Kalloori Kaalangal - This Simple Down to Earth Top Ranking IAS officer offers easy implementable solutions to teenage challenges
It is 10.30 pm on a Monday evening. As one tunes to Channel 701 on Tata Sky, V Irai Anbu (State Topper in Civil Services Exam in the late 1980s) has just begun a new behavioral challenge for the day. For the next 30 minutes, he provides a simple process to be followed by the parents as well as their teenage kids.
It would easily rank as one of the most educative programmes on Tamil Television. And it is touching the magical milestone of 100 episodes.
For many months now, Irai Anbu has been addressing the parents as well the students (especially the teenagers) on handling that fascinating phase of adolescence through his half hour programme ‘Kalloori Kaalangal’ on DD Pothigai every evening at 1030pm.
Each day (Monday- Friday) he picks up an important aspect of this teenage phase and provides solid implementable methodology / behavioural techniques to the teenage students and their parents to pass through this period unscathed and with a positive developmental attitude.
As he starts talking about his recent experience on a train travel, he points out the insensitive conduct of many of the teenagers today. It was 10 pm when he boarded the train. For the next 5 hours, this boy was shifting from text messages to voice calls to working on the lap top. There were elderly gentlemen around but unmindful of the time of the night, he was loud in his mobile call. The light from the phone and the laptop were bright as well.
A colleague's daughter who was just into her teens was introduced to him recently. And the 'Confident'!!!!!!!!! young girl greeted him with a Hi! ( there)- probably the influence of chatting on messaging system. It did not mean anything to her that she was meeting this civil services state topper for the first time in her life. There are many such incidents he narrates in the course of his chat.
He joined work at a sub four digit salary. Today in the city where he did his graduation, students carry bundles of 500 rupee notes to college ( almost as pocket money)...
When he went shopping for his friend, he was shown a Rs. 5000 shoe by his friend. He replied that he had never bought a shoe in excess of Rs. 1500. Shot came the reply from his friend ' even my son buys shoes for over 5000. Irai Anbu sasy he is even selection about the shirts he buys for it should serve the purpose.
The ‘teenage challenges’ he deals with are those that every parent would be facing almost every day with their college going sons and daughters. His solutions are so well thought out and so very simple that the parents (and their kids) just need to follow it, almost blindly to achieve a positive change in their relationships!!! These involve very relevant tips in the management of inter personal relationship between the parents and children especially till the time the kids complete their college education.
Irai Anbu has been the District Collector of Kanchipuram District, Chairman of TTDC and Director of Anna Institute of Management. He is currently Commissioner, Economics and Statistics and over the last two decades and more has touched the lives of the common man and made a significant impact on the quality of life of the people in Tamil Nadu.
Golden Childhood in Salem
Born in Kattur, near Salem Junction, Irai Anbu did his higher secondary education at Sri Ramakrishna Saradha Higher Secondary School based on the philosophy of the parents in those days -the nearest school is the best one. An added reason was that his mother too worked there in that school.
Incidentally, he belonged to the first batch of ‘Plus Two’ students in Tamil Nadu.
Irai Anbu looks back at his school days with a lot of nostalgia and cherishes every moment while recounting his memories of what he calls the ‘golden childhood’ phase. ‘We went to school with joy and used our leisure time in playing various games. Education was secondary to enjoyment. We did not have cut throat competition in those days. Learning was a natural process. Less syllabus, minimum home work, no regimentation and lack of pressure on performance made our school life a beautiful experience.’
We had teachers who were simple, focussing mainly on teaching. The teachers were less paid in those days. Therefore, they had simple living and high thinking. They were strict without being cruel, disciplinarians without being harsh. They paid attention on all aspects of our personality. I modelled my handwriting based on the calligraphic letters of my science teachers. We loved our physical education teachers.
He says that even now, well over three decades after completing his schooling, his sweet school days flashes in his dreams and he often wakes up in a ‘pleasant mood’ having re-visited some of those glorious moments from his school days.
