Why are we so special?
Born in 1928, she had her schooling at Ewarts School in Madras. Docile and soft spoken, she showed great interest in fine arts like dance and was particularly fond of Geography as a subject. During most of her childhood she was deprived of her fathers presence, who was preoccupied with business, but she fondly remembers his affectionate letters which were a source of encouragement to her, as a little girl. He evinced great interest in his daughters upbringing as a good human being and was instrumental in getting her engaged in social activities.
A Fairy Tale Wedding
Dr.AlagappaChettiar had a passion for extravagance and grandeur. It was with this trait that he went on to celebrate the wedding of his daughter Umayal with Ramanathan on 10th September, 1943 with pomp and splendor. With open invitations to the inhabitants of Chettinad, thousands lined the streets and dignitaries included the rulers of Princely states like Mysore, Travancore and Pudukottai. The bride and groom, postured in a chariot draped with flowers, were in the midst of more than 20,000 people assembled to witness the festivities. Specially chartered trains and buses plied guests from various parts of Madras Presidency to the venue of the marriage at Kottaiyur. The wedding celebrations were interlaced with festive entertainment featuring the famous exponents of Carnatic music such as G.N. Balasubramaniam, M.S. Subbulakshmi M.L. Vasanthakumari, M.M. DhandapaniDesigar and M.K. ThiagarajaBhagavadar as they regaled the crowd with their concerts. The Travancore sisters, Padmini, Raghini and Lalitha enthralled the audience to their hearts content. An array of stupendous gifts valued at crores of rupees demonstrated the magnanimity of RM. AlagappaChettiar. The dowry spread over many halls ranged from household items to engraved rosewood furniture from imported cutlery to gold ornaments studded with diamonds and other valuable gems.
Service to Society
She has been a syndicate member of Coimbatore Agricultural University and a senate member of the Madurai Kamaraj University. Currently she is the managing trustee of the Alagappa Charitable Trust. Her concern for the society is evident in the various posts that she has held. She was a member of the Social Welfare Board of Ramnad District and the Chairperson of Gangadeeswarar Temple. People fondly recollect her giving away in charity to the poor and partaking in the inter-caste meals programme. Following the footsteps of her father, she founded two higher secondary schools in his name one at Karaikudi and another in Chennai, besides running a Montessori school, and a music school at Karaikudi.
Her service to the cause of education and society was duly given recognition when she was accorded the Doctor of letters Degree by the Honorable Governor Dr.Chenna Reddy. The prestigious Indira Priyadarshini award was conferred on her as a fitting tribute to her achievements. No doubt she is even today a Priyadarshini not only to her children but also to all who are acquainted with her.