Vienthanpatty is a small village, 20kms away from Tirupptur town in Pudukottai district. When one enters the narrow village street one is taken aback by the slums and thatched roof huts. As we keep moving deep into the village, we could see the houses of the Chettinads of Tamil Nadu, who are rich business persons and professionals.
But, curiously no one lived here though one could see a few beautiful houses. On probing, I was informed by Amala that though the village was rich in history, no one wanted to live here any more. Hence it remained neglected.
Ten minutes later we reached the school. It sat on a huge stretch of land leased from the people of Chettinad. It was all so beautiful with kids running all over the place. Some children were painting the school with their art; few were being taught an ancient self-defense technique called Silambam. This is a weapon based martial art using a bamboo stick as the primary weapon. “We strongly believe our roots should not be forgotten. Hence we teach the kids Bharatanatyam, local music besides Silambam, etc.,” adds Amala.
As I walked into one of the classrooms, kids were busy with their Math class. They greeted me with warm smiles and started to interact excitedly. Some of them shared how they wanted to become a Principal like Mrs. Amala and how she is the role model and inspiration for them everyday. Others want to become professionals for which they realize the need to study well.
“There are students who are a little backward in their studies. I enrolled them in extra-curricular activities and they eventually stood amongst the top ten in state level karate and gymnastics. They were appreciated by everyone that boosted their confidence. Now, they stand among the top five. It is just a matter of recognizing their talents and molding them accordingly, rather than discouraging them”, explains Amala.
An old man in his 70s yet sturdy and upright came into the room with some coconut water. Amala introduced me to him and recounted his story. His name was Thirupaiah and he worked part time at the school as a security guard. He shared about how the institution not only supports kids but also helps others like him in their upliftment. Further, the institution provides sarees and other clothes every year for festivals for widows and sometimes even employs them at their school.
Joseph and Amala are truly inspiring. Their vision to provide empowerment to the less privileged is awe inspiring and they never go back on their word irrespective of any hurdle they may face.