Chennai

Tamarind tree witnesses an act of kindness

A tamarind tree on the campus of the Ambattur Government Primary School at Venugopal Street in Mogappair East takes care of a mundane aspect of life. For residents of areas around the school, the tree stands as an enduring landmark, handsomely defying time. It is 90 years old.

For students, teachers and the staff at the school, the tree offers something immensely larger. It offers the school the workday advantage of organising certain academic activities outdoors. The tree has been a witness to innumerable lunch breaks, when children would park themselves in its shade and eat their meals, even sharing it with bonhomie. So, as much on regular as on unusual days with their special events, the tree would manage to hold centre stage.

However, when the lockdown came into effect in March, the place lost its charm as the campus was vacant and wore a bleak picture. The tree particularly looked desolate and forgotten. Recently, the tree was back in the thick of things, as a group of photojournalists conducted a major programme under its huge branches to distribute sports uniform to the schoolchildren.

Tamarind tree witnesses an act of kindness

One hundred and thirty students from the school received the uniform at its annual event which was inaugurated by State Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan.

The photojournalists had started this initiative to help schoolchildren in this manner nine years ago, from the beginning, Radhakrishnan has been actively supporting it.

“The school students wanted to wear sports uniform while representing the sports teams of their school just as their peers from private schools did. So, we gave T-shirts in different colours to students,” says 50-year-old N. Sampath, a member of the Tamil Nadu Press Photographers' Association (TNPPA), which has 150 photojournalists from Chennai as its members.

Every year, a group of photojournalists would make enquiries with government schools about the lack of basic amenities and other essentials, attending to this work when they would travel around Chennai as part of their routine photo assignments.

Later, they would form small teams that would be tasked with visiting shortlisted government and Corporation-run schools in Chennai to develop an in-depth understanding of the areas in which these schools would do with some help.

They would invariably return from these visits, with a long wish-list made by these schools, and they would give these lists to the core team formed by the photojournalists’ association for this purpose. Putting their heads together, they would shortlist the schools and also list their requirements, so that the gifts are purchased accordingly.

“As we mobilise the funds ourselves, every year, we take up only one school for this charity work. We would usually organise the event during Deepavali, but last year due to pandemic it got delayed,” says Chidambaram, another photojournalist.

The group would ascertain if the requirements put forth by the school are genuine and urgent. To give an example, when a team of photojournalists offered to provide free school uniform to students at the Government Middle School near the railway station in Egmore, teachers at the school requested them to stitch the uniform for all students rather than simply giving them the necessary cloth. The teachers reasoned it out that if clothes were given to these students, parents of these poor children might sell them.

Government schools in Egmore, Old Washermenpet, Elavur near Gummidipoondi and Pulianthope have benefited from the photojournalists’ large-hearted initiative.

It may be recalled that the group had provided vegetables and grocery at Mounted Police Centre in Egmore, and this generous gesture included an offering of wheat bran to horses. Established in 1926 with 15 horses, the Mounted Police now has more than two dozen horses.

Similarly, they distributed salwar kameez to visually-challenged students of Presidency College. During the pandemic, the team also distributed face masks, gloves, hand sanitisers and food packets to the homeless persons, underprivileged people and children.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 10:37:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/tamarind-tree-witnesses-an-act-of-kindness/article33589437.ece

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