CHENNAI: A curious coincidence led 62-year-old V Ravi to read about the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute attached to the Madras Sanskrit College in Mylapore which is languishing for want of funds at a time when he had just begun learning Sanskrit. An email thread, circulated on the subject, had made its way to the mailing list of the IIT-Madras alumni batch of 1971.
Now, its members – including Ravi who has volunteered to be the coordinator – are not just contributing to the cause, but working out ways to sustain the institution’s future as well.
“When my father passed away, I had to perform several rituals, but I didn’t know what they meant. This prompted me to learn Sanskrit. I have been attending classes organised by the Sringeri Mutt on Sundays for the last three months. The language is highly scientific and well-structured. It is a pleasure to learn,” Ravi said.
After a meeting with the staff of the institute, he realised that they were making a lot of sacrifices to keep the place running as the grants from the government stopped in 1995. Now surviving on contributions from corporates and private donors, the institute has introduced a scheme where it sends out books published as an outcome of its research in exchange for a lifetime membership of Rs 2,000.
Dr K S Balasubramanian, deputy director of the institute, says they have brought out 13 books over the last two years. “One of our library members sent out an email about the plight of the institute and we got about 100 lifetime subscribers. Since we are not well-versed with software, Ravi has offered to help us with technological support as well. There may be individuals abroad who might want to read a commentary on Thiruppavai, for instance. We could digitise it and send it to him,” he said.
The IIT-M alumni club of 1971 is considering approaching the Planning Commission to ask for a grant as there have been previous instances when the body has extended its support to projects that help ancient languages survive.
“An alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad has expressed interest in designing a website for the institute. People could donate through the site. The institute could also cater to people living abroad who wish to learn Sanskrit by formulating content and charging users a fee to conduct the classes,” Ravi said.
“I need to have volunteers to pull this off, though. A person each in major cities, could coordinate locally. Right now, only our batch is involved with this. We are trying to locate people we know from the various batches of IIT-M alumni to go back to their batch and spread the word,” he added.