Downtown

When teachers came canvassing for students

The Arcot Road did not have pucca roads even in 1994. Photo: The Hindu Archives   | Photo Credit: S_THANTONI

In 1977, we landed in Virugambakkam and took a house for rent at Chinmaya Nagar. The going rate was Rs. 75/- per month. At that time, civic amenities were zero. In the absence of proper roads and street lights, no one would dare venture out after 6 p.m. With coconut and plantain trees and paddy and groundnut fields, the ‘village’ was covered in green. Those are the best memories of the place that I cherish till today. There were two big lakes which fed these fields, one was in Virugambakkam 'village' and the other one in Koyambedu (where the market is located now).

We did not worry too much about the lack of basic infrastructure. We started our life with the satisfaction of having got admission for our eldest son in Chinmaya Vidyalaya, which was hardly five years old. The school was functioning from simple class rooms with thatched roofs.

In those days, schools would come looking for students. Teachers from Marthoma, Bala Lok used to come and canvas asking us to send our wards. I need not mention the contrasting lives we lead today.

Connectivity was also an issue with only one bus No.17A plying making three to four trips a day to Broadway. In the meantime, one mini bus M2 was introduced between Arumbakkam and Chinmaya Nagar — in which the bus driver himself had to do the duty of the conductor. The establishment of Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus was a boon for the neighbourhood. We were connected to the entire city.

Being a small, close-knit community, residents would join in all the initiatives. One such initiative was stopping encroachers from taking over a land in Kumaran Nagar by building the Karpaga Vinayagar temple. Though much has changed in Virugambakkam, the canal referred to as the ‘Sorrow of Chinmaya Nagar’ remains a perennial problem. I have nightmarish memories of our street and house getting inundated following heavy rains.

We may blame the authorities for our problems, but I believe at the end of the day an individual’s civic sense alone can bring the desired result.

( Subramanian is a long-time resident of Virugambakkam. The retired railway official has been working for the cause of education at the grassroot level, trying to help children from below poverty line families who are studying in government and panchayat schools.)

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 9:51:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/when-teachers-came-canvassing-for-students/article6710938.ece

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