Thursday, April 10, 2014
In Gandhi's name
Vaithamanithi Mudumbai Kothainayaki was a writer far ahead of her time, but that story will have to keep for another post. She was also one of the few women who were active in the freedom movement. In the 1920s, whenever there was a meeting of the Congress, VaiMuKo, as she was known, would be the one to sing the invocation song, and many other patriotic verses as well. On one such occasion, Mahatma Gandhi was on stage; after the meeting, he told her something to the effect that both "..Mother India and you are shackled; she is in chains, and you, in gold!" That changed her - she swapped her silks for khadi, broke her shackles and became much more active in the freedom movement.
After Gandhiji was cremated, his ashes were mingled with the "waters of India". After that ceremony in Madras, VaiMuKo decided that she would do her bit to preserve his memory. With her good friend Saraswati Bai, she set up the "Mahatmaji Seva Sangam" in March 1948. The Sangam was primarily involved in helping destitute women and children, with the money coming from well wishers, as well as some of the proceeds from VaiMuKo's writings and stage performances of her stories.
In 1953, the Sangam moved to this building on North Tank Street, Triplicane. The facade has the seal of the Sangam, showing Gandhi on his Dandi march. VaiMuKo passed on in 1960, but the Sangam went on for a bit longer and was still plodding along in the new millenium as well. But now, it seems to have become completely inactive, with the building itself showing no sign having been visited by anyone for a long time. VaiMuKo herself has been forgotten, so it should be no surprise that her reverence for Gandhiji is not remembered, either!