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.



The Jumble sale

As a fund raising activity, it was decided that a jumble sale should be held. March seemed a convenient time , just before school exams and the first week  when people still have some money in their pockets seemed a good choice. It should be held on a Tuesday, market day for all labourers in the estates, was an opinion voiced by some quarters. In retrospect , not such a good rule to follow but Tuesday and Wednesday, March 10th and 11th, 2015  were picked for the jumble sale.

The team participated wholeheartedly.

Nivishna managed to get the Srinivasa Perumal Mandapam right opposite the market for the two days . The Chettiar Assocation gave it free for a good cause.

Aditi Devason designed the poster to be put up in various spaces all over the town.

Jumble sale poster-page-001

After spreading the word around to friends and family about cleaning up their houses and getting rid of clutter, space was needed to collect and store the stuff. Sapna Parekh persuaded the YWCA to give us a room for 3 days just to do this. jumblesale13

People came and dropped off books, clothes, curios, shoes, socks, household items, … For 2 days we sorted, repacked, labelled, put on prices and enjoyed a lot of camaradiere. We had decided to focus a lot on electronic waste and collected many items to be disposed later.

Handbills were distributed to schools, in and around the market.

Roopa contributed her usual professionalism by collecting huge cartons while Jyothi brought in several plastic bags. Sheela Powell organised the tables and chairs for the sale. Roopa made the tags for baskets and bags to be left outside the hall by shoppers. Nikita, Harshita, Nivishna, Geetha, Aditi, Jyothi worked hard to sort everything out into different boxes and bags.



                                                                      On D- day , when we opened at 10 am, a crowd of shoppers were thronging outside. Sales were brisk and fast. Some people came back again and again.


NIkita enjoying a moment at the Art table





Geetha and Sumathi at their Anything for 10Rs. stall which did brisk sales throughout


Aditi and Saideepa pose during a lull

jumblesale12Lunch was sponsored by Durga Hotel and Amirtha Hotel for all the volunteers for the two days.

Sapna came up with the bright idea of a lucky draw. Her son, Manav, inveigled many customers into buying a ticket. Winner of the draw, Revathi, receives her prize from Sumathi.

It was a great sale, weaving the volunteers into a tighter, stronger happier team.

Willie Wonkah, can we meet?

Every child’s dream. A trip to a chocolate factory. And where else but at Ooty, the town of home made chocolates. We finally were able to make this dream happen on the 25th of January, although we knew Ooty would be crazily crowded on holidays. The hopes of the children were more important than  minor nuisances.

Girls from Thalaiyattumund Municipal School and boys from CMM HIgher Secondary School gathered at the library by 9 a.m. Several young and pretty young women gave up a precious holiday to make these children happy. The Mehtas -Jyothi, NIkita, Harshita were joined by more Mehtas from out-of-town-  and her friend, Garima. Aditi Devason  joined us at the Chocolate Musuem on HPF road.

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After a tour of the Musuem, with lots of oohs and aahs and of course, samples. we left to have some fun. Reaching Kamaraj Sagar, we hopped off the van to explore the small dam. Like any dam, it was a picturesque scene. Our spiel on power generation was cut short by the boys climbing up a steep wall, to either slide down or jump off in heart stopping leaps.



Gharima teaches the girls how to whistle



The girls triumphant, after they climb up too!

Further along the Mysore road, we found an empty spot to have lunch. Finally the children from both schools bonded, sharing food and jokes. Post lunch, we set off to explore the area. A tiny pond, flowers, meadows, sheep, cows… this perfect spot had it all.



What can be more pleasing than to receive a flower?


Nikita becomes one of them as she organises the girls in games. Aditi watches , bemused.



Harshita joins in wholeheartelyIMG_3647

A group memory of a wonderful day.

Its time for the Races

A friend of a friend, Ananthakrishnan , software engineer and  serious biker, introduced us to  Anil, of Apex Racing Academy  who promptly invited our children to come and spend a day watching a group of bikers train and prepare for  bike racing.


Bikes, cars and speed seem to be part of the genetic buildup of boys. They wanted to go. More and more boys started appearing at the library in the evenings. We had a hard time restricting the list. We  chose not to take the girls, interest being the selective criterion.

On 20th December, we gathered at the library at 7 am. 20 boys from the 8th and 9th standards of CMM CSI School and Thalaiyattumund Municipal School and three volunteers- Kalyani, Nivishna and Harshita. After the initial confusion of waiting for one boy who finally turned up, frozen and unable to speak, having run 2 km to catch up with us, we finally left Ooty at 7.45 a.m. in a Swaraj Mazda.


At 9 .30 we drove into Mettupalayam and were treated to a royal breakfast of dosai and pooris by Nivishna’s Aunt and Uncle . Then we proceeded to Chettipalayam, near Coimbatore, to the Kari Race Course.


We were given a warm welcome by Anil of Apex Racing Training Academy and his team. The boys were allowed to ask all their questions about bikes and racing to the assembled group of bikers. Fastest bike. How they become bikers. Pitfalls. Fuel. Special tyres. Then the boys presented a play in mime about road safety which they had been practicing all week.  Pedestrian safety, safety for cyclists and bikers. They enjoyed the drama of accidents and carrying out the injured a great deal.


Then we were led to a viewing gallery on top of a building from which there was a great view of the entire 2.5km racecourse . Bikers in training lined up below us and were cheered lustily by the boys as they revved up and moved out on to the tracks. As they sped around the curves and bends, the boys got very excited and there was a lot of adrenaline in the air.



Bharath came and showed the boys his special helmet with a little video attached to the side. He had specially decorated it with plumes in bright yellow. The boys thronged around him to try on the helmet and ask questions about how they could race too. Study hard, get a good job and then spend your money on bikes and racing he told them.


