CHENNAI: Having faced the struggles of growing up in a self-centred metropolis, a team of 15 persons, including noted young director P Ranjith, has come forward to lend a helping hand to children of Chennai slums. Their organisation Neelam will help support the extra-curricular interests of children from poor families.
For many of Neelam’s founders, including Ranjith who directed the popular film Madras which portrayed a group of people from a slum in North Chennai, this is an initiative close to the heart. Speaking to CE, Ranjith said that his experiences prompted him to undertake such an initiative.
“I believe textbooks alone will not teach children what they want in life. I always wanted to learn painting as a child, and I realised the dream with the help of my uncle, an artist. But for many of my friends, it was not possible. I have a friend who used to sing well, another interested in dance, and a few others in sports. But the world did not get to know about their talent because they did not have a proper guide or the financial support to pursue their dreams,” said Ranjith.
“I have conveyed the same message in Madras. I did not want to stop just with the movie, but wanted to make it work in real life. That was how Neelam was formed,” he added.
Neelam will help children, who cannot afford to go to school or learn any extra-curricular activity of their interest. The activities include painting, music and dance, apart from karate and Kung Fu. The children in the 10-16 age group will be trained by professionals, as per their interests.
Another significant driving force behind Neelam is S Muthamizh Kalaivizhi, who was born and raised in Thakur Nagar in Ayanavaram slum, and is now a scholar on social justice and subalterns. After Class 12, Kalaivizhi cleared the Railway Recruitment Board, Group D exam. But she was posted in a canteen, where she washed vessels, and cleaned the premises of the ICF hospital. However, she simultaneously pursued BSc Psychology through distance education from Madras University and a part-time diploma course in management from Loyola College. “My classmates, who saw me sweeping floors used to ignore me and walk away. I realised education is the only thing that gives one respect. So, I joined Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. I took the national entrance examination and came first. I joined Masters in Dalits and Tribal Social Justice and Governance,” she said. She was then selected in a campus interview by an Australian company, where she worked on a project for the livelihood development and empowering of the aboriginal community. “I wanted to do something for people back home. I met Ranjith who had the same thought,” she added.
The classes will be held in Udaya Suriya Nagar Colony in Vyasarpadi every Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. Neelam has received 150 applications so far. Soon, the organisation will extend its programmes to Ayanavaram, Karalapakkam and Kannagi Nagar.
On Saturday, the group enacted a street play at C Kalyanapuram and Indira Nagar slums in Vyasarpadi, to inform parents about Neelam’s activities.