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To Sir with love, a house

Chennai, Aug. 23: On Teachers’ Day this year, S.V. Venkatraman will receive a unique gift from his former students — a new house.

Aptly named Guru Nivas, the two-storeyed building at Gurusamypalayam in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal is getting finishing touches now.

The grihapravesh (house-warming) has been scheduled for September 4 and the formal handover the next day, Teachers’ Day.

Venkatraman, 81, taught Tamil in a local school from 1954 to 1985.

“At an old students’ meeting in 2007, we learnt Venkatraman Sir was struggling to make ends meet with his monthly pension of Rs 9,000, supporting his wife and son after having battled the odds to marry off his two daughters,” said M.A. Ardhanari, a retired municipal commissioner.

The initiative was speeded up after Ardhanari and other ex-students, around 500 of them, learnt that the octogenarian was planning to shift from his small-two room tenement in a nearby town, unable to pay the steep rent.

“So we decided to build a house where our teacher could live peacefully and honourably,” Ardhanari said.

The students started a fund and collected close to Rs 10 lakh. They bought a 1,100sqft plot on which the 900sqft house has come up.

“We built a bedroom on the first floor so his son, just married after finding a small job, can live. SVV sir (as the students refer to him) and his wife can stay on the ground floor, which has a hall, a bedroom with attached bath, a kitchen and a small puja room,” Ardhanari said.

When word about the fund-collection drive spread, even those who hadn’t studied under Venkatraman came forward to donate. “He was the driving force when we renovated the local temple a decade ago. But he would not approach anyone for favours despite his difficult times,” said K. Meenakshisundaram, one of the town’s elders.

Dr S. Mohanraj, another of the students who practises in Namakkal town, recalled his school days with Venkatraman. “He was a very popular teacher who made Tamil an interesting subject by coming up with interesting nuggets and real-life parallels. He would spend extra hours with students who lagged behind. The house is a small gurudakshina.

Venkatraman was initially reluctant to accept the gift before yielding to persuasion by the ex-students.

“My students have made our society proud by equating the guru with one’s parents,” the octogenarian said.

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