Sunday, August 23, 2009

Madras Week: INTACH competition in schools a success, despite virus scare





One of the big successes of Madras Week this year has been the participation by schools and colleges in essay writing and drawing competitions, debates and exhibitions. More than 100 schools and colleges would have taken part by the time the exercise, being conducted by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), gets over by the first week of September. Sankara Vidyashram in Thiruvanmiyur had sought postponement for a while, the reason for the exercise not getting over during Madras Week.

It is a remarkable achievement, considering that the city, like many others in India, was in the midst of the H1N1 virus scare, with several students reporting sick and being asked to go home. There were reports of low attendance in some schools. Also, many schools had their calendars chock-a-bloc with the usual annual events. However, all of them were keen to be a part of Madras Week. So, from Velliyan Chettiar School in Thiruvottriyur to Sankara Vidyashram in Thiruvanmiyur, and from Vel’s Vidyashram in Pallavara to MCtM Senior Secondary School in Purasawalkam, scores of children wrote, drew, debated and exhibited.

Broadly, the theme centred on coins, in memory of Raja Seetharaman, a well known coin collector and active member of INTACH. ‘Coins of the Madras Presidency’ was the theme for the exhibition, ‘An autobiography in the life of a coin in Chennai city’ was the topic given for the essay competition, ‘Will plastic money replace coins’ was the subject for debate.

A word also about two committed people from INTACH who made all this possible – S. Suresh, convener for the Chennai Chapter, and Prema Kasturi, co-convener. Not only did they put together the entire programme for the schools and colleges (college celebrations of celebrate Madras Week will take off later this week), both of them visited the various institutions before and during the week. Travelling to places such as Pallavaram and Thiruvottriyur isn’t easy, but they accomplished what they set out to do. There were small problems, of course – not even being provided water or a cup of tea in one or two schools, or being asked by the school to catch an auto from the suburbs to the city. But Suresh and Prema did not mind at all and bore all that in fine spirit.

I visited the Padma Seshadri School in KK Nagar on August 20 to have a look at the exhibition of coins. The Jubilee Hall was not packed to capacity as it normally is. That was because of the H1N1 virus scare. But the participants were keen. The school was the hub or nodal school for the area. K. Anjana and K. Arjun from Jawahar Vidylaya bagged the first two spots in the essay-writing contest; Sai Vinai of Pon Vidyashram and Vasudha Misra of PSBB, KK Nagar shared the third prize. R. Sudarsan and M. A. Vaidyanathan of Jawahar Vidyalaya won the first two prizes, respectively, in the coin exhibition; the third prize went to Varsha Hari of PSBB, KK Nagar. The students were all from Classes 7 and 8.

It was good to see Y. G. Rajendraa, management representative, PSBB Group of Schools, dropping by to motivate the children. It was also heartening to see the school attendant, Venkatesh, present with his display of old coins. He was an avid coin collector even as a youngster, he said.

Later, addressing students, Hemachandra Rao, former president of the Madras Coin Society, gave them a challenging task. He asked the students to try and collect all one rupee coins produced each year in India since 1947.

Pictures show Rao advising a student on how to display and take care of old coins; a view of exhibits in the hall; Rao and a student point at a display on the chart as Indira Vaidyanathan, principal, PSBB, KK Nagar, and Prema Kasturi, INTACH, look on; a student explains what she has displayed; and Venkatesh surprises everyone with his excellent display.

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