CHENNAI: Children come running to him calling him ‘appa’ to show him the candies they recently got. He takes one of them in his arms and proudly declares, “He is one of my kids.”
S Vidyaakar, founder of Udavum Karangal, has given a new life to around 8,000 orphan children. It all started 33 years ago, when an abandoned infant was brought to him by a rickshaw puller. He took it as an opportunity to give the child love, care and of course, a bright future. He lived with the child in a small hut in a slum area and now, he has built a house which thousands of children call their home. From HIV-affected children to kids with disabilities, he is a father to them all. When asked about how he felt when children call him ‘appa’, he says, “It feels natural, almost like an instinct.”
Vidyakar chose not to marry and has never regretted his decision. “Life is a question of priorities. I want to give 100% to the children, see them happy and gain happiness from that. I agree that marriage makes a man complete. I may be missing something, but I think I have gained a lot,” he explains.
He not only gives these children shelter but also an identity – all children at Udavum Karangal share the same surname – Vidyaakar. Sapna Vidyaakar, one of the girls at Udavum Karangal, says, “I want to be with appa as long as I can. I will return his help by helping others and reducing his burden.”
Another proud father of 55 children is Ranjith, founder of Balagurukulam. A doctor by profession, he too is an ‘appa’ by choice. “My aim is to educate these kids and make them responsible citizens,” he says. He lives with the children and his wife and ensures that equal attention is paid to every child. From giving the infants a bath to cooking for all of them, he does it all.
The first child whom Ranjith adopted says, “Appa is god”. This three-word statement encapsulates Ranjith’s role in their lives. Aakash, another child, says, “I want to be a doctor so that I can be like appa and help people. He has been a great father to us and taught us everything he knew.”
Inspired by a small orphanage and his father’s sufferings, K Satya Ganesh started Anaikkum Karangal three years ago. “I feel happy because the purpose of humanity is being served,” he explains. “I have been through loss, but even then I have not taken a step back because I want my children to be on the safer side.”
Ganesh and his wife Mahalakshmi have two kids of their own who study with the 52 kids in the school built by his father. “He is so particular about children that even if one thing goes a little haywire, he gets restless and cannot rest until it is set right,” smiles Mahalakshmi.
From the food quality to the curriculum, Ganesh takes care of everything personally. He hopes that his children learn the art of helping and caring and when the time comes, they each help five people. “This way, the world can be a better place,” he says.