This 69 year old Man has helped start free Libraries across Chennai , and YOU can too !

No membership, no one to supervise, and no last date to return books: Mahendra Kumar’s libraries run on no rules, and plenty of goodwill.

Chennai-based Mahendra Kumar speaks about reading and books with reverence and passion. “It is a character-building activity,” he says earnestly.

In April 2015, he decided to do something which he hoped would encourage people to read: He opened a library in Thirumullaivoyal, Chennai.

It wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill library. The most unique part about it wasn’t even that it was set up in a cement shop, where 69-year-old Mahendra shared a table with the shopkeeper.

What truly set it apart was there was no membership fee, no register to keep track. Literally anyone could walk in, pick up one of the 20 books, and take it home. They could return it whenever they wanted.   

This was the first Read and Return Free Library (RFL). Now, Mahendra says that there are 66 of them across TN, and a few other states, with 10,000 books in all.

His first library in Thirumillaivoyal has now expanded to three cupboards, which he keeps outside his house,bursting with books. It stands completely unmanned.

“I could have kept a register perhaps, where people could sign with the book they were taking,” he adds as an afterthought. But Mahendra snaps out of it the very next moment. “I wanted no protocols, no control. Just people free to read and return books, as per their conscience.”

Encouraging others

Presently, there are 48 RFL libraries in Chennai alone. The others are in Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Aurangabad and Mumbai.

But setting these up has not been an easy task. Unable to travel to these places himself, Mahendra would try to convince others to start such libraries.

“I would sometimes see contact numbers in books. Someone who has written an introduction or a foreword – I’d try to find their numbers. I would try to convince them then to start this in their locality. And I would send whatever little money I could to help them,” Mahendra shares.

One such person he convinced was a former classmate of his, Captain R Venkataraman, who started a RFL library in T Nagar, Chennai, in 2016.

“But there are only so many friends or family members who can be convinced,” Mahendra says. “If there are 66 libraries today, you can assume I made 6,000 calls for them.”

Not as easy as it seems

In the past two years, RFL libraries have sprung up in many different places – gated communities, railway stations, hospitals and even a barber shop.

RFL at a Railway Station….

Mahendra is reluctant to share that this has required a considerable amount of legwork and resources from him. He believes it will discourage people, and make them wary of starting more RFLs.

“When people initially came to know about the concept, they wanted to donate books. So I would speak to a few of them, start at 5 am in the morning, make a round with multiple stops and come back with a car full of books,” he recounts. “Sometimes, I would sleep in the car because I’d get tired.”

The problem was that everyone wanted to donate books, but no one wanted to start the library. “Sometimes, people seemed on board with the idea, but they don’t really follow it up with action. I have been wanting to start one RFL library in Bengaluru as well, and got a volunteer too. But they have not really taken it forward after that.”

Mahendra says that he is ready to send some books, and whatever token amount he can from his pocket to help them get started, if only people volunteer.

He also mentions that he is grateful for his wife, who has never raised an objection against him going around the city at odd hours to collect books, and spending money for the RFLs.

Helping students

Mahendra put together the RFL website in 2016. While he is not very familiar with the internet, he says that he somehow learnt some basics and put it together. “The logo looks very childish, no? I made it on Microsoft Paint,” he says, sounding anxious.

The sole purpose for starting the website, he says, is to promote something called ‘Students Corner’.

It allows students to post requirements for second-hand course books, as well as if they have books to donate. Once they fill a form under that section on the site, other students can see it and get in touch. The donor can either mail the books or have them collected by the recipient, as per convenience.

However, Mahendra rues that this has not become as popular as he would have liked it to be.

He also wishes for more people to start RFLs in their localities. “But, it is quite simple really. You just have to see it from time to time to ensure that the infrastructure, wherever you’ve put it, is okay. You can also start it, madam!” he says, cheerfully.

Source…..Geetika Mantri in https://www.thenewsminute.com/

Natarajan

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After Coimbatore’s Water Table Collapsed, This Simple Initiative Revived It…Thanks to ” Siruthuli “

As cities across India are facing a severe shortage of water, Coimbatore has been trying to preserve and recharge its groundwater levels. At the forefront of this change is Siruthuli, an NGO that is dedicated to cleaning Coimbatore, and infusing green methods throughout the city!

Coimbatore, which was once a place of abundant rainfall, was shaken to reality following a drought in 2003.

As part of its initiative to recharge groundwater levels in the city, Siruthuli has implemented rainwater harvesting structures (RWH).                                               

“In 2003, Coimbatore received 65% less rainfall than in previous years. This made us release the need to save water, and harvest it when there was adequate rainfall,” says Shruthi Suresh, a representative of the organisation.

The organisation conducted a series of geo-hydrological studies in 2005, to better analyse how to approach the conservation of groundwater in the region. In association with the Corporation of Coimbatore, Siruthuli began conducting rainwater harvesting structures in various locations across the city.

However, one of the significant challenges of the construction was the fact that Coimbatore was primarily a hard rock structure, and thus percolation of water was difficult. The organisation persevered and came up with the idea of drilling bore wells for groundwater.

“We came up with this technique to recharge the groundwater. We recommended two types of structures using this technique. The first simply recharges the aquifers, while the other not only recharges but also pumps the harvested waters so that it can be used,” she explains.

According to Shruthi, the structures are installed in both open spaces, as well as on roadsides.

Today, thanks to the efforts of this organisation, Coimbatore has more than 600 rainwater harvesting structures in different locations across the city.

However, on average it has been observed that the open spaces have seen a much higher level of maintenance than the ones on the roadside ones. There have been instances where some of the roadside RWH structures have been shut down for new roads and construction.

However, the organisation is optimistic and has seen significant growth in groundwater tables, from the time the wells have been implemented. This can be seen in the table below:

The water that is harvested from the ground is what is used extensively for not only daily use but as drinking water. It, therefore, becomes imperative for the citizens of the city, to maintain and use the water judiciously.

Today, even with a shortage of water, Coimbatore maintains stable and sustainable groundwater tables.

This initiative goes along with one of the organisation’s chief objectives, titled, “Water Watch,” under which, they aim to not only recharge groundwater, but also rejuvenate water bodies, and restore the River Noyyal. The river, which once had 34 streams, is now reduced to just four.

In the future, Siruthuli plans to conduct a comprehensive study of the entire region. This will be done to better understand natural drains, vegetation, groundwater levels, land use, and livelihoods. The study will form the basis for developing watershed concepts, RWH structures, and more. These will be applied across Coimbatore, after a series of awareness campaigns.

Siruthuli has also been involved in spreading the message of going green and educating the next generation for the same.

You can read about their initiatives here!

Source…..Anakha Arikara  in http://www.the better india .com

Natarajan

 

Meet Muruganantham, the real Pad Man…

His low-cost machines that make sanitary pads have earned him international recognition. A Muruganantham’s story is now being told on the big screen as Pad Man

A Muruganantham’s life is a haze of interviews to newspapers, TV channels and radio stations. His phone doesn’t stop ringing and his wife sees him only during meal times. To the world, he is a social entrepreneur; ‘Pad man’, ‘Menstrual man’; ‘The man who wore a sanitary napkin’: the low-cost sanitary napkin machine that he created is changing the lives of thousands of women across the world.

But at his home in Coimbatore, he’s a busy father whose bonding time with his daughter is during his work tours —he takes her along since he’s rarely home; an elusive husband with whom his wife seeks an appointment —she says this jokingly to us, but there’s truth in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the same

There’s a Bollywood movie about him that’s releasing this week and he has gained international recognition. But the man is matter-of-fact about his celebrity status. “My work remains the same,” he says, seated in the living room of his rented house. “Tomorrow, I will walk into a remote village with my machine and no one will recognise me,” he says. “Nothing has changed or will change.” But the cause that he upholds —to take sanitary pads to every nook and corner of India —is gradually gaining momentum. In another 30 years, Muruganantham is sure that he will ensure 100% penetration.

It’s like breaking a massive mountain with a sledgehammer singlehandedly—the stigma surrounding the subject is as such. Which is what makes his story interesting. Muruganantham recalls how his obsession to research on sanitary napkins earned him nothing but ridicule from those around him. “My fellow villagers thought I was a vampire,” he laughs. “I came close to being tied up to a tree.” Muruganantham wanted to create low-cost sanitary towels.

His work took bizarre turns —he strapped onto himself a machine fashioned using a football bladder that pumped out blood into a sanitary pad that he wore. He was that mad scientist the world just didn’t understand. In 2006, when his innovation won an award from the then President Pratibha Patil, his life changed forever.

“My machines now run in 4,800 points in India and in 29 other countries,” he says. His story has appeared in several foreign language publications—Hebrew being one of them. It’s only natural that it be made into a feature film.

Now a feature film

Pad Man, directed by R Balki, featuring Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, and Sonam Kapoor, presents Muruganantham’s journey from a school drop-out to a social entrepreneur. “It does have ‘masala’ elements, being a Bollywood film,” says Muruganantham. He worked with the crew for over three years, helping them set up his machines on the sets and demonstrating his work.

The story is set in Madhya Pradesh and not Tamil Nadu. Muruganantham feels that only then will the cause have a pan-India reach. “I did have Tamil filmmakers approach me,” he says. “But I didn’t want the film to be confined to one part of the country.” Elusive that he is, it took a while for actor and writer Twinkle Khanna, who has produced the film, to pin him down for a conversation. “She contacted me in 2015,” says Muruganantham. Khanna featured Muruganantham in her 2016 book The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad.

Pad Man is the first feature film that talks about women’s monthly period,” he says. With barely any knowledge of Hindi, Muruganantham managed to effectively convey his thoughts to the team. “It helped that director Balki and the cinematographer PC Sreeram knew Tamil,” he says.

