Kutties Carnival

‘Play is the work of childhood’ – Jean Piaget

To give the children a day of play and fun – a Carnival! – with magic and colour and wonder and games… the stuff that is spun in the depths of dreams and longings of every child came from the head of Jyothi. And was backed by every member of Siragugal with heart and soul.

A couple of meetings to discuss what where when who and how put the framework in . A morning of workshops and an afternoon of magic and games at the Thalaiyattumund School was the frame work decided on. A trial run so we could expand later to include more schools and more events.

10th March saw Roopa , Sangeeetha, Jyothi, Desiree, Nivishna and others gather to decorate the school with paper flowers and buntings and balloons. In view of sudden rains it was decided to host the even inside the classroom.

11th March, 2017. Only the 8th standard kids were asked to come and help with preparations. 60 children turned up to add to glorious confusion. But it was their day after all!


A last minute gap in the morning slot was graciously filled in by Karuna Sendhilnathan with storytelling that held the kids rapt.


Simultaneously Sapna held another workshop making puppets with socks.Adding eyes and giving names to their puppets engaged another set.

Juniors lined up for some fabulous face painting , while waiting they watched Tom and Jerry. With some of the parents from the Main Bazaar school who were included in the group.

Break at 11 and the kids lined up for cake made by Desiree , biscuits from Jyothi  and an orange drink.

Groups get interchanged for the workshops. All eyes are on the juniors who dazzle as Batman, Superman, Wolf, Bird and a host of other creatures.

Everyone enjoys a heart vegetable biryani made by Roopa’s cook. And ask for more. The ominous look of rain cuts short lunch  break.


Shahul the magician shifts his show inside one classroom. These kids have not seen a magic show before and watch with open eyes.  Loath for the magic to stop.

Meanwhile volunteers are getting games stalls ready. Go Fish, Darts, Hoopla, carom, 7 more, Pin the tail, Memory game, 2 buckets and a Ball….. the volunteers start making up more games as kids line up again and again. The games become the greatest hit of the day and the children don’t want to stop playing ever.

We finally shoo them home with the help of the teachers at 5.30 p.m. and go home very happy and tired!

With our faces and hands painted !!  The child in each one of us !

The next day saw the painted faces in the HIndu and Thina malar.



Craft and what it does



Nivishna took these words , painted her life  color-full and inspired us all.

Lets not stop with English she said. Lets teach these kids some craft, let them enjoy making something with their hands and eyes and arms and legs. Every week.

And so the Wednesday classes were born.

Mehendi, drawing , painting, craft with recycled stuff, clay models, dance, drama… the kids are having a shot at them all …

Blowing on the Buds

Once a bustling School , the centre of the lives of hundreds of children; the Municipal School in Main Bazaar is now a ghost of its former self, with only 9 children on the rolls. When a govt  school  strength is tiny ; the kind of parents sending their children here have to be  neglectful or  ignorant or in such dire straits that the education of their children hardly matters to them .

When they  join the school, some of  the children barely whisper or look people in the eye. With continued attention, they blossom and grow.

Siragugal has deputed one of its most beloved volunteers to get these children to open up.

Sangeetha ‘becomes one with the children’ says the HM. She teaches, laughs, cajoles, jokes, sings, acts her way into their hearts. And the children are opening up as they recite rhymes, draw, speak up and laugh.

Constantly thinking about how best they can be helped, Sangeetha is giving her best to these children. We hope her lessons may continue long.


How many more Days to my Birthday

Birthdays are the most awaited event in a child’s life. Surpassing Deepavali, school day and even excursions. Its a day when anyone, from child to adult, feels extra extra special. A day when every moment is spent in the hope of being singled out and made a fuss of.

But for some children, the hope dies out at the end of the day; with just an extra note of attention being showered on them. No cake, or candles, no gifts, no song, nothing much singles out this day from others.

So Sapna of Siragugal came up with the idea of birthday parties. We would host one every month to celebrate all the birthday kids of that month.There would be cake and song and games and gifts!

Sapna bottles up her fizz to let it out on special occasions and how the kids enjoy it all. There she is with her team of Sangeetha , Prema, Geetha and whoever is available to sing and dance and follow her lead in uninhibited gaiety.

