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13 Dec 2019, Edition - 1613, Friday

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Coimbatore

Message on a helmet, for a helmet

UMAIMA SHAFIQ

Strap: Public spirited Raja, a goldsmith, has a heart of gold as he works tirelessly to spread awareness on a host of issues and causes. This year, his Independence Day message is on road safety with a focus on the wellbeing of two-wheeler riders.

UMT Raja, a goldsmith, wants to carve out a message to the masses.

And as the nation celebrated 72 years of Independence, for Raja patriotism is the medium through which he spread his message. A Coimbatore-based multi-talented artist and film actor has zeroed in on the theme of traffic safety for his message and has designed a special helmet, after wearing a helmet has been made compulsory for two-wheeler riders.

For his designing unique artifacts, every August 15 has become a routine, that he has been following for the past three decades or so, to raise public awareness about government welfare programmes and schemes.
This year, he designed a special helmet that has the pictures of 12 national leaders painted on it. The message is “Thalai Kaapom, Thalaivargalai Kaapom” or respect your leaders and protect yourselves with the helmet.
“Many of you could be tomorrow’s leaders. Life is precious and so many two-wheeler riders have died in road accidents often without wearing their helmets. It is heart-rending, they could have been great leaders, businessmen, and achievers,” he said in a conversation with The Covai Post.

During past Independence Days, Raja had carved national leaders on candles (2018), on the multiple sections of custard apple fruit (2017) on bamboo shoots (2016). The latter was done by burning shoot tips and etching the leaders’ photos on them. At present, he has 130 such exhibits.

Raja’s initials UMT expand as Unnal Mudiyum Thambi which is also the name of a friends’ group who are similarly social cause minded. Today UMT has 112 members in the group.

On why he adopted this name Raja says, “About 35 years ago I wanted to enter Tamil films, I attended auditions in Chennai but realized that other contenders had more talent than me. I understood my limitations and then came back, tattooed UMT on my hand and decided to prove myself. I learned many arts like mimicry, direction, yoga, swimming, and martial arts. Now I have acted in two films Maaman Machan (2016) and Thappattam (2017) as a comedian. So, realizing that films have a good public reach I decided to use my talents for awareness, that is why helmet, AIDs, yoga, and others.”

He has been felicitated by many associations and bodies in Coimbatore but has not yet got any government recognition.

The environmentally conscious Raja and UMT friends also cleaned up the Muthukki Rajavaikkal canal at Kuniamuthur and did a 2.5-hour penance by immersing himself in water, praying for rains.

“I revisited the place to thank the rain gods for the heavy downpour in early August,” he says humbly.

He is grateful to his family for supporting all his initiatives. He said that his two daughters would accompany him to the collectors’ office whenever he went to conduct public awareness programs.

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