Despite his wide network of employees and volunteers, Muguganantham personally travels with his machines to train women to make sanitary napkins in regions affected by extremism. He rolls off names of villages that many may not have heard of — Dhamtari, Lakshmipuramu, Gajroli, Tehri… Many girls in such villagers don’t attend school due to lack of awareness and access to sanitary pads. Murugnanantham is changing that. This is the best thing about his innovation—that a village girl who shut herself at home simply because she menstruated, can finally go to school.

In all these years of working on menstrual hygiene, what Muruganatham finds most difficult to deal with, is the superstition surrounding it. “Women in rural India have the strangest beliefs surrounding the monthly period,” he says. He is trying to break these by educating them. In a tribal village in the Nilgiris, women believed that if they used a sanitary towel, their eyes will be taken away. Muruganantham says, “A girl used it for two months and told her friends ‘Look, my eyes are still intact’.”

Source…Akila Kannadasan in http://www.the hindu.com

Natarajan

 

தலையாட்டி பொம்மையும், தஞ்சை பெரிய கோவிலும்!

தஞ்சாவூரில் தயாரிக்கப்படும் தலையாட்டி பொம்மைக்கும், தஞ்சை பெரிய கோவிலுக்கும் என்ன சம்பந்தம் இருக்க முடியும் என்று தானே நினைக்கிறீர்கள்…
இந்த சாதாரண தலையாட்டி பொம்மைக்குள் தான், மிகப் பெரிய தத்துவத்தையே ஒளித்து வைத்துள்ளனர், நம் முன்னோர்.
கொட்டாங்கச்சி எனப்படும் தேங்காய் சிரட்டையில் பாதியை எடுத்து, அதில், களி மண்ணை அடைத்து, தலையாட்டி பொம்மைகள் செய்யப்படுகிறது. அந்தப் பொம்மையை தரையில் வைத்து, எந்த பக்கம் சாய்த்தாலும், அது, ஆடி ஆடி கடைசியாக நேராக நின்று விடும்.
சமீபத்தில், தஞ்சை பெரிய கோவில் வளாகத்தில், தண்ணீர் பற்றாக்குறை காரணமாக, ‘போர்’ போடுவதற்காக, ஆழ்துளை கிணறு தோண்டியுள்ளனர். அப்போது, களிமண்ணோ, செம்மண்ணோ வரவில்லை; வேறு ஒரு வகை மணல் வெளிப்பட்டிருக்கிறது.
அது, காட்டாறுகளில் காணப்படக் கூடிய மணல். சாதாரண ஆற்று மணலுக்கும், காட்டாறு மணலுக்கும் வித்தியாசம் உண்டு. சாதாரண ஆற்று மணலை விட, காட்டாறுகளில் காணப்படும் மணலில், பாறைத் துகள்கள் அதிகம் காணப்படும். மேலும், சாதாரண மணலை காட்டிலும் கடினமானது. கோவிலை கட்டுவதற்கு முன், அந்த மணலை அடியில் நிரப்பியுள்ளனர்.
இத்தகவலை அறிந்த, தஞ்சை பெரிய கோவில் மீட்புக் குழுவினரின் முயற்சியால், போர் போடும் வேலை உடனடியாக தடுத்து நிறுத்தப்பட்டது.
ஏனென்றால், ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகளாக இந்த பூமியில் ஏற்படும் அழுத்தங்களையும், நிலநடுக்கங்களையும் தாங்கி, நான்குபுறமும் அகழிகளால் சூழப்பட்டு, கம்பீரமாக காட்சியளிக்கும் இந்த உலக அதிசயத்தின் அஸ்திவாரமே அந்த மணல் தான்!
இவ்ளோ பெரிய கோவிலுக்கு, மணலை கொண்டு அஸ்திவாரம் அமைக்க, சோழ தேச பொறியாளர்கள் என்ன முட்டாள்களா!
கோவிலின் அதி அற்புத தத்துவமும், சோழர்களின் அறிவின் உச்சமும் அங்குதான் வெளிப்படுகிறது.
அகழிகளால் சூழப்பட்டுள்ள தீவு போன்ற அமைப்பில், காட்டாற்று மணலால் கோவிலுக்கு அஸ்திவாரம் அமைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. தலையாட்டி பொம்மையை சாய்த்தால், எப்படி கீழே உள்ள கனமான அடிப்பரப்பில் ஆடி ஆடி நேராக நின்று விடுகிறதோ, அதேபோல், பெரிய கோவிலும் எத்தகைய பூகம்பம் வந்து அசைய நேரிட்டாலும், அசைந்து, தானாகவே சம நிலைக்கு வந்து விடும்.
சோழ தேச பொறியாளர்களின் அறிவிற்கு, உலகில் வேறு எவரும் ஈடாகார் என்பதற்கு இது ஒன்றே சான்று!

 

 

Source….Pushpa in http://www.dinamalar.com dated 7th Jan 2018

Natarajan