Special thanks to Jyothi and her family who supply the gorgeous cakes every month


AGM 2016

The 7TH AGM OF SIRAGUGAL was held on the  19TH of  November,  2016 at 11 A.M. at Montauban Christian Guest House, Ettines Road, Ooty.



Members Present:

  1. Mrs. Kalyani Chidambaranathan, President, 2015 – ‘16
  2.     Ms. Jyothi Mehta, Treasurer, 2015-‘16
  3. Mrs. Roopa Suraj, Secretary, 2015 – ‘16
  4. Ms. Nivishna Venkatraj
  5.   Mrs. Geetha Pillai
  6. Mrs. Prema Murali
  7. Mrs. Sangeetha
  8. Mrs. Sapna Parekh
  9. Mrs. Sheela Powell

Guests Present:

  1. Mrs. Beena, Teacher




Calling of the meeting to order:

The President, Mrs. Kalyani Chidambaranathan called the 7th Annual General Meeting of Siragugal to order.


Welcoming the members and guests:

President, Mrs. Kalyani, extended a warm welcome to all the members and guest.

Confirmation of the minutes of the 5th Annual General Meeting:

The minutes of the 6th Annual General Meeting of Siragugal held on 8th May, 2015 was circulated among the members.

The minutes was passed and seconded by Mrs. Sapna Parekh

Annual Report for the year 2015-’16:

A detailed report of all the activities for the year 2015-’16 was read out by the Secretary, Mrs. Roopa.

The report outlined the involvement of the members in sustaining Siragugal through different programmes and activities.

. Career guidance workshop was held at the Government Higher Secondary School, Ooty on 24/07/’15 in which six individuals from different professions spoke to the students.

. Career guidance workshop was also held at the Gell Memorial School, Ooty on 27/07/’15 in which seven individuals addressed the students.

. On 5th September, 2015, story books and Encyclopaedia were distributed to the students of Om Prakash School, Kandhal.

.On August 15th, 2015, students of Lalitha Matriculation School were given reading books as part of Independence day celebrations.

.Several books were also donated to the Hindi Prachar Sabha school in the month of April, 2016.

.An English teacher was appointed by Siragugal in the month of June, 2016 to teach spoken English to the Thalaiyatumund School, whose classes have since then been appreciated by the AEO and the DEO.

.On September 8th, (World Literacy Day), 2016, story books were distributed to the students of Thalaiyatumund School and its library.


Presentation of the audited accounts for the year 2015-‘16

Treasurer, Ms. Jyothi Mehta presented the audited accounts for the year 2015-’16.

Opening balance                                 : Rs. 2,05,073/-

Closing balance                                  : Rs. 2,77,524/-

The accounts was passed and seconded by Ms. Nivishna.


Presentation of the outline of the programme for the period remaining for the year


A lot of suggestions were provided by the members for the smooth running of the organisation.

The decision to adopt Thalaiyathumund school by Siragugal was unanimously agreed upon and it was decided that the spoken English classes by the hired teacher, Mrs. Beena will continue at the school.

The decision to celebrate the birthdays of the students on a monthly basis was agreed upon & Mrs. Sapna and Mrs. Sangeetha were entrusted in organising the same and a budget of Rs. 4,000/- was passed.

Mrs. Sangeetha has agreed to teach the children the basic sewing skills and Mrs. Sheela Powell will help her with providing the materials.

Mrs. Sangeetha will also go to the Government Muncipal School near the hospital road and start the activity classes after the school reopens.

Ms. Nivishna will be in charge of organising the once a week activity classes by the members and volunteers at the school.

A movie screening for the students at Ashia, a Rotary run school for special children, was suggested and Ms. Jyothi has been given the responsibility to organise the same for the month of February, 2017.

It was unanimously agreed upon to donate playground equipment to the school and a budget of Rs. 50,000/- was passed for the same.

Mrs. Sheela Powell will monitor those students who are genuinely interested in pursuing careers in the catering field and those students will be helped by Siragugal in enrolling for related courses.

It was decided to maintain the Facebook page and the webpage to be considered after checking out the rates. A budget of Rs. 5,000/- was passed for the same.

It was agreed that the salary of Rs. 2,500/- will continue for the hired teacher till the next financial year.

