Down childhood lane

Some well-known personalities of Chennai reminisce about their childhood and what Children's Day means to them. Read on...

THE ADAGE "Childhood shows the man, as dawn the day" is but a half-truth. Actress Simran is today domiciled in the limelight, but as a child she had a tendency to retire into the shade. "I was shy, quiet and kept to myself," she says. "I did not make friends during childhood, except for one Sonali."

However, there were enough pointers to a career in showbiz. Her proficiency in dance predates her entry into films. She used to trip the light fantastic, at school and college, with creditable results. In 1994 she won the "best female dancer" title at an inter-collegiate competition. Stage dramas at school and college helped her hone her histrionic skills.

Actress Sneha also displayed an incipient talent for histrionics. At her UKG entrance exam, she sang a film song when asked by the principal to sing a rhyme.

Violinist Sriram Parasuram exhibited a precocious talent for music at a very early age. He gave his first performance at eight and when he was 16, he had along with his siblings given 1,000 concerts. Despite such a prodigious output on the music circuit, education had always been on the front burner. He is an engineer from IIT (Bombay), has an MBA to his name and also a Phd in World Music.

"Children should be encouraged to pursue as many disciplines as they can. Proficiency in one makes for proficiency in another," says Sriram, adding that the rigours of classical music moulded him well for academics.

Singer Unnikrishnan believes that parents should help their children identify their potential, but should not lumber them with unrealistic expectations. Surprisingly, Unnikrishnan did not take to music as ducks take to water. But his mother, who knew her son's forte, would persistently ensure that he took part in singing competitions. Despite his lackadaisical interest, Unnikrishnan carried all before him in those competitions. Today, he is thankful to his mother for her persistence.

Former cricketer K. Srikkanth is proud of his school Vidya Mandir and also of the friendships he forged there. His childhood friends step on his doormat to this day. Carlyle called childhood "the glad season of life" and Srikkanth cannot agree with him more. He remembers his childhood as days when he played all kinds of games, not just cricket. Did he ever play truant from school? "No, never. I loved my school days far too much to do that."

But all were not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at school. Actor Charuhasan has some not-so-happy memories of school and childhood. Since he was believed to be having polio, he did not cross the threshold of a school till he was nine years old. He was made to sit in the fifth standard straightaway. Naturally, he felt let off at a deep end. An unrivalled candidate for the wooden spoon, he once scored a zero out of ten in a class test. He ingeniously added a one to the zero and made it seem that he had a perfect ten to his credit. When the teacher discovered the deception, she announced to the class that what the young Charuhasan had done was a sign of "incipient criminality".

Charuhasan remembers his father as a martinet who rewarded any misdemeanour with boisterous swings of the ferule. Charuhasan's mother would often "feather" him with blows in order to preclude his father from severely beating him up. He is not as harsh with his children as his father had been with him. He never raises his hand on them, except to bless them. He feels children should be encouraged into good behaviour, not forced into it. "Never did I raise my hand, but all my children are good human beings and are doing well," he says with pride.

The progenitor of the Exnora movement, M.B. Nirmal was born with a silver spoon. But his family fell on bad days when he was in his fifth standard. They were forced to trim their sails, and young Nirmal found himself in changed circumstances. The family had to move to Kundrathoor and he was put in a government school. There he came face to face with penury. Many children were from families that found it difficult to put food on the table.

"That experience opened my eyes and prepared me for my mission. Exnora did not happen overnight. It was taking shape inch by inch, from my childhood," he says. It should redound to his honour that he is able to see the value of adversity. "I would not be what I am if had had a cloistered childhood," says Nirmal.


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