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Mahema Devadoss, writer-artist, passes away

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Mahema Devadoss.
Mahema Devadoss.

T. Ramakrishnan

CHENNAI: Mahema Devadoss, writer-artist, passed away in the early hours of Monday at her residence in Santhome here. She was 67. She is survived by her husband Manohar Devadoss, technocrat-artist-writer, and daughter Sujatha.

Though Mahema became a quadriplegic following a highway accident near Ulundurpet in Tamil Nadu in December 1972, she did not give up hope, but found a new meaning in her life. She and her husband, who started losing vision before the accident, brought out greeting cards of five or six types at the end of every year.

While Mr. Devadoss, a specialist in intricate line drawings of landscapes and monuments, drew the sketches, Mahema, despite being wheelchair-bound, provided the content for each drawing with a historical perspective of the monument. “She was a spirited person. For writing the text, she would go to libraries, apart from consulting various books,” recalls Mr. Devadoss, who is now almost blind.

Extremely good at marketing, she managed funds “fantastically,” the artist says, displaying grace in times of personal tragedy. Every year, leading corporate houses bought the greeting cards and the proceeds went to charity. Last year, 31,000 cards fetched Rs.2.38 lakh.

In 1970, when Mr. Devadoss went to Oberlin College in Ohio, United States, to pursue post-graduation in chemistry, Mahema joined him. She worked there as the Programme Director (Asia House), arranging several programmes such as Bharatanatyam and south Indian cuisine-related events. “Of course, we had an Indian bias,” Mr. Devadoss said, adding that he and his wife continued to maintain their touch with the college.

A post-graduate in English, Mahema had brilliant academic credentials. It was after becoming a mother that she did her post-graduation (1968-1970). She was a gold medallist. Mr. Devadoss pointed out that his wife, who was driving the car at the time of the accident, never turned bitter, though a senseless lorry driver was responsible for her being thrown out of the car.

The couple’s daughter Sujatha, married to an American diplomat, lives in Dubai. Her collegemate at Stella Maris, Joan Rajadas, said that when Sujatha was a student of the college, the couple attended every event at the institution, which had a special place for Mahema, herself an illustrious alumna of the college.

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