Chennai’s pavement football stars….!!!

A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com meets Chennai’s all-girl street children football team who competed in the Street Child World Cup in Moscow.                                                     

 

Their home may be on a pavement, but their eyes are bright with hope for the future.

Helping them through their rough times is their love for football.

In fact, these Chennai lasses have recently returned from Moscow, where they participated in the Street Child World Cup and won one of the five matches they played.

Their happy smiles mask the hard lives they have led.

One of the girls has been rescued from a child marriage, another from a stainless steel vessels manufacturing factory.

Two had to cope with a drunk father while two were abandoned by their fathers.

Their strength to face their circumstances came from practising advocate Paul Sunder Singh.

Singh’s abiding desire to help Chennai’s street children resulted in Karunalaya in 1995.

His hard work was noticed by the state government and, three years later, they gave him a grant that would allow him to look after 50 children in a shelter. The home now has 60 children.

“We encourage sports. It teaches both competition and discipline,” says Singh, who has a doctorate in criminology.

“We want to give these children a normal childhood and games play an important role in this effort of ours.”

Karunalaya only shelters runaway children from Tamil Nadu; the others are sent back to their home state.

“The biggest problem these children face is that they don’t have birth certificates,” Singh says. “As a result, they don’t have community certificates either and cannot benefit from government aid or schemes.”

“We get them admitted to schools through the Right To Education Act, but the schools want birth certificates which we cannot provide. All they have is Aadhar cards as the government is pushing that. Sadly, the government does not consider our problems.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

IMAGE: The team won one of the five matches they played at the Street Child World Cup in Moscow. Photograph: Kind courtesy Karunalaya

The Street Child World Cup, which was first held 2010, takes place in the city hosting the FIFA World Cup before the much-watched international tournament begins.

India, this year, was represented by an all-girls team from Karunalaya.

This is their third International outing.

In 2014, they sent a boys team to Street Child World Cup in Rio de Janerio.

In 2016, they sent a team of five to participate in the first-ever Street Child Games, also held in Rio de Janerio.

This year’s participants share their story in their own words.

IMAGE: The all-girl Karunalaya football team. Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Sangeeta, 18

I came to this shelter as a child after I was rescued from a steel factory where I was working.

I don’t stay here now. I stay on the pavement at Waltax Road (near Chennai Central railway station) with my mother.

My father was a drunkard who abandoned us.

My elder brother is working and my younger brother is also being educated by Karunalaya.

I studied in a municipal school. In my 12th exams, I got 798/1200 marks.

I want to do BSc in physical education as I like games. Karunalaya is helping me to find a sponsor for my education.

I learnt football in the summer camps that Karunalya conducts.

Nirosha, 15

I study in Class 9.

I was working and looking after my two younger brothers when I was rescued and brought to Karunalaya.

I am here since two years. Before that, I used to stay on the pavement at Mint Street (in Chennai’s commercial centre, George Town).

My younger brothers also stay here.

I study in the Church of South India school.

I have been playing football for two years now.

My mother is a daily wage earner. My dad abandoned us years ago.

Lakshmi, 17

My parents are ragpickers.

They could not repay Rs 2,000 that they had borrowed from a moneylender so they tried to get me married to him.

I escaped to the house of a friend, who also on stayed on our pavement near Koyambedu market.

I was rescued from my friend’s place and brought here four years ago.

I scored 248/500 in my Class 10 exams. I have opted for the arts stream for Class 12.

Later, I want to study social science and become a social worker.

If I get the opportunity, I will continue to play football.

Indu, 14

Karunalaya volunteers used to give tuitions to poor students near my place; that’s how I came to know about them.

My father works and my mother is a housewife.

My elder brother is in college and my younger brother is in Class 7. My father pays for their education.

I have been playing football here since two years.

Every year, we have a tournament in which every street has its own team.

I was lucky to go to Moscow to play. It was a great experience.

Masiya, 14

I am studying in Class 10 and my brother is in Class 11.

I stay on a pavement at Kasimedu.

My father has left us. My mother is a house maid.

I have been playing football for two years.

In Moscow, we managed to get by with English, but some of the other teams spoke different languages.

The matches were played in a friendly atmosphere.

This was the first time I travelled by plane.

