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The postman knocked



CHARITY, HER CALLING Rose Gurupatham

* Reader K. Ratnam's question (Miscellany, May 1) has brought in a whole heap of mail and other messages. But none of them give a total picture, though the one that emerges can be summed up in the perceptive statement by one reader who told me on the telephone, "There are no families in India that are better examples of national integration through marriage than the Swaminadhans and Santhanams." Still unanswered is the question: Whom did Pandit Swaminathan marry? Many say a Punjabi, the daughter of one of the promoters of Lakshmi Insurance, but no one seems to be able to give a name. The Swaminadhan link comes through the Pandit's daughters. The eldest, Sulochana, married Govind Swaminadhan, the next, Anasuya, married his younger brother and, later, his junior, A.C. Muthanna, and a third daughter married the parliamentarian M. L.Sondhi, one of the founders of the Jan Sangh. Others add there was a fourth daughter, and one even thinks there was a fifth, but none can provide details. Maybe the families will respond one of these days.

* Reader Theodore Baskaran reminds me that the first Indian to be awarded the Order of Australia (Miscellany, March 24) was another person from Madras. The award in this instance also was for working with the Aborigines. Rose Gurupatham was awarded the OAM in 1985. I recall Gurupatham working with the YWCA in Madras. In the 1950s, she contributed significantly to making a success of a village project in Mudichur near the Madras Christian College campus. A feeding programme had been started there by Agnes Martin, wife of Prof. Gavin Martin of the College. She was also the YWCA's Madras Area Secretary. Gurupatham succeeded Martin, took the mid-day meal programme forward and started a dispensary that grew into a healthcare and rural community centre. Gurupatham moved on to work in Ceylon, YWCA headquarters in Geneva, the U.S., Guatemala, and Papua New Guinea before arriving in Darwin, capital of Australia's Northern Territory in 1973. For the next 25 years, she managed the Darwin Aboriginal Resources Centre that provided a refuge for aboriginal women, raised funds to educate aboriginal women, and rebuilt the Darwin YWCA that had been battered by a cyclone in 1974. `Aunty Rose', as she was popularly called, was described in the Darwin Press as the "Northern Territory's doyenne of charities". Burma-born Gurupatham, who arrived in Madras during World War II after having trekked from Burma fleeing the Japanese, returned to Madras on retirement in 1998 and died here in 2002.

S. MUTHIAH

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