A ship was washed onto Besant Nagar beach, and a sandstorm, like the city had never seen before, hit the area. It was 2012, the year of cyclone Neelam. It was also the year a resident movement took root in this locality, after rescuing sailors who leapt into the sea.
While the crowd of onlookers applauded the five fishermen who jumped into the tepid water and hauled the sailors to safety, V Chandrasekhar, an onlooker, and his wife Vijayalakshmi, felt that no amount of praise would be enough to reward the men. Thus a society was born in the quiet colonies of Besant Nagar. It was started to take up issues they felt were neglected.
“We started with the five fishermen,” says the founding member of the Senior Citizens Group of Besant Nagar (SCGBN), professor V Chandrasekhar. Be it underprivileged college students or panhandlers with mere scraps for clothes, the group has helped many people and worked towards tackling area-centric issues like chain snatching.
They also distribute blankets to the poor, sensitise the public about health, and conduct other such programmes. The society is one of the busiest residents’ associations in the city. It runs a book bank that donates to needy students with the support of entities like Orange Opticals in Besant Nagar and Atos Leo Health Farm in Thiruvanmiyur pitching in as support systems and drop off points for those who wish to donate.
The group has almost 50 ‘members’ today, with an average age of 75. The youthful enthusiasm with which they take up issues has handed them a few successes, like securing ground floor counters for senior citizens at the Adyar Post Office, Besant Nagar TNEB office, and roping in experts for free coaching and soft skills training for students. They even give away a unique ‘Service Excellence’ award to organisations that are elder-friendly.