T. S. Atul Swaminathan
Age has not deterred from serving the poor and the needy. Even at the age of 71, M. Sitalakshmi Mahadevan continues to do with the same concern and spirit.
“I have been in the social work field for more than 30 years. My native is Pathoor village in Tanjore district. It all started, when Mahatma Gandhi in 1947-48, brought in total prohibition on toddy tapping. My Mother, Rukmini Krishnamurthy Iyer, then used to prepare sukku malli kaapi (coriander coffee) and store it in a seppu thavala panai for the workers in our fields. I used to serve the spiced coffee to the workers,” she said.
We also used to distribute cow milk everyday to the poor for free of cost, and serve food to tourists who visit our village. After getting married in 1965, I worked in Taramani Catering College before opting for VRS. My mother-in-law, Thangama Parmeshwar Iyer, and I used to stitch blouses for women workers. My in-laws house was called as ‘Thangama Chathiram’ by the workers, she added.
She played a prominent role when Madras was hit by cyclones causing floods in October and November in 1984, distributing blankets, clothes, and food packets to flood-affected people in K. K. Nagar Housing Board Project, which was then under construction, in collaboration with Rajasthan Association, T. Nagar.
When Tsunami struck the Chennai coast, she distributed food packets and clothes to fishing hamlets in Marina Beach, East Coast Road, and Kalpakkam.
“I have donated books, notebooks, bags, stationery items, and school uniforms to poor children, new dresses, sweets, and savouries to under-privileged children and old-age homes for Deepavali in Vysarpadi, Villupuram, Tiruchi, Chengalpet, and Madurantakam, “ Mrs. Mahadevan pointed out.
I also help mentally-challenged and differently-abled children, and HIV-cancer-affected children by conducting blood camps for rare blood groups in association with Residents Welfare Associations in the city, donate electronic items including inverter, fridge, radio and television sets to orphanages and old-age homes, she says.
A staunch devotee of Sri Maha Periyava, Seethalakshmi and her friend Amirtha Rajagopal perform ‘Samaskaram’ irrespective of caste and creed, and help destitute women and children by giving them protection, education, vocational training, and helping them by providing jobs.
“From my childhood days, I evinced a keen interest in serving the needy and poor. I am thankful to my parents, who made me to take part in social service activities, and help the poor. Everyone should live and let live is my motto,” says Sitalakshmi, who is a resident of K. K. Nagar.
The social service activist is recipient of Tamil Nadu Government Best Social Worker Award by the State Commissioner for the Disabled, Rotary Club and Bharathi Purasakar Award for social service.
“It gives me immense pleasure and happiness in helping the needy. Age is also another factor. I will continue to help till my health permits. I am thankful to my husband, Mahadevan, and son Karthik for their constant support and encouragement in my social work, she said.