Tamilarasi, 14

I am in Class 10.

Karunalaya has been helping me for the last two years now.

My father is a drunkard. When my parents separated, I stayed with my mother.

I have been playing football since two years. I am a good defender so my position in the team is a fullback.

S Gomathi, 14

I study in Class 9.

I stay with my family.

I have been coming since 18 months to play football.

The trip to Moscow was fun. The food was very different, but it was tasty.

We were there for 10 days. We stayed in a nice hotel.

This was my first World Cup.

Every year, we have an inter-street tournament in Chennai. I play regularly. I love football.

Ishwari, 15

I am staying in this shelter since four years. My younger brother is here too.

I have two elder brothers who have started working.

I am studying in Class 10.

My father left us long ago. I have been playing football for three years.

Geeta, 15

I have been with Karunalaya since two-and-a-half years.

My father is a coolie in the market and my mother is a maid.

I am in Class 10 and, later, I want to study science.

I have been playing football since two years and this game is my future.

Source….Ganesh Nadar in http://www.rediff.com

Natarajan

 

 

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From China to Chennai, meet three generations of dentists who are as Tamil as Chinese…

Their families moved to Chennai from Hubei province and set-up dental clinics in the Evening Bazaar in the 1930s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The glass doors of the tiny dental clinic swing open to green tiles, wooden panels, lots of dental instruments and neatly stacked bottles and medicine packs. Dr Shieh Hung Sen is inside, dressed in a green linen shirt, attending to a patient with practised deftness, while directing his assistant Nila in flawless Chennai Tamil.

Dr Shieh, who is better known by his Christian name Albert Shieh, is a second-generation Chennaite of Chinese origin. He runs Dr Shieh’s Bright Smile, a 75-year-old clinic, the oldest among the 8 such compact Chinese dental studios dotting the sides of Evening Bazaar Road, Park Town.

“My parents moved from Hubei province in China to Madas some time before the World War II. The Chinese communists were forcibly recruiting people to the army. It was either abscond or die. So my parents along with 8 other families left in the cover of the night to Burma, from where they came to Chennai in boats,” says Albert.

His father, Saw Ma Seng, among others who fled the country, were traditional Chinese dentists who established their business in Park Town in the 1930s. Now, their children and grandchildren are running the operations.

“Dental colleges started in the city only around the 1950s. Yet, our fathers had set up thriving businesses way back in the ’30s and we sons took over when they passed on,” says Albert, who went on to a acquire degree in dentistry from Annamalai University, after finishing his schooling in Bishop Corrie School, Parrys.

Growing up in Chennai

As he reminisces of the Chennai of his youth, Albert, who specialises in denture making, prods open his patient’s mouth and fixes a perfect set of lower front dentures on his gums.

“The best days of my life in Chennai were my school days. We used to play cricket in the Park Town grounds until late evenings. I spoke English and Tamil with my friends group and at home we spoke Mandarin (Hubei dialect),” smiles Albert, who can also read and write Tamil. Albert also understands Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi, and even attempts speaking them occasionally.

“Today is Tamil New Year. You must be celebrating Vishu since you are a Malayali, right?” he asks this reporter with a smile.

Now married with two children, a son and a daughter, Albert reveals that his family speaks Tamil, Chinese and English at home.

“I got married to my wife, Hu Yu Kwan, who is from one of the families in the community itself. However, now the community is not as close-knit as we were, with the older generation passing on,” he says.

In his childhood, the families would get together every Chinese New Year and feast.

“The Chinese New Year’s Eve is a special day for us and the entire community gathers for a feast, which is a grand affair with Wuhan (Hubei cuisine) delicacies of Changyu fish and Sou Chin (stir fry) Chicken. It’s nothing like what you get in the Chinese restaurants in the city,” says Albert, who shares an equal and impartial love for south Indian cuisine too.

“Ïdly, dosa, sambhar and all other dishes I relish. My wife makes the best rasam and kaara kolambu, I feel. In fact, my son’s friends used to ask him if his mum was Tamilian or Chinese after tasting the lunches she used to pack for his school,” he adds with a shy smile.

Albert’s son, Joshua, is a practicing dentist in Canada and, interestingly, is married to a Tamil woman.

