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Where service is a way of life

The Mylapore Academy, which is celebrating its golden jubilee year, plans to expand its book scheme, and conduct more health camps. An interview with the organisation's honorary secretary and only living founder member C. S. Veeraraghavan.

THE MYLAPORE Academy that has religiously been serving society for long is in its golden jubilee year. From running a free dispensary for the downtrodden and supplying books free for students, to giving away awards for deserving stage plays and television serials and conducting competitions for school and college students, its areas of activity are wide and varied. And at the epicentre of its social and cultural projects is its only living founder member and honorary secretary C. S. Veeraraghavan.

Serving society has been a way of life for Veeraraghavan. From the time when as a student of Vivekananda College he and a group of like-minded youth began Young Men's Athenium to do their mite for society, this septuagenarian has come a long way in his mission. To this day, this retired accounts officer from the Electricity Board, helps ever so many people through the Mylapore Academy, St. John's Ambulance Association, of which he is the secretary and in his personal capacity as a social worker. The president of St. John's Ambulance Association is the Governor of the State. So naturally Veeraraghavan's contacts are impressive. "Every day people approach me for jobs, college admission and such things. If the cause is genuine, I try to do my best. And because I never go to any one for personal favours, they respect me," he says. A cheerful demeanour and incredible zest are never-waning features of the man.

Hence, it is but natural that under his stewardship the Mylapore Academy has been making giant strides in service both in cultural and social fields.

"I can never forget the immense help our academy received from V. Vaidyasubramania Iyer," he begins. Vaidyasubramanania Iyer was one of the early presidents of the Mylapore Academy. He donated two grounds for the organisation and also a substantial amount for construction. His request was that a dispensary for the poor be established at the premises on Sringeri Mutt Road. Dhanvanthari Vaidyasala, which Swami Jayendra Saraswathi of the Kanchi Math inaugurated then, has been serving the poor in the area ever since. Even today, Vaidyasubramania Iyer's sons, V. Vaidyanathan and V. Jayaraman are active members. The dispensary that at first had four doctors attending to the patients, now has many specialists offering their service to the worthy cause. "Around 200 people get treated here everyday," says Veeraraghavan.

A whole lot of eminent persons, from Ammu Swaminathan ex-M.P., Justice Shivraj Patil and C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer to businessman S. V. Narasimhan, the present chairman Sarojini Varadappan and president, lawyer N. C. Raghavachari, have been associated with the academy.

And the strong, longest-serving pillar through all these years has been Veeraraghavan. "When we decided to honour the best stage plays with awards and trophies, S. Krishnamurthy, honorary treasurer and T. D. Sadasivam, another honorary secretary, took it up with enthusiasm. Again it was Krishnamurthy's idea to extend the recognition to TV serials too," Veeraraghavan goes on. The chairmen of the panel of judges in these categories include Justice Bhaktavatsalam and Justice Jagadeesan.

The academy also presents meritorious awards to the best institutions, hotels, theatres and individuals of Chennai every year. The book project, wherein with the help of the principals of schools deserving candidates are identified and textbooks and note books for the entire year distributed, has also been going on well.

Certainly an organisation, which has been growing at such a steady pace would have its share of hiccups. Veeraraghavan denies the surmise. "We are a service minded group. T. D. Sadasivam and I have perfect understanding ... there is no room for ego at all."

Veeraraghavan has many honorary posts to his credit and several committees he serves on — Sardar Vallabhai Memorial Trust, Abhaya Nilayam, a home for stranded women and the National Council for Handicapped Welfare are just a few. His untiring effort at St. John's Ambulance Association (which now has Justice S. Ramalingam as its chairman) has resulted in the opening of more than 100 district and local centres. "Justice S. Mohan has been very active in this," he acknowledges. That the past President of the nation, R. Venkatraman always has a word of praise for this simple man and feels that Veeraraghavan deserves greater honours, is another proof of his worth.

So what other projects does he have in mind for the golden jubilee year of the Mylapore Academy? "We plan to expand the free book scheme, conduct eye camps where cataract operations will be performed entirely free, health camps ... " Veeraraghavan reels out the academy's assignments for the year with zeal.


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