Eminent Tamil poet and writer Soundara Kailasam who is the mother-in-law of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram expired early on Saturday morning at her residence. She was 83.
Mrs. Soundra Kailasam, wife of retired judge of the Supreme Court P.S. Kailasam, had been ailing for a few months, according to close family members. She married early, at the age of 15. She studied till the 9th standard, but never let her lack of formal education come in the way of achieving high honours right through her life, including being a member of the Senate of the Madras University, Annamalai University and the Thanjavur Tamil Varsity. She also served as a Member of the State Backward Classes Commission.
She published poetry collections, essays and short stories. Her works have been published in a number of Tamil magazines, in addition to being printed as a collection of essays, poetry and short stories. A very devout person, Mrs. Kailasam was also a speaker on religious and spiritual subjects and served on the Hindu Religious Charitable Endowments Board, Chennai.
Mrs. Kailasam emerged as a powerful Tamil orator five decades ago when few women came forward to give public speeches in the State. Known for combining poetry and prose to provide insights into worldly issues, she was drawn to Tamil studies by the lectures of scholars such as R.P. Sethu Pillai and T.P. Meenakshisundaram Pillai. It did not take her much time to establish herself as an orator. Even when she was in her twenties, she gave lectures in college campuses.
Though hailing from a family traditionally close to the Congress, Mrs. Kailasam got along well with leaders of the Dravidian movement such as C.N. Annadurai and V.R. Nedunchezhian.
She was awarded the Asan Prize for Poetry in 1989 for the poetry collection “Soundra Kailasam Kavithaigal.” She was also the recipient of several honours bestowed by the State government, including the Bharathiyar Award given by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi two years ago. She has taken part in several poets' fora and seminars conducted by the Government of Tamil Nadu and All India Radio. She also served as the chairperson of the Thiruvasakam conference, over which the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai presided. Her presence was also noted at the 5th World Tamil Conference held at Madurai and she was a patron of the Madras Tamil Students Association for several years. She has travelled to several nations, including Singapore, Malaysia and Mauritius to participate in Tamil literary or spiritual functions.
The Islamic Literary Conference, held at Kilakkarai in 1990 gave her an award for her contributions to the field. Her book “Alavatra Arulalah,” was released by the Islamic Foundation, as a unique recognition to a Hindu woman writing an Islamic text.
She was invited to Sri Lanka in 1988 to address an Islamic Students Conference, by the Ministry of Muslim Religion and Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka.
Mrs. Kailasam is the grand-daughter of Rathna Sabapathi of Pudupalayam, a noted philanthropist who donated handsomely to the Tiruchengode Gandhi Ashram founded by Rajaji in Pudupalayam, Salem. She is survived by three daughters Vimala Ramalingam, paediatrician and wife of eminent ENT surgeon K.K. Ramalingam, Nalini Chidambaram, lawyer and wife of P. Chidambaram, and Padmini Sivasubramanian, agriculturist; and her son, Sadayavel Kailasam, an orthopaedic surgeon.
Several industrialists, political party leaders and members of the Tamil literary community paid tributes at the residence of Mrs. Soundra Kailasam. Mr. Karunanidhi was among the dignitaries to call on the family and offer condolences.