Presentation of the budget for the remaining period of the year 2015-‘16

Treasurer, Ms. Jyothi presented the budget for the coming year. A total budget of

Rs. 86,000/- for the next four months was passed and seconded by Mrs. Gita Pillai.

Any other matter:

President, Mrs. Kalyani felicitated Ms. Grace, teacher of Municipal  Primary School, Main Bazaar, Ooty for being awarded the best teacher award by the Government of Tamil Nadu.

She also congratulated Ms. Beena, the teacher appointed by Siragugal, for being appreciated by both the AEO and the DEO.

Mrs. Kalyani also applauded Ms. Nivishna for having taken the initiative to give direction to the activities of Siragugal.


Vote of thanks:

President, Mrs. Kalyani Chidambaranath proposed the vote of thanks.


The 7th Annual General Meeting of Siragugal was closed and adjourned by the President.

The birthdays of two members , Kalyani and Geetha were celebrated very warmly by the members with a cake made by Jyothi.



Post It!

Finally a nice sunny Saturday afternoon after weeks of rain. And 18 children turned up to cheerfully celebrate the weather. Giving them some time to play first seems to help in quelling restlessness.

First I spoke to them about their favorite person. Usually it was Amma or Appa. The reason being ‘ because they buy me whatever I ask’. One child said it was her uncle. ‘I share everything with him’. ‘Share’ is another English word that has entered our vocabulary like ‘feeling’.

Coming up with their birthdays in English or tamil is tough for some of the Thalaiyattumund kids. We did this exercise to find the oldest and youngest kids. The younger kids got the picture postcards while the older ones got envelopes.

As it was the first letter they are writing in their lives, we did some discussion on what they were going to write. It was decided that they would write to their parents. Hard facts came up during this discussion. My father left. My mother left. My father remarried. The language was Tamil so that the parents could ask someone to read it to them even if they couldn’t read.

And then they settled down to write. When it came to addressing it, they were rather clueless. They have never had to write their address. Street names were not known. In the course of this week, they will find out, and we will write it out as best as possible and hope for kindness from postmen.

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A Roundup of Schools

This has been a week of visiting a few schools from which children visit Siragugal.

Thalaiyattumund School held a rally on Monday, 9th of June  the  to promote rain water harvesting. A last minute CEO directive and a last minute invite to flag off the rally. The children marched through the main road of the area , shouting slogans, holding up placards with very little understanding of what it was all really about. What it was truly about was fulfilling a directive that had filtered down from the top of the education department.


There was an air of positivism in the Main Bazaar Elementary School. Large classrooms had been tiled, walls painted, pictures and charts put up very neatly. One young teacher had been enticed to teach Computers on two days and ‘Spoken English’ on three. The Headmistress was happy because the meager strength of the school had been enhanced by children from a new orphanage. One room had been set aside just to play indoor games.


It was sad to hear  that many of the children remained very silent and had to be coaxed to even smile or say anything. And these are small children below the age of 8!

The CMM school Headmistress was welcoming, encouraging and pleasant as usual.She promised to encourage children to come to the library. And to have a career counselling soon.


The Govt Higher Seconday school Headmaster in charge turned out to be an old friend – Prabhakaran. He talked of how interest in the children can turn them around. He had many changes in mind for the school and hoped to be left at the same school so he too could implement them. He too repeated the refrain – government directives every hour by email which keep the headmaster and teachers very busy so the actual teaching gets neglected.

Everywhere, we heard about the children who come to these schools – from single homes, alcoholic parents, abusive parents, abandoned homes.. these are the children who wind up in government and municipal schools. These are the children who need our help. To help them find their potential, to discover hidden talents, to help them fly.


Friends of Siragugal Day

The past few weeks have been rushed with preparations and rehearsals for a public function to mark 5 years of our Society.


We decided to invite a number of people who have been supportive of us through these years.  And create a small presentation to show the work we have been doing. Of course the budget would be as tiny as we could squeeze it.



YWCA, Anandagiri was fixed as the venue. The glass dining room is a very pleasant space. Mrs.Chaterjee graciously waived charges for the stage and sound system.


The theme for the play with the children came up during a brainstorming session. We would showcase the various classes going on at Siragugal – yoga, english, story telling, science, computers and dance and make it as  interactive as possible.  Sapna wrote the draft for the play while the various teachers rehearsed their scenes with the children.

