Living in Atlanta, U.S., Mangalambika alias Saroja Seetharaman has been desperate to visit Chennai for some time now. For two reasons. She wants to visit Gopalapuram to see the house where she and her siblings were brought up, and the nearby Venugopalaswamy temple where they worshipped. The house where she grew up and got married is one of the prominent addresses in Tamil Nadu. It is the house of late Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who, it is said, bought it from Ms. Saroja’s grandfather Sarabeswara Iyer. He worked as a post-master.
Now that she is back in Chennai, Ms. Saroja was suddenly beset with doubts. “I know that I can worship at the temple, but not sure whether I will be allowed to visit the house because of security reasons. I was doubtful whether the policemen would allow me in. Now I have no words to express my joy since Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has not only allowed us to visit the house but also agreed to meet us,” said the octogenarian, who had in the 1990s moved to the U.S. where her children live.
It was her daughter Chandrika Narayan, a journalist, who made the arrangement for her visit to Chennai. She had come across an article published in The Hindu, ‘How Gopalapuram turned into a political hub’, in 2018 and contacted the newspaper. When their wish was conveyed to the Chief Minister’s office, he granted the permission.
“Though born in Kumbakonam, I studied at Gopalapuram Girls Higher Secondary School. My grandfather had green fingers; he won a prize for growing roses in his house garden. My wedding also took place in the house,” said Ms. Saroja, who still preserves her wedding invitation card. The marriage was held in June 1955, but the sale deed had taken place in March itself. “My grandfather requested ‘Kalaignar’ [Karunanidhi] to allow us to stay in the house till the wedding was over, and he generously agreed. He also attended my marriage,” she recalled.
Karunanidhi bought the house with his remuneration for writing the script for the film Pudhaiyal.
Ms. Saroja has come to Chennai with her daughters Chandrika Narayan and Priya Ramnath and son Ananth Seetharaman.
Her brother R. Jambunathan, who lives in Coonoor, has also joined her. “My eldest brother R. Natarajan, a medical professional in Delhi, also wanted to join us, but could not come owing to unavoidable circumstances,” she said.