When Ravi Venkatachalam joined the ‘Nagarathar school’ here for his primary education, more than seven decades ago, little did he imagine that he would develop a passion for Tamil language and make a significant contribution towards establishment of Tamil Chair in Harvard University.
After serving in the banking sector for almost three decades and having made a mark in the stock exchange markets during his post-retirement period, Mr. Venkatachalam, nearing 80 years, recently hogged the limelight in the Tamil circles when he donated ₹25 lakh for a Tamil Chair in Harvard University.
The octogenarian, presently residing in Chennai, had come here to celebrate Pongal festival and take part in a Tamil function, jointly organised by the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America and Isaikadal Panpattu Arakattalai in Chennai on December 29, when he announced his contribution for the Tamil Chair.
Within two days, he had sent a sum and the Harvard University acknowledged receipt of the amount as he joined select club of Tamil scholars and Tamil lovers who donated liberally for the Tamil Chair.
“I have been a great lover of Tamil language and this is my humble contribution for the preservation and development of the ancient language,’ he told The Hindu .
His son Manohar Venkatachalam, who is residing in Dallas in north Texas in the US has donated ₹7 lakh, while his daughter-in-law Phuvi Manohar led from the front in raising and donating half a million US dollars (about ₹3.25 crore) from Tamils in Dallas for the Tamil Chair, he said.
Though he had studied Sanskrit after joining Ramakrishna Mission School in Chennai, Mr.Venkatachalam continued to excel in Tamil.
When he joined the Alagappa University for his bachelor degree, he was nominated as University Orator during 1957-58.
After joining Presidency College in Chennai, he dominated the inter-collegiate oratorical competitions both in Tamil and English and won prizes. It was while serving in Kolkotta, he took a deep interest in the language, heading the Tamizh Mandram there.
Soon, he became friendly with G. Balachandran, a retired IAS officer of West Bengal cadre. In fact, he drew inspiration from his long time friend, who had also donated ₹25 lakh for the Tamil Chair, Mr Venkatachalam said. Expressing his dismay that Tamil language was facing destruction in the craze for English, he wanted the government to protect the language by promoting Tamil as medium of instruction in schools.