She doesn’t feel ashamed or annoyed when people quiz her about her middle name — Korukkai. Rather, she proudly explains its origin — Korukkai is a small hamlet in Kumbakonam Taluk in Thanjavur district, and Manasvini Korukkai Ramachandran’s family hails from there. What is so interesting about this 22-year-old Chennai ponnu?
Unlike her ancestors who left the village for better prospects, Manasvini is going back to her roots — she is planning to clean up the village and make it plastic-free! “I am a product of this place and through this initiative I want to give back to the people. It’s not a social service, but my duty to do good for the village,” says the dancer.
Manasvini, nurtured in an artistic milieu, was trained in Bharatanatyam by her mother Revathi Ramachandran for over 17 years. She started her village development activities by teaching the students classical dance. “I often travel to INDeco Swamimalai to demonstrate the dance to foreign guests — and during one such journey I decided to train students from three villages (Thimmakudi, Baburajapuram and Korukkai) — in dance. We have a rich heritage, but most children think that our tradition is kuthu and Bollywood dance! I am not degrading the popular forms, but it’s sad that children from Kumbakonam and Tanjore, the places of the origin of this dance form, know so little about it,” says Manasvini, adding, “I use art as a medium to teach them communication, presentation, history and culture.”
A biotechnology graduate from Anna University, she was always involved in eco-friendly activities and was actively involved in paper recycling, composting and nature walks from her school days at Bala Vidya Mandir, Adyar. As time goes by, her sensitivity towards environment increased. Talking in detail about the village development activities, Manasvini says, “The amount of plastics in villages in TN is alarming. Many don’t know the hazards of using plastic and there is no one to teach them about it. Since I hail from Korukkai, I am able to make the villagers understand the dangers of it. I choose to work with children because their innocence and desire to bring about a change inspires and helps me.”
So, how did she gain the support of the people there? “Usually, villagers are a bit hesitant to accept help from outsiders. However, since my appa is actively involved in establishing the infrastructure of the village, I have an identity there. Also, the panchayat head, Thyagarajan, is very supportive of my work,” smiles the youngster.
“I have a lot of faith in the villagers and if given proper guidance to them and the students, they will excel. I have noticed a vast change in the attitude of the children after grooming them — they have become disciplined and are showing interest in various activities,” she adds. So far, Manasvini has had medical check-ups arranged for the 180 children of the school led by Dr Mani Balu from Pittsburgh, and a two-day ‘Math through Kolam’ workshop by one of the volunteers Kalpana Uday of Bangalore.
When queried whether she will adopt those villages, Manasvini clears the air — “Who am I to adopt the village? The village has to adopt me! It’s my duty to do something good for the villagers. We are starting the cleaning campaign in June or early July.”
For actuating the activities she has in mind, Manasvini has also started an organisation called ‘Kadhir’, and has even chalked out a five-year plan for the village!
(Those interested in joining her, can reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org)...