Importance of the English Language
In his Kalloori Kaalangal series, he narrates several instances of how students from the villages faced challenges of communicating in English when they entered the college phase of their life and beyond. He himself had studied in Tamil Medium till class V and initially found it challenging when he shifted to an English Medium School.
He stresses on the importance of learning the English language. ‘Knowledge of English is a must to transact with people from various parts of the world. Any good piece of literature written in other languages is first translated into English. Reference books for research are available mostly in English.’
He provides a lot of encouragement to students from Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns asserting that it is not difficult to learn English even for a person who did not have English as medium of communication in the initial schooling days.
‘In our days, English alphabets were introduced only in Class 3. Before that, we were very strong in Tamil and we could write Tamil essays in a flawless manner. Today, in many schools, English is taught before the vernacular language is introduced.’
However, he finds a large number of students who are fluent neither in English nor in Tamil. Moreover, they are not able to comfortably read Tamil. He is saddened by this development for he says that ‘the current generation of students are missing out on our ancient wisdom and the cultural elements emphasized in our tradition.’
After completing his schooling in Salem, Irai Anbu did his graduation in B. Sc (Agri) and later he also did a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). In addition, he has Masters Degree in Labour Management, English and Psychology. He also has doctorate in Business Administration and in English as well.
A Great Learning Phase
The years at the renowned Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore was an important learning phase in his life.
He found out that Agricultural Education involved a different style of academic life. There was a trimester system with grades in place. His daily routine would start at 7am with visit to the field carrying a spade for his agronomy sessions. Practical classes in animal husbandry, pathology and entomology were conducted in the morning hours. Insect collection, herbarium preparation, insect rearing, project preparations and presentation of seminar papers were a part of the curriculum.
While he enjoyed the food at the college for there was a wonderful mess with delicious cuisines, he remembers the library at TNAU with particular pride. ‘It was of international standard and had numerous journals and excellent books to support our learning process.’
Such was his enjoyment that he says that the four years of his academic life there passed like a few seconds.
Creating a Model Village in TN
One of his incredible achievements has been to turning the fishing hamlet near Villupuram into a remarkable ‘Model Village’. In the early 1990s he had visited the village as an Additional Collector and had initiated the process of converting the bamboo huts into concrete houses. But none of the villagers gave him a hearing. But similar to his Kalloori Kaalangal series, he persisted with his positive message on the long term benefits of this project. And finally they relented. He built several concreted roads in that village that had until then remained under developed and also set up a high school.
Re-kindling memories of his college days, he set up a huge library with 3000 books stressing the importance of reading literature, a topic that has always been close to his heart.
So pleased were the villagers with his contribution that they changed the name of the village from Mudhaliar Kuppam to V. Irai Meenavar Kudiyiruppu. When Tsunami struck, the village was devastated. But Irai Anbu was there again with his transformational activity. He came within a fortnight of the Tsunami to rebuild the entire village with new houses. For the first time in its history, the village had streetlights and drinking water facilities too.
Yet another Novel Idea
Later he also initiated construction in other villages of fishermen quarters by the beneficiaries themselves. This turned out to be a very successful experiment. He was so passionate about this project that even after his transfer, he continued to follow up till the completion of construction.
But Irai Anbu underplays his role with typical modesty. ‘I cannot claim anything as my personal achievement. Over the years, certain contributions have been made in the departments where I worked and they were mainly due to team work and excellent co-operation from my staff. It is also because of opportunity given by the government to accept my novel and creative proposals.’
So close he became with the villagers there that he began to look at Mudaliyar Kuppam almost as his own native village so much so that his familiarity with the people there was much more than that of his relatives at his birth place. Irai Anbu has had many more enduring projects over the last couple of decades but those have been done quietly away from the media glare.
He leaves with a message that will make those who have known him love him even more. ‘One should not brag about his good deeds and beat his own trumpet. Satisfaction that we derive after helping a deserving individual gives us more happiness than any award conferred on us or laurels showered on us.’