Sipping a morning cup of coffee and flipping through the day’s newspaper, catching up with good old friends, visits to music concerts and plays to an evening stroll in the neighbourhood is what an idyllic post-retirement life is imagined to be. But, G. S. Venkataraman redefined it in his own unique way.
Soon after his retirement as a Senior Storage and Inspection Officer at the Central Warehousing Corporation, Mr. Venkataraman felt it was time to give back to the society. It had been 17 years since his wife who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, had passed away. Having seen his wife bedridden for the last five years of her life made him want to do so much more with his time. With the memory of his wife as the driving force, he went about on his mission of serving the community.
Mr. Venkataraman joined CRY as a volunteer in December 2000. His more-than-a-decade association with CRY and interaction with over 150 volunteers has seen a drastic dip in numbers of children engaged in child labour and school drop outs.
Mr. Venkataraman shares how the then Kannagi Nagar Public Action Group (PAG), Chennai put in backbreaking efforts in terms of providing medicines, emphasizing on Right To Education (RTE) through interaction with parents, laying roads, etc. He also recollects how he, along with 25 other volunteers used to work in the community every weekend and conduct workshops. He takes pride in having sold over five lakh greeting cards designed by CRY.
As he walks down the memory lane, Mr. Venkataraman recounts his unforgettable encounter with the Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar in 2002 when he was in Chennai for an ad shoot. “I had been asked to coordinate the meeting of 100 underprivileged children with Sachin at Chepauk Stadium,” said Mr. Venkataraman. “Sachin, inspite of being an idol figure, was humble and generous when he distributed a lot of sports materials to the children. I was touched by his simple yet great gesture,” he adds.
Mr. Venkatraman believes “young students are the ones who can bring about loud and impactful change”. He cites the example of how young volunteers in Surya Nagar PAG devised the Spoken English module and how it was executed despite the fact that most of the volunteers were not fluent in Tamil.
Mr. Venkataraman has also been an active volunteer with the Adyar Cancer Institute and Chennai Social Service Club for more than a decade now. When asked how he manages to volunteer in all three organizations at the same time, “I joined as a volunteer with the Cancer Institute within three months after joining CRY. Luckily, I could balance between both as Cancer Institute does not require volunteer help on Sundays. Hence, my weekdays were devoted to the Cancer Institute while the weekends were meant for CRY,” he says with a grin.
As told to CRY intern and student of Christ University, Lalitha Ranjani