When Anna Centenary Library opened up its world of books for rural school kids

In July 2017, the Nisaptham Trust announced the launch of libraries at 15 government schools across TN at a function held at the Anna Centenary Library in Chennai. For the visiting school kids and teachers, it was an experience of a lifetime.

Nisaptham translates to a lack of sound in Tamil. But a trust by that name translates the dreams of students from government schools into reality. In a function at the Anna Centenary Library in July, the Nisaptham Trust run by IT professional and writer Vaa Manikandan announced the launch of libraries at fifteen government schools across the State.

While the initiative is undoubtedly a noble and commendable one, the launch occasion itself was also significant and awe-inspiring. Students and teachers from various government schools had converged at the Anna Centenary Library for the event and were visibly inspired by the library, an institution in itself.

For teachers like Mani Maran from Thiruvarur, a visit to the library was perhaps a cherished event in his life as a teacher. “It is such a big beautiful library. I wish our children could use the library often,” he told us with a tinge of sadness in his voice.

For many of his students too, the visit was an eye-opener. “We have heard of libraries from our teachers. We are glad a library is being set up in our school. But we are even happier we came to Chennai and to this library,” says a young boy from a government school in Thiruvarur.

The ACL glory

Manikandan said the idea of holding the event at the Anna Centenary Library was to make students aware of the endless possibilities a library can open in their lives. “What better place than ACL to do this?” he asks.

Modelled on the Singapore library, the ACL has been built on 8 acres of land and houses nine floors, including separate sections for Braille and own book reading. The visiting students could not contain their excitement as they were taken around the library. Most of them were seen thanking Manikandan for introducing ACL to them.

The vision behind the visit

For Manikandan himself, Nisaptham is just a way of life. He started it as a website and later when he knew the platform could be used to help the needy, he converted it into a trust. Nisaptham trust besides helping realize the dreams of students also support the poor in their medical needs.

Vaa Manikandan, Founder of the Nisaptham Trust

“As far as libraries are concerned, we are aware that in villages, libraries are hard to come by in government schools. So we decided to set them up in villages mostly. Till date, we have done setting up libraries in 27 schools.” There is one such library set up in Chennai too, at Madumanagar, an area shortlisted since it had little access to libraries.  

Manikandan has also helped set up smart classrooms in four schools at the cost of Rs 84,000 each.

Prod him more and Manikandan shyly shares how it all began: “A few years ago a student from Villupuram had designed a robot and was selected to attend a conference in Japan. But he did not have the money to travel to Japan. I wrote about this on my website and in a couple of days, we could raise 80,000.”

The incident did not just raise his hopes about being able to help those in need, it also made him apprehensive. “I would call it an increased sense of responsibility. So I ensure that public money goes to deserving persons. Nisaptham is just a channel.”

Every weekend, Manikandan travels in government buses and stays wherever possible (including bus stands at times), to meet the beneficiaries and collect their details. As a rule, Nisaptham never accepts donations in cash. “I wanted to ensure transparency at every level of operation. We publish Nisaptham’s account details on social media and it is up for anyone to look at.”

As the young boy chirpily waves at Manikandan and thanks him for the library at his school in a remote village, Manikandan knows he has done his bit for the day. “But it is a purpose of a lifetime. And we are guided by nothing but our experiences.”

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