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Sangeetha did a great job with the song ‘we shall overcome’ with the kids of Thalaiyattumund.


Nivishna gave the welcome.


Jothi compereed the event and gave a beautiful movie style presentation of our past events. Kalyani presented the vision for the future years.

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Roopa appealed to people to join us in events. And opened the floor for audience interaction. DSC_0360

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We finished with tea, sandwiches and muffins



The great team !!

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Career Counselling -2

Our second shot at Career Counselling was at the Govt. Higher Secondary School, Ooty. We were given 2 hours and a date. The day before Dday, the Headmistress wouldnt pick up calls. So it took some time to track her down. And another day was fixed.

I turned up in the morning to make sure this day too wouldnt get cancelled. At first sight, the Head Mistress, Rukmini said, Today. Not possible. The 10th are having revision. I just said ‘ you promised and we’ve invited lots of people’. And sat there and smiled. While I prayed internally . Through gritted teeth.

She called some of the teachers and there were lots of consultations.Finally , they decided to hold the revision test immediately , freeing the 10th standard in the afternoon. And the teachers were cooperative.


At 1.45, we put up the banners.  The ninth and tenth standards were assembled in a large classroom, which was swept clean. Some desks were put up in front and some nice tablecloths were produced 🙂


Shanta who was very helpful in setting it up. She teaches Social Sciences and is very dedicated.

The first speaker was Venkatesh of DCIS. He gave a good talk about career and vision in software and hardware. Next was Proff Shanthi of the Department of Horticulture who highlighted all the colleges offering various courses in TN.

Ganapathy of GoodLuck Printers whom I had called at the last minute, had studied the boys while waiting. He gave them a short but forceful talk motivating them and said he would be prepared to sponsor any child who got more than 450 in the 10th through plus two.

Proff Jawahar of JSS College put away his prepared speech and spoke to the boys , man to man, saying even he had studied in a govt school but had managed to rise up.


Anand  , with 18 years of IAF experience told them how they could get a good job right after Plus two with a very good salary and all things provided.

Chef Nataraj of Sullivan Court gave them a glimpse of the kitchen and what it takes to work there.. He promised to show them around the kitchen of the hotel.

Sangeetha, one of the volunteers at Siragugal gave a rousing speech at the end telling the boys they need hard work, sincerity and passion whatever profession they choose.

All the speakers were very happy to have spoken to such children who really need guidance. Call me anytime they all said.


The children come from broken homes, single parents, orphanages , govt hostels. The children who are not wanted in any other school, said one teacher succinctly. We felt we had done good even if 10% of the children were inspired by the talks.

And felt doubly rewarded when 4 children turned up at our Siragugal Library the next day.

First class

Guest post by Priyadarshini, who has just started teaching at Siragugal

When asked to take my first class at Siragugal, I was quite nervous. I had never really taught before and the thought of facing a group of children, coupled with the fact that I hadn’t had much time to prepare was a bit daunting.

But walking into the library and looking at the sea of eager faces, something changed. And prepared or not, I ventured forth. We started with numbers – age, time, dates and so on. And I was surprised at the things they knew and didn’t. Most of them could rattle off their phone numbers by heart but were unaware of what an address was. They could tell the time perfectly (some of them on their digital watches) but dates were a problem. They faltered over dates like Independence Day and Children’s Day which I had assumed were an integral part of school life. Although, this being a Christian school, all of them knew Christmas perfectly.

The class has been a learning experience on both sides. My communication style is a bit vague, which doesn’t work very well in the classroom. I learnt to focus on a single concept and emphasize it repeatedly. Games are good in this regard, but too many of them makes the children excited and difficult to settle down.

I noticed that girls tend to stay quiet and in the background, not answering unless directly asked a question. Even during a game where the boys were falling over themselves to take part, the girls were reluctant to come forward when asked to. What was distressing was that when we split them into groups, most of the time girls tended to be excluded from the discussion. This is something that I am thinking about and wondering how to change.

Ooty has been having such miserable weather now and it is good to see the children turning up day after day in spite of the rain and the cold. It’s not always the same children everyday– some days there are children who ‘replace’ someone who doesn’t come. It may be the pull of the games in the library rather than the classes themselves, but something makes them come everyday. And that that reaffirms my faith in what we are doing here.