Two Chennaiites help turn liquor shop into library

Representative purpose only

Chennai: Reading has always been a source of enlightenment for the greatest of minds and library is a place where creativity and knowledge meet.

Social activists, Jagadheeswaran Dhakshinamoorthy (36) and Balaji Premkumar (33) have started ‘Abdul Kalam Arivagam’, a library at Padikuppam in Mugappair in the city. The place was a haven for alcoholics before it was transformed into a library.

Jagadheeswaran worked in an IT firm for almost eight years. He then quit his job to follow his passion: helping the society.

Balaji is a practicing lawyer who is also an ardent social worker. The duo played a vital role during the 2015 floods as they helped several residents along the Cooum River to return back to normalcy.

“We helped the flood-affected people by giving them daily supplies,” explains Jagadheeswaran. “After the floods, we still wanted to continue helping other people.”

That was when they came across a trouble faced by slum residents of Padikuppam.

“We came to know about alcoholic men causing a nuisance to the people,” says Jagadheeswaran.

“They would speak in foul languages or drink in the open and it was all witnessed by several children. We wanted to do something about it.”

The odds were in their favour as the TASMAC shop in that locality was shut down thanks to the High Court order that called upon the closing of several wine shops across the State.

“Even after that, we saw alcoholics gathering at that place, drink and cause problem to the residents,” he says.

“That was when we decided to transform the place into a library.”

Their idea was simple yet powerful. Jagadheeswaran and Balaji decided to rope in residents for help. But they were skeptical of their idea.

“They said no one will use the place,” says Jagadheeswaran. “But we didn’t want to give up easily.”

Thanks to the generous support from their well wishers, they brought many books, and also a computer. The library was opened during former president APJ Abdul Kalam’s first death anniversary and hence they named it as ‘Abdul Kalam Arivagam’.

“Several children turned up during the opening and it was wonderful to see them excited,” smiles Jagadheeswaran.

“Eventually even the elders liked the library and they appreciated our efforts.”

Now, it has two teachers who take computer classes and tuition for the underprivileged children free of cost. “The monthly expenses are covered by many donors,” says Jagadheeswaran.

The library also conducts competition for the children and several camps on social causes. “I have seen these children take books to their home and talk about it to their parents,” added Jagadheeswaran.

Mohammed Rayaan