All too soon, it was lunch time. Boys were given biryani packets and a dessert of ice cream.  Post lunch , a theory class was given to the bikers with great detail about posture and the instructors showed them their mistakes. Meanwhile we watched other people race. The boys longed to go out on the track but without helmets and special suits, it wasn’t possible. As a sop, Anil got them to go around in the van.



The grand finale was the photo shoot. All the bikes were arranged in a perfect semicircle. Each boy was hoisted on to the back of a bike as a pillion rider. And their day was made. With terrific poses, a lot of photos were shot and then we left , to start the journey back.

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Bonus was a generous donation by Apex Racing Academy to Siragugal . And this inspired the caterer of the race course Jayakumar, to donate his earning of the weekend to to us!


With a short stop for tea and snacks at sivananda colony, we made it back to Ooty by 8 p.m., tired and very happy.

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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AGM, 2014

The Annual General Body Meeting was held on  Saturday, 19th July , 2014 at Siragugal Library premises at 3 p.m.

The meeting was well attended and several pertinent issues were discussed.

Rakesh, Kalyani, Dr.Sheela Nambiar, Sumathi, Sophia

Dr.Vanaja, Sangeetha, Nikita and Nivishna
r.Sheela discusses issues with Sumathi while Sophia chats with Dr.Vanaja


Jyothi cuts her cake to mark the 5th anniversary of Siragugal and her birtday

A Journey Through The History Of The Nilgiris

On the 14th of June, a Saturday, the children of the Thalaiyattumund  Municipal School andIMG_2324 C.M.M School along with Nakul (Roopa’s son) and his friend Sonaal were all geared up for a trip to Kotagiri accompanied by Kalyani, Nivishna and Roopa from Siragugal. The trip was planned as a fun filled learning experience, wherein, the children were taken on a nostalgic trip through the history of the Nilgiris.

The trip commenced at 10.30 A.M. armed with a lot of snacks, packed lunch and an enthusiastic bunch of kids. As soon as the van started, Nivishna encouraged the girls to sing and dance and it was indeed a feast to the eyes as they danced in sync to the tunes of many Tamil songs.

IMG_2329After an hour’s drive, they reached the Sullivan’s Memorial which is being run by Mr.Dharmalingam Venugopal who has been in pursuit of the history of Nilgiris for many years. It was indeed a very informative and learning experience for both the children and the adults as Mr.Venugopal took them through the painstaking journey of compiling and documenting the discovery of the Nilgiris by John Sullivan and the consequent changes and developments brought about by him.


After a tour of the whole library cum museum, theIMG_3234 boys started drifting off to the lawn to play some games whereas the more studious girls were interested in taking notes of the history.

Mr.Venugopal being the very gracious host invited the teachers for a cup of tea at his house which was a welcome relief to them after the herculean task of entertaining a bunch of hyper active kids!!

Lunch was served soon after, on the lawn and the children enjoyed a tasty spread. After lunch Roopa emphasised the need to avoid littering and made sure that all the disposable plates and glasses were properly stowed in garbage bags and put in the bins nearby.

IMG_3241After a couple of minutes of rest, the trip resumed to a nearby water fall. All the children enjoyed trekking down to the water fall and splashing water at each other under the watchful eyes of the teachers. After a short trek along the road, the view of the cascading water was revealed to them which had them mesmerised. Nivishna explained to the children how a water fall is formed and how the flowing water shapes the rocks into terraces. She also explained to them that no two leaves nor flowers will be exactly the same as nature has made them all unique. She then asked the children to draw ten different leaves and ten different flowers as home work. The inquisitive children had a lot of doubts to clear which Nivishna did very patiently. All this while, the kids did not miss posing for the photographs; especially the girls!




After the trek, the children as well as the teachers were ready for a little bit of relaxation. So they decided to drop in at the Nehru Park in Kotagiri on their way back. The children welcomed the time to enjoy their snacks and to play in the park area.


After an eventful day they all started their journey back. It was indeed a trip filled with fun and learning that left the kids asking for more.


The Siragugal team hopes to take these underprivileged children on more such trips which will give them more exposure at the same time enhancing their knowledge about Nilgiris and the environment around them.

Contributed by Roopa

And more – Vidyavanam7

To remind us of the approach to  education of some great visionaries and thinkers ; there was a panel discussion from four different schools of thought – Gandhi, Tagore, J.Krishnamurthi and Aurobindo reprsented by Dr.M.P.Mathai, Dr.Uma Dasgupta, Mr.Alok Mathur and Dr.V.Ananda Reddy

Dr.Rajan Gurukul , Professor and Director, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma WP_20140529_002Gandhi University, Kottayam, gave an eye opening talk on Social Sciences and Citizenship. He showed us how the dominant part of society decides what knowledge is important . And then knowledge of ‘lesser people’ is marginalized.

Dr.Pramod of the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History opened our eyes to the wonderful world we live in with his passion.  There are 14000 types of flowers in India and so , 14000 types of leaves. Observe, enjoy, revel in the natural world.

Communicate your joy to the young. Get them to trace bark on trees and see the differences. Teach them to look at plants and flowers and bees. Show them how to appreciate the natural world.

The very young Dr.Anish Mokashi who worked as a science teacher at Vidyavanam demonstrated to us how science can be taught at school, as something that kindles the curiosity and observation of students. He taught us that classes should be participatory if we want children to find meaning in their studies. 

There were a choice of workshops in the afternoon which were interesting. And created interaction among participants.  A dazzling  cultural show in the evening by the students of vidyavanam

A cornucopia of stimulating and reinvigorating ideas.