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Tsunami orphans all set to enter record books
Sovi Vidyadharan in Nagapattinam (TN) | December 24, 2005 16:55 IST
After creating a world record by planting nearly 2,00000 saplings along its coastline, Nagapattinam is set to enter the record books yet again, with children orphaned by the tragedy completing a 72-feet-long painting Saturday, which has tsunami as its theme, within a record time of two hours and 20 minutes.
"Drawn by a team of 66 inmates of the Annai Sathiya Orphanage at the collectorate in Nagapattinam from 10.40 am to 1 pm Saturday, this painting has broken the existing record of a 43-ft painting completed in three hours and will hopefully find a place in the Limca Book of Records," Nagapattinam District Collector J Radhakrishnan told PTI.
"The painting will be put up for public display on December 26, the first anniversary of the tsunami, and will be dedicated to those who have lost their lives in the tragedy," he added.
Residents of this predominantly coastal district had on October 1, 2005, planted 1,74,422 saplings within a span of 24 hours covering an area of 35 acres along the sea shore, thus finding their place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
"It is more an effort to depict the children's response to the tsunami, which has claimed their parents, than merely establishing a record. While most of them have just expressed their random thoughts about the tsunami, some have brought out their feelings in a poignant way through the medium of art," says S Suryakala, district social welfare officer, Nagapattinam.
Eight-year-old Manthra had water colour splattered all over her face and hands, but she was busy drawing a "teacher", at one corner of the wide canvas while her friend Amutha, of the same age, was vying for space nearby.
"This is what I want to become when I grow up," says Manthra with a proud smile on her face, as she seeks the onlookers' attention to her work of art, while her friend is busy giving finishing touches to a "house" she had drawn.
"There are 99 tsunami orphans at the Annai Sathiya Orphanage in Nagapattinam, with 21 boys and 78 girls. Most of them have been so traumatised after the tsunami that they even found it difficult to speak. However, we have succeeded to a large extent to divert their minds away from the tragedy through extra-curricular activities," says Suryakala, who is also in-charge of the orphanage.
"While most of them found it even difficult to think about the sea initially, now they are comfortable with it and are even depicting it in their paintings. They have slowly reconciled with the tragedy," says P Muruganandan, their drawing instructor.
Arun, a four-year-old from Samanhanpettai village, who had lost both his parents in the tragedy, could not participate in the programme. However, that did not deter him from coming to the venue to encourage his fellow-inmates at the orphanage.
Asked whether he preferred to stay in the orphanage or with his relatives, Arun said he preferred the former.
"I have a lot of friends here, lots of toys and lots of people to take care of me, whereas there is nobody to play with me at my uncle's place. I would stay here," he says.
"The government has granted a relief amount of Rs 5,00000 to orphans upto 14 years and Rs 3,00000 to adolescent girls who have lost their parents. The amount will be invested in fixed deposit and would be given to them after they reach the age of 18 so that they could use it for higher studies or for marriage purposes," says Suryakala.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Childrens Fund has also put up a painting workshop at the collectorate, with around 100 children from the tsunami-hit fishing hamlets as participants.
"We have been organising workshops for almost a year in tsunami-affected villages and the collection of paintings drawn by the children exceed 3,000," says C D Jain, artist and child education specialist working with the UNICEF.
"Our aim is to help the children recover from the tragedy and begin life with a note of optimism. And during our programme, we have seen that they have improved their power of observation, concentration and alertness, besides evolving consciousness towards the environment," he said.