They clean up the local beach, enact messages at traffic signals and support other groups with similar goals. PRINCE FREDERICK meets a key member of V R Volunteers

Casual conversations with acquaintances would leave Rajesh Kanna feeling awkward. He would dread having to deal with strangers. He would not raise a whimper if someone stepped on his toes.

However, with willpower and the support of someone incomparably special to him, he managed to break out of the cocoon of reticence he had enclosed himself in. Today, he paints his face wild and enacts road safety messages at traffic signals, mobilises people for beach clean-ups and engages in a variety of other activities donning the roles of a leader and a communicator.

Kanna is the fulcrum of V R Volunteers – short for We Are Volunteers – a group consisting of his friends, colleagues and neighbours that undertakes a social activity every third Sunday.

In the days following the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign of 2011 that spread from Jantar Mantar to many parts of the country, Kanna, who works at Wipro as a software professional, was gripped by a desire to make a contribution in nation-building efforts.

“During the Hazare campaign, I participated in a token fast at Thiruvanmiyur,” recalls Kanna.

After the campaign and the excitement built around it had died down, the dreariness of everyday life hit Kanna hard. He lacked a sense of the direction in which he should go. He wanted to devote his energy to social causes, but could not think of any.

“In December 2011, my wife and I joined with a few friends of ours and cleaned up the squalid Parrys bus stand. One day, my wife said we would be more effective if we focused first on our backyard. She suggested we spruce up the complex we lived in. My wife is with me in all of my social initiatives: but for her, I would not have come out of my shell.”

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