On 31st March, 2012, IndiaUnheard published a video produced by Chennai Community Correspondent Mani M. which chronicled a lone tribal girl’s unsuccessful attempts to enrol herself in teacher training school. The tribal girl Almelu was the first girl to complete her higher secondary in her Irula tribal community in the village of Gunavakam. But her inability to obtain the elusive Scheduled Tribe Certificate was keeping her from pursuing the education of her hopes and dreams. She is distraught as she speaks into the IndiaUnheard
camera of her year long struggle which was threatening to end in a bad and bleak manner.
On the other end of the camera is Mani M. Mani is a rationalist. He doesn’t believe in luck. He is a man of science. He’s an atheist. He believes in struggle, hard work and common sense. All of which makes him an eternal optimist and a humanist.
No darkness, he believes is too bleak to black out the flame of hope. And more importantly, being a community correspondent, the one thing he believes in is ‘community’. Not just the traditional communities of streets and corners and neighbourhoods but the communities of the new media – the internet, the email contacts, facebook and social media, online boards, all the cybercongregations of information and interest.
Every video that Mani makes, he makes sure that it reaches every node and corner of his network. His extended community passes the video through each different degree of separation until it goes far and wide. But Mani’s hope as his video makes the circuit is that it lands before the eyes of one who takes up the cause as a passion and joins Mani in his effort to bring change.
Almelu’s heart-wrenching testimony caught the attention of AIADMK party worker Venkatasan who reached out to Mani. Venkatasen is a political veteran, the one who understands the power structures at the Panchayat and carries enough weight and influence to make it move.When he made Alemelu’s cause his own, it was not long before she was issued her caste certificate. A few months later, she joined her teacher training course.
Mani is overjoyed. He himself managed to complete his studies because he had a benefactor who helped him through his education. When asked if he had changed his thoughts on luck, coincidence and serendipity after meeting Venkatesan and getting Almelu her certificate, Mani offers a definitive no. He likens it to a scientific experiment that worked and reiterates his belief in hard work, struggle and common sense. Like a great scientist once said – God doesn’t place dice.
Meanwhile, Almelu cannot wait to finish her course and she knows exactly what she is going to do once she turns a certified teacher.She sees herself returning to her community and helping other Irula girls like her complete their education and become professionals in their chosen field.
The hopes and dreams of the children, as she has witnessed so closely, are the responsibility of the community.