S Rangamony, M.A, Annamalai University, Chidambaram, 1944

S Rangamony

 

“Mrs S Rangamony, now 92, was the first woman graduate, in fact post graduate, in her family. Her father, S V Sundarraja Iyengar, was a well-known advocate in Tirunelveli and was an AICC member working alongside S Srinivasa Iyengar.  She went to school at St Ignatius Convent, Palayamkottai, and later did her intermediate in Sarah Tucker College, undergraduation in Economics at the MDT Hindu College, Tirunelveli (1940-42), and postgraduation at Annamalai University, Chidambaram (1942-44). She was a top-of-the-class student throughout. During her days at Annamalai University, she actively participated in the Independence Struggle joining the nation-wide strike of the Quit India Movement. She hoisted the tricolour, the then Congress flag, climbing her hostel building. She was rusticated from the university along with other students who participated in the strike. She was the only student to be readmitted without a letter of apology when she sought an interview with the Vice Chancellor, Dr. N Ratnaswami, and convinced him that her activities in fact were very nationalistic and not antinational, paralleling the Russian revolution where students and teachers were its mainstay and why, in fact, he too should join in the struggle as a responsible educationalist. Noticing her courage at rebellion and power of oratory Mr. Baladhandayutham and S Shanmugam Pillai approached her wanting her to be an active member of the Communist Party of India which she declined because her allegiance was to the Congress Party.

She was an important participant in the mock parliament at Annamalai University in which Dr P C Alexander, who was a lecturer in History at the university, used to be the Speaker. She was a favoured student of Dr. Poduval who later joined the Government of India as an Economist. Some of her fellow students, seniors, juniors and friends were, Sister Helen, Head of the Department of Economics, Holy Cross College, Tiruchirapalli, Ms Lakshmi Sathyamoorthy, Ms EVK Miranda, Ms Margaret Stevens, who became the Principal of Pachiappa’s College, Chennai , Ms. N Shakuntala, Principal of Fatima College, Madurai, Thiru Kadalur Subramanyam, and the brothers Raman and Lakshmanan, the preeminent proponents of Carnatic Music, and Thiru Nedunchezhiyan.

She was a lecturer in Sarah Tucker College and the Hindu College, Tirunelveli, for a few years.

Her marriage with RmK Senthilarumugam in 1947 created a sensation in Tirunelveli.

In 1956, she helped the ladies club in Tirunagar, Madurai, start an elementary school in the Montessori system of education and helped them obtain recognition from the State Education Department. She was chairman of the Women and Child Welfare Department of the Tiruparankundram Panchayat Union for three years in the mid nineteen-fifties and helped the surrounding villages get proper roads and other amenities for women to have vocational training to work toward economic contribution to the family and for empowering them. She was appointed by the Collector of Madurai an Honorary First Class Magistrate in the Juvenile Court in Madurai and held the post for three years.

In 1960, she was selected and trained at the National Council of Applied Economic Research which was headed by Dr P S Loganathan, and was offered the post of Junior Reseacher. She did one survey in Salem and submitted the report, but had to resign because the work often required travelling away from family.

Soon after she started Sri Meenakshi Tutorial College for Women, the first residential tutorial college exclusively for girls in Madurai, and ran it successfully for a decade. She was recruited by Thiru R Thirumalai, Secretary, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Madurai, to teach Gandhian Thought and Gandhian Economics to students at the Gandhi Museum, Madurai, on Sundays.

She and her husband Thiru RmK Senthilarumugam along with their friends, most of whom were professors in Thiagaraja College of Arts and Science, Madura College, Thiagaraja College of Engineering, and American College, founded a study circle in Tirunagar and organized scholarly lectures and discussion on a full spectrum of subjects that included religion, art, literature, philosophy, history, politics, economics, and science.

Her family moved to Chennai in 1968. Soon after she was recruited to prepare course material in Economics for the Graduate School of Business Studies, Commander-in-Chief Road, Egmore.

She studied Sanskrit after the age of 60 at the Shrinkeri Mutt, Mandaiveli, and successfully completed 4 levels of exams conducted by the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan with credit. When she was 78, she took classes in Saiva Siththandha offered by the Thiruvavaduthurai  Aatheenam and obtained the title of Siddhantha Rathnam with 92% in the final exam.  A wrist fracture finally made it impossible for her to write exams anymore.

Some of her eminent friends were Justice S Maharajan, Thiru P T Thanu Pillai, MP (2 terms), Thiru Chellappandian, Speaker, Tamilnadu Assembly, Thiru K T Kosalram, a Congress MLA. Dr. Ilakkavanar was a family friend and she helped proofread and fine-tune the English translation of his thesis on Tholkappiam.

In 2004, at the age of 82, she published a cookery book in Tamil (Anubava Samaiyal) and English (Forgotten Flavours) on traditional Tirunelveli vegetarian dishes. Her very traditional cooking is immensely popular with family and a large circle of friends.

She was recently (on 25 January 2014) honoured and felicitated by the Sarah Tucker Alumni Association as the oldest surviving alumna of the college.

Two of her well-known elder brothers were Mr S Venkatraman, the administrative head of the Damodar Valley Hydel Project and Mr S Krishnaswami, Founder President of The Chemical Manufacturers Association of India.

She has six children, six grandchildren and six great grandchildren settled in Singapore, Canada, Australia, and the USA . Her family is a truly universal mixed bag of people of different cast, creed, religion and nationality.”

(This note has been prepared by Ms Rangamony’s daughters Radha Saraswathy and Parvathy as per information provided by her)

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