92 years of a young rebel
Home Cities Chennai 92 years of a young rebel
By Roshne Balasubramanian | Express News Service | Published: 31st December 2017 09:55 PM |0
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CHENNAI: On a musical margazhi evening at Bharat Kalachar, we met the 92-year-old renowned educationist Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy, fondly known as Mrs YGP. The now âgrand old matriarchâ is still young at heart and her thoughts and extraordinary memory mirror this.
A new revolution in education was spearheaded by Mrs YGP, when in 1958, she laid the foundation for a school, along with friends from her ladies club, which would later go on to become one of the finest institutions in the country â" Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (PSBB). âMy husband (YG Parthasarathy) didnât ask me to work for him or âserveâ him.
He encouraged me to start a school instead. We werenât happy about how most schools were imitating the Anglo-Indian system, without even questioning or tweaking it according to the Indian system. So, we wanted to establish one that would guide children about our culture and tradition, without compromising on the contemporary aspects,â she recalls.
The school began as a thatched shed on the terrace of her residence, with 13 students. âWe taught Sanskrit shlokas, music, dance and also to reflect the Indian tradition, our students say, Shri Gurubyo Namaha to greet, instead of âGood morningâ and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep also used to echo in our school!â she shares.
Though ridiculed initially for the unconventional system, gradual acceptance from parents and a strong word-of-mouth brought the school recognition.
âPeople were yearning for a platform that would give them the âIndian touchâ they needed. They first said it would become more of a cultural centre than school. The parents were so used to the Anglicised method of teaching and it took a while to grab their attention. But, once it did, we emerged successful,â she shares and recalls how the school was compelled to adopt the shift system in the 70s and 80s. âThere was high demand and we had to adopt the shift system. But, that was a sign of success. From a humble beginning to getting recognition,â she smiles.
Ofte n referred to as âRajammaâ by friends, Mrs YGP has been the most truthful version of the word ârebelâ. Case in point is an incident that took place when she came face-to-face with Mahatma Gandhi. A young Rajalakshmi, when introduced to him, was asked if she knew Hindi. As a fitting reply, she asked âDo you know Tamil? Similarly, she recalls an incident: âRules back then didnât allow me to be a principal of my boyâs school. So, when I had attended the All India Womenâs conference, where Indira Gandhi was also present, I took it up with her. She laughed and said she would look into it. And the change came about!â she beams.
But she credits her husband for playing a huge role in the creation of the school and Barat Kalachar, the cultural wing, which was also his idea. âItâs not an easy to open and run a school successfully. But I managed to do it with his help,â smiles the art connoisseur.
The school was her crusade for the Indianisation of chi ldren, but in a holistic way. Ask her if she has triumphed, she ponders and says: âKnowledge about everything is important. But, I see a lack of knowledge about our heritage among youngsters. They are moving towards westernisation They should be exposed to our roots and that will create a ripple effect,â she adds, as the curtains go up for the next performance.
In a nutshell...
â A 17-minute film titled As you like her directed by SP Muthuraman, was released on her 80th birthday
â On January 26, 2010, she was awarded the Padma Shri
â She penned an autobiographical memoire in 2004: Excellence Beyond the Classroom: A Memoir of YGP