“When I was a kid, my mother used to threaten me that if I married outside of the community she would disown me. When I got married, I had a traditional two-day Chinese wedding and a church wedding. Now, times have changed; my daughter-in-law is Tamil and we had a register marriage along with a reception here in Chennai,” says Albert.

The family members are practicing Seventh Day Adventists who had earlier adopted Roman Catholicism. Over the years, many from the community have diverged to different denominations within Christianity.

In the next clinic, David Ma, also known as You Chang Ma, Albert’s nephew, is a Jehovah’s Witness and runs Venfa, a clinic started by his father. Unlike Albert, David belongs to the third generation of the Chinese diaspora settled in the city.

“I don’t have many ties to Hubei. All my life I have known this city. My favourite food is the karuvattu kolambu or the dried fish that you get here. I’m married to an Indian girl, who is from Sikkim. In fact, I had an arranged marriage and went all the way to Sikkim to find my wife, since they look similar to us,” David says with a chuckle.

From Kung fu to Kollywood

Emphasising that they don’t watch Chinese films but for the occasional Jackie Chan Kung fu movie that is released in Chennai, Albert and David reveal that they enjoy Tamil cinema, especially the songs.

“I love old Tamil songs. There are some beautiful songs from Mudhal Mariyathai,” says David as he hums ‘Poongatre’ from the Sivaji Ganesan-starrer.

While David had no qualms about breaking into song, his uncle is more of a closet musician.

“He is usually singing all the time. He loves SPB and sings very well,” his assistant Nila tells TNM.

Albert is a fan of Suriya too and says he is excited about Kamal Haasan’s entry into politics. Apart from this, the dentist also boasts of a few famous friends from the industry.

“Prabhu, Sarathkumar and drummer Sivamani are all my close friends. I became close Prabhu and Sarathkumar as an athlete in school when we met at an inter-school sports competition. We meet once in a while when I am in town,” says Albert, who migrated to Canada with his wife a few months ago and shuttles between Chennai and Ontario.

The future

The Chinese clinics like Albert’s and David’s cater to the local population in Park Town.

“We have a thriving business and clients who have been consulting us and our fathers before us. They trust us and we have sort of established a brand here in Chennai,” says David.

Although many of their relatives have migrated to the US, Canada and other parts of the world, David and Albert remain rooted to the city.

“Although I keep going to Canada, I can’t let go of my business here and most of the year I’m in Chennai,” says Albert.

And despite this mass migration to several parts of the world, none of the Chinese in Chennai have returned to their home province of Hubei.

“I once visited China on a packaged tour with my wife. We couldn’t visit our native place as we couldn’t break away from the others.I have a few cousins there and I hope to visit them once in my lifetime,” says Albert.

However, Chennai remains in their hearts even as they search for better prospects elsewhere.

“I have never felt like an outsider. Chennai has and will always remain one of the most welcoming cities here. My sentiments for this city, in IPL language would be Namma Chennai-ku oru whistle podu,” David concludes with a grin.

Source…… https://www.thenewsminute.com

Natarajan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Your Idlis a Healthy twist ….

Give your idlis a healthy twist.

Dietitian Jasleen Kaur shares her recipes. You can share yours too! Scroll down to find out how. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph: Kind courtesy Upendra Kanda/Creative Commons

Hot and sour idli

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup arhar dal/ toovar dal
  • Red chillies
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • A pinch of hing
  • 1 tsp grated jaggery

Method:

  • Soak the rice and dal separately in three cups of water for four hours.
  • Grind red chillies and tamarind to fine paste. Grind dal and rice separately.
  • Add grated jaggery and red chillies, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well. Set aside for four to five hours to ferment.
  • Lightly grease idli moulds and put the batter. Once steamed, serve the idlis with chutney.

Idli Upma

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 idlis
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp urad dal
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1/2 ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 dry red chilli
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • 1/4 cup onions, chopped

Method:

  • Crumble 5 to 6 idlis and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
  • When they start crackling, add urad dal and cumin seeds.
  • Saute till the urad dal turns golden. Add 5 to 6 curry leaves (chopped or kept whole), ginger, red chili and green chili.
  • Stir and then add the chopped onion. Mix well and saute for a minute or two.

SOURCE:::::: http://www.rediff.com

Natarajan

How Sivalingam battled pain to snatch another C’wealth gold….

‘I had no hopes of winning a medal after I injured my thighs during the National Championships while attempting 194 kg in clean and jerk. ‘

‘Even now I am competing at less than ideal fitness, but I am glad that was enough to get me a gold.’                                                                                                                                       

Defending champion Sathish Sivalingam (77 kg) claimed India’s third gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on Saturday, emerging triumphant despite having given up podium hopes after his injured thighs made even routine things like sitting painful.

The 25-year-old Indian lifted a total 317 kg (144+173) and was so ahead in the competition that he forfeited his final clean and jerk lift.

“I had no hopes of winning a medal after I injured my thighs during the National Championships while attempting 194 kg in clean and jerk. It’s a quadriceps problem; even now I am competing at less than ideal fitness, but I am glad that was enough to get me a gold,” said Sathish, after the medal presentation ceremony during which he was accorded a warm applause from the packed arena.

“I was in so much pain that even sitting was very painful for me. Everyone took care of me, gave me hope but I was not very confident. I had not trained that hard and my body was not at its best, and so how could I hope for a medal,” added the Tamil Nadu lifter.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 07: Gold medalist Sathish Kumar Sivalingam of India poses during the medal ceremony for the Men’s 77kg Weightlifting Final on day three of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre on April 7, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a fascinating contest of one-upmanship between Sathish and eventual silver-medallist Jack Oliver of England in the snatch competition.

The two kept upping the weights before their attempts but Oliver kept his nose ahead at the end of snatch as he lifted 145 kg in his second attempt. It was a kilogram more than Satish’s final attempt.

However, Satish had the last laugh in clean and jerk after Oliver failed two attempts of 171kg and settled for a total of 312 kg (145+167).

The bronze medal went to Australian showman Francois Etoundi, who lifted 305 kg (136+169) and collapsed clutching his injured shoulder after his final lift.

“I got lucky there, had he (Oliver) not dropped those weights, I would have had to go higher and I am not sure how my body would have taken that. I am quite relieved actually.”

At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Sathish won the gold medal with 149 kg snatch and 179 kg clean and jerk lifts, totalling 328 kg. His lift of 149 kg in snatch continues to be the Games record.

“I didn’t want to touch that level because I still need to undergo rehabilitation. The fact that the access to our physio was limited made it all the more difficult. I just hope that we get a physio with us at the Asian Games,” said Sathish, once again highlighting the problems the weightlifters are facing due to the lack of accessibility of their physios in the competition area.

Sathish is also the reigning Commonwealth Championships gold-medallist.

“I hope to do even better in the Asian Games because there is a gap now. Earlier, the Asian Games used to come within 20-25 days of the Commonwealth Games, which didn’t give us enough time to prepare. But this time I have got time to prepare and be fully fit now,” he said.

Tags: Jack OliverKumar SivalingamSathish SivalingamFrancois EtoundiIMAGE

Source:   www.rediff.com

Natarajan

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

Will Chennai be able to save a 300 year old Plaque connecting it to its Armenian Past …?

The plaque is the last living relic of the Marmalong, the first ever bridge built over the Adyar river in 1726 by Armenian trader Coja Petrus Uscan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you take a walk across the busy roads of Saidapet in Chennai, chances are that you would cross what is perhaps one of the oldest living relics that connects the city to its Armenian past.

To the uninitiated, it may look like an unremarkable slab of stone on a pale green crumbling wall. However, this ordinary looking slab of stone is in fact a 300-year-old plaque that belonged on the pillars of one of oldest bridges in the city.

Marmalong Bridge, the first ever bridge across the Adyar river, was commissioned in 1726 by Coja Petrus Uscan, an immensely wealthy Armenian trader. Uscan, who had decided to settle in Madras after coming to the city in 1724, paid 30,000 pagodas from his own money to build the bridge and another 1,500 pagodas for its upkeep.

“Uscan was immensely respected and perhaps was even one of the only non-British allowed to stay in Fort St George or the White town. A devout believer in St Thomas, Uscan wanted more people to visit the Saint Thomas Mount, and therefore removed the two impediments – the river and the lack of steps – by building the bridge as well as 160 steps to the mount. This was the initial purpose of the bridge. But all that soon changed as the Marmalong Bridge became crucial to the expansion of the city, especially towards the South,” says Chennai-based novelist and historian Venkatesh Ramakrishnan.

Mount Road came after the bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Mount Road, around which the city developed, came 60 years after the Marmalong bridge.

Named after Mambalam, one of the villages near the Adyar, the Marmalong Bridge perhaps laid the foundation stone for the city as it led to the emergence of the Mount Road, around which Chennai developed.

“It was only natural that a road followed after a bridge was built. The British built the Mount Road in the 1800s, around which the city grew. So, in a sense, the bridge led to the city’s birth and is very close to its heart,” Venkatesh adds.

However, the Marmalong only lives in our memories today. Where the arched bridge of Uscan once stood, a concrete replacement called the Maraimalai Adigal Bridge now exists. There are no traces of this Adyar-Armenian connect but for the last living relic – the plaque commemorating Uscan’s construction of the bridge.

With inscriptions in three ancient languages – Persian, Armenian and Latin, the Uscan plaque was established in memory of the great nation of Armenia and is a tribute to the people who helped build the city.

“The Armenian inscriptions are on the lower portion of the plaque. It can’t be read because the writing has faded with time and neglect,” according to Venkatesh.

Crusade to preserve the plaque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The neglected plaque stands near the Saidapet Metro construction site. 

Displaced from its original site, the plaque faces the perils of urbanisation and is further threatened by the metro rail work that is underway.

Years of neglect and development in the area has buried the stone in layers of debris. In fact, the bottom of the stone has disappeared under the ground as the road levels have been rising every year due to re-carpeting, Venkatesh laments.

With the construction of the Saidapet Metro station underway, historians who are fighting to save the plague urge the CMRL to give the stone a place of honor in the metro station.

Highlighting the importance of preserving such relics, Venkatesh says, “The Armenians have contributed immensely to this city. I believe it is important to preserve all traces to this link. It is really unfortunate that while the Uscan stone stands neglected, another plaque at the Fourbeck Bridge is preserved by the Architectural Society of India,” he said.

A dedicated group of Chennai historians have launched a Facebook page “Retrieve Uscan Stone” to draw attention to the issue and save the plaque.

“The Saidapet Metro work is too close to the plaque. We have been urging the officials to move the relic to a better place, may be a museum or a memorial site. We just don’t want to lose a precious piece of the city’s history,” Venkatesh says hopefully.

Source….https://www.thenewsminute.com

Natarajan

 

The village that gave India its new ISRO chief…..DR.Sivan

A humble son of a farmer who studied in local government run schools, in Tamil medium, is the new head of India’s premier space agency.

Dr K Sivan was born in Sarakkalvilai in Kanyakumari district in 1957. His father was a farmer, and Dr Sivan is the first graduate in the family.

By all accounts, his is an unusual story.

A young Sivan studied in government schools in his native village till the 5th standard, and completed his schooling in neighbouring Valankumaravilai, all in Tamil medium. Later, he graduated from the S T Hindu College in Nagercoil.

He then graduated from the Madras Institute of Technology in aeronautical engineering in 1980 and completed his master’s in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in 1982.

That year he joined ISRO on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle project, towards which he contributed in mission planning, design, integration and analysis. He has held various responsibilities during his stint in ISRO, finally going on to head India’s space agency.

At ISRO, he completed his PhD in aerospace engineering from IIT-Bombay, in 2006.

Dr Sivan, who takes over from Dr A S Kiran Kumar on Monday, January 15, for a three-year term, is only the second rocket scientist after G Madhavan Nair to head ISRO.

MAGE: Dr Sivan’s family home in Sarakkalvilai village. He comes here regularly to attend family functions and for the Bhadrakali Amman puja. Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Sarakkalvilai falls on the outskirts of Nagercoil, which is the headquarters of Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. All of a sudden this small village has become the centre of attraction for people near and far, thanks to its famous son.

“Take the next right and it is at the end of the road,” says a villager, and as you reach the house you realise it is as unpretentious as the man who grew up there.

Dr Sivan’s sister-in-law Saraswathi lives in the family house with her daughter. “My eldest daughter got married five months ago and Sivan had come for the function,” she says, her eyes glowing with happiness.

Since the announcement about his appointment, people have been coming in droves to congratulate her, and her face beams with pride.

“I was married 30 years ago into this family and at that time he was already working for ISRO in Thiruvananthapuram. He used to live in a lodge then. He comes home for festivals and family functions,” says Saraswathi.

The conversation is interrupted when former Tamil Nadu Congress president Kumari Ananthan lands up with a dozen supporters to congratulate her.

One of the men who comes along with Ananthan hands her a book with the message, “Please give it to him when he comes next.” Another hands her a monthly magazine.

“He comes here every year for the Badrakali Amman puja which takes place in April-May,” adds his sister-in-law.

“He comes with his family, offers prayers and leaves the same day. He always comes for all family functions. When he is with the family he is always smiling and joking. He never calls, but his wife calls regularly and keeps in touch with us,” Sarawathi says.

“He was a class topper from school to college,” says Dr Sivan’s uncle who lives in the house opposite.

“He was a brilliant student and never went for tuitions or private classes. His father used to pluck mangoes and young Sivan used to go to the market to sell it. He was a helpful child,” the uncle adds.

The school Dr Sivan studied at is also opposite the family house. The retired PT master there recalls him clearly. “He was five years my junior in school, I remember him as a very quiet boy.”

“I too was five years his junior,” another villager pipes in. “You know the final exams used to come during harvest time. His father used to be in the field while Sivan sat on the lower branch of a tree with his books, studying, keeping one eye on the harvest, and run if his father called. He was always studying.”

“When Sivan and I were in school we had a very good headmaster,” the villager adds. “That headmaster planted many trees in the school compound and made every class in charge of a few trees. In the morning, when we came to school, the first thing we did was to water the trees and only after that did we attend school.”

“Kanyakumari is basically an agricultural district,” an elderly villager points out. “Apart from coir, there was no industry here. We all survived on farming. It’s rich fertile soil and there is plenty of water. Paddy, bananas, coconuts, mangoes, rubber is grown here.”

“Sivan was exceptional,” the elderly gent adds, “while he helped his father in the field he continued studying every free moment.”

“As there was only a primary school here we went to nearby Valankumaravilai for our SSC (Class 10). Those days there was no 12th standard. As there was no bus facility we walked.”

A colleague from ISRO, who retired a decade ago and did not want to be named for this feature, recalls, “He (Sivan) would go home only to sleep. He is extremely hard-working and totally focused on his work. He was not only the first graduate from his family, he was also the first graduate from his village.”

FILE PHOTO::: New Delhi: Renowned scientist K. Sivan has been appointed as the new Chairman of ISRO, by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet on Wednesday, January 10, 2017. PTI Photo **                                                

“He is a disciplined taskmaster,” says D Karthikesan, former director of the ISRO Propulsion Complex in Mahindragiri, Tamil Nadu.

“He likes to keep everything on schedule and works with a deadline,” adds Karthikesan. “If he thinks there is a problem somewhere he will go and talk to the people actually working on the project, and never limit himself to seniors in the organisation.”

“Though he is a hard taskmaster,” the former ISRO scientist points out, “he is also extremely generous and always looks after the welfare of the people working under him. So people work hard for him.”

“He is a bold decision-maker,” says Karthikesan. “Where others may hesitate wondering if it would work or not, he will say it will work and will do it.”

“Though he followed the schedule strictly,” adds Karthikesan, “he also made sure that all parameters are met at every stage. Whether it is quality or safety, he made sure every parameter was up to the mark before proceeding, and yet kept a tight schedule.”

Dr Sivan has two sons. The elder one has finished his BTech, the younger son is in college.

The school Dr Sivan studied in was built over 60 years ago. “We need to pull it down and build another,” says a villager. A government-run school, the land was given free by Dr Sivan’s uncle.

The village still does not have a bus service, a fact the villagers highlighted to Kumari Ananthan, the Congress politician. Nor does it have a middle, high or higher secondary school.

K Sivan’s ascent bears an uncanny resemblance to another ISRO scientist who was born in a fishing village in Ramanathapuram, also in Tamil Nadu.

That scientist, of course, went on to become the most beloved President this Republic has had.

Source….A.Ganesh Nadar in http://www.rediff.com

Natarajan