A techie who studied under street lamps is ensuring other children have access to tech education
Growing up in Vadugapatti, a village in Tamil Nadu, Sathya Sundaram Chellaramasamy faced many hardships. He completed his education thanks to the generosity of many. Eager to give back, he now leads initiatives at Broadridge India, equipping students in villages with tech education.
- Chellaramasamy and his brother studied under street lamps.
- He worked in a computer centre to support himself while studying.
- The techie now aims to make rural schools tech inclusive.
- Children in the villages, where Broadridge India runs its initiatives, have now started attending school regularly.
For Sathya Sundaram Chellaramasamy, a Technology Architect at Broadridge India, the passion to give back to his community stems from diverse life experiences. He rose from poverty to become a techie, and is now ensuring young people in his region have access to smart classrooms and technology.
While films and books may have romanticised studying under street lights, Chellaramasamy’s story—set in the mid-90s and the early 2000s—was one of extreme hardship. Growing up in Vadugapatti village in Theni district on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, he saw his parents travelling with bundles of clothes on their heads, selling them door-to-door to make ends meet.
“We didn’t have our own house, had very little money and my parents reminded us that education alone was our property,” he tells SocialStory.
Among the six children, only he and his younger brother were able to attend the government school in their village. With no electricity at home, the brothers studied under the street lights working hard to become toppers in the 10th and 12th board exams.
After completing his schooling, Chellaramasamy couldn’t afford to go to college and took up a job as a waiter in a nearby restaurant. Seeing this, his cousin intervened.
“My cousin asked why I was cleaning tables at a restaurant. When I explained the financial situation at home, he offered to help,” he recalls.
Rising above challenges
In 2004, he enrolled for a BSc degree in Computer Science at the Cardamom Planters Association College in Bodinayakanur, 30km from his village. While the fees were partly taken care of, he still needed money for the daily 60km commute. The same year, in December, tragedy struck. He lost his father and the situation made him wonder if he should continue his studies.
“I spoke with my cousin again who advised me not to drop out. He also arranged a part-time job at a computer training centre that could take care of my travel and other expenses. Slowly, I am starting to get my life on track,” Chellaramasamy says.
At the computer centre, he would teach whatever he learned at college, and the owner was kind enough to give him money for expenses.
“I earned around Rs 2,000 every month, which seemed huge to me at the time. The generosity of people touched my life often; a friend from college paid my semester feeds when I couldn’t afford it. All my teachers were very supportive,” Chellaramasamy adds.
In between, he also dabbled in business-selling garlic along with a friend, to support himself and his family.
In short, Chellaramasamy’s life, until he finished college was a series of ups and downs, one he faced with fortitude and determination.
After completing his course, he started working for a software firm in Chennai, moved to Mahindra Satyam and in 2013, started joined Broadridge.
Smart education for rural schools and colleges
The recipient of the generosity and kindness of many others, Chellaramasamy chose to give back in his own way. While living in Hyderabad, he supported a young boy who delivered newspapers to support his studies. Along with friends in his village, he also started an NGO, Honey Kings Educational & Charitable Trust to support students in the region.
“In most of the village schools, children sit on the floor and study. We were able to provide tables and chairs for different classes. Apart from this, we organised a tree planting drive and a dental camp,” he shares.
He also points out that his aim of giving back aligned with that of his employer, Broadridge. A quick conversation with his Broadridge India managing director, Sheenam Ohrie on donating laptops and desktops to schools in the Theni region put this into motion. Under Broadridge’s CSR plan, laptops and desktops were distributed to five schools.
Chellaramasamy also leads the Next-Gen College Library initiative, under which students can borrow laptops from the library and take them home like books. The laptops will be under the control of the library and will also define usage guidelines for students.
He explains why this initiative is important.
“During the pandemic, many students did not have access even to a simple smartphone for online classes. Also, I still see a lot of child labour in the region, and this situation must change. For this, we need to encourage children to enrol in schools and ensure they don’t drop out.”
Another project he was part of was changing the dormant smart class environments in village schools by equipping them with laptops and desktop computers.
“This led to the schools responding positively and hiring computer teachers. Now, students are happy that technology is within their reach,” he says.
Chellaramasamy travels regularly to this village to see, first-hand the impact of these initiatives. He keeps in touch with principals and teachers to find out if they need extra help. Follow-up is also done by his friends who still live there and volunteer for the cause.
“The biggest success of this initiative is that children are eager to attend school and learn. This is the feedback I’m receiving from teachers. Most of them are using computers for the first time, and making use of the smart classes,” he says.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti