers, representing various generations, also had different pulls and thrusts to do what it did: build the online repository of knowledge for no money at all. For Sengai Podhuvan, an academic, it represented sheer passion. “I can do nothing else other than type,” he said. “Just look at how my hands shake. At home, my wife takes care of pretty much everything else.”

For Abirami, the influence was her parents. “My father is well known for his religious discourses. I wanted to write what he spoke,” the Salem resident said. Her mother S. Parvathi too has been contributing articles for Tamil Wikipedia for three years now. Abirami’s Tamil Wikipedia journey began in May.

Humble beginnings

Tamil Wikipedia (http://ta.wikipedia.org) began as a one-man show in 2003. Dubai-based Sri Lankan Tamil E. Mayuranathan, who launched Tamil Wikipedia under the international Wikemedia Foundation on November 25, 2003, was present at the day-long seminar on Sunday.

For nearly a year, Mayuranathan was the only person writing and editing articles before Chennai-based IT engineer Sundar joined him. “The growth has been slow but has picked up pace of late. We have just about 300 articles being edited every month, and there are under 1,000 active editors,” Mayuranathan said. “One hopes this will improve.”

Of late, the Tamil Wikipedia team has been reaching out to private schools to encourage teachers to allow students to access the content during school hours. Private telecom players have also announced schemes so users can access Tamil Wikipedia for free.

Under the ‘Wikipedia Zero’ scheme, no data charges apply. (Readers are requested to ascertain with their respective service providers.)

Tamil Wikipedia contributors and editors had many reasons on why they contributed to the online resource.

But the veteran, Mayuranathan, spoke of a less-discussed aspect. “It is fun,” he said. “It is great fun to know you are doing something useful and being a part of something that has become so universally acknowledged. I take pride in being a Wikipedian.”

* The copy has been corrected for a factual error.

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