A helping hand, 100 years old
The Southern Railway, Rotary Club, and several organisations even honoured him on his 100th birthday on May 1.
TIRUCHY: Stationed under the shade of a neem tree with sunlight sufficient to read the day’s newspaper and a water tumbler in tow, CN Kothandaraman greets everyone passing by Chithirai Veedhi. It is not pity for a wrinkled face that garners acknowledgement in response, but the 100-year-old former railway staff’s history of serving the society. The Southern Railway, Rotary Club, and several organisations even honoured him on his 100th birthday on May 1.
Kothandaraman started his career as a clerk in 1946 and retired from service as sub-head of the accounts department for Southern Railway in 1981. At a time, bereft of calculators, he had earned the title of human computer from his colleagues for doing three-digit calculations in a jiffy. Apart from mathematics, Kothandaraman was also the cynosure of Srirangam for helping people. From arranging marriages to helping some find jobs, he has done it all. The Class 12 graduate also juggled his professional and social service with suave.
Kothandaraman begins his day with his morning prayer at Srirangam temple. Having spent all his life in the neighbourhood in Tiruchy, he is a well-known face and would make his way to the temple with locals approaching him with their concerns. He would listen and assure them of whatever help possible.And he delivered on his promises. “It was in 1956 or 1958, when he helped Rangathan, who was struggling to get a job. He came to know about Kothandaraman and approached him. His reference helped Rangathan get a job in the railway’s construction section,” recalls N Thiyagarajan (80), a former railway staff.
After his prayer at the temple, Kothandaraman would return home and list the details of every single conversation he had earlier in the day. Then, he would try and find a solution to each issue, beginning with his vast network of friends and family with no expectations for any return. His service was also concealed from his sons, who got to know of it from the beneficiaries. “I always admire his punctuality and disciplined life. He does not like to sit idle. He likes to talk with people and listen to them,” says Kothandaraman’s eldest son K Ranganathan.
Cut to 2023, although age has made it difficult for him to visit the temple, it could not dampen his spirit. He continues to sit in front of his house and smile at everyone. If there is anything that he misses, it is his wife Kalyani, who died in 2015. But even her demise, he says, is a will of God.
“God has blessed me with everything. I have three sons and three daughters. Altogether, there are 27 people in my family. For me, they are like 27 stars. What more do I need? I have a content life. I was just an instrument for helping people. My advice to youngsters is that you should help others without expecting anything from them. “Paropakara punyaya papaya parpidam’ (Helping others is good, while harming others is sinful),” he says.