Tmt. Soundara Kailasam – July 1st, 2007
Tmt. Soundara Kailasam, a veteran poet even at the age of eighty, keeps herself occupied reading books, daily papers and is well updated with the current events. Recently, she authored a book called ‘Ellaiyilla aruzhazh’ in praise of Lord Allah. This is apparent to her relentless spirit. Here is the interview with her, taken at her residence in Chennai.
Excerpts from her interview
Could you tell us about your formative years?
I was named after the Karur Eshwaran temple’s deity Soundaranayaki. When I got married, I left the part ‘nayaki’ from my name and associated my nayakan’s (husband) surname Kailasam. Thus I am now known as “Soundara Kailasam”. Rajajie was my maternal grandpa’s lawyer. Rajajie wanted to start Gandhi Ashram, and was looking for a land. My grandpa offered him his own land at Thiruchengodu and Rajajie started the Gandhi Ashram there, which was inaugurated by E.V.Periyar. As it is a practice for the Tamil Women to go to their mother’s place, thus I was born there. My father’s place is a village called Chettipalayam near Karur. I was brought up there.
When did you marry?
At that time there was Saradha act which prohibited women’s marriage before the age of 14. So, I got married, when I turned fifteen. My husband, Thiru: Kailasam, was a high court Judge for seventeen years, Chief Justice for a year and retired after working as a Supreme Court Judge for 3 years and eight months. At the age of 16, my first daughter Vimala was born. I have two other daughters and a son. My first daughter Vimala Ramalingam is a doctor. My second daughter Mrs. Nalini Chidambaram is a lawyer. My third daughter Mrs. Padhmin is an industrialist at Tiruppur. My son Sadaiyavel Kailasam is a doctor.
At that age, unlike today, not many woman were into a public life. Whom would you attribute your entry into public life to?
I really don’t know how I got into the public life. My father was well versed in Tamil literature. When I was a kid, my father sings thought provoking Vallalar’s song like “one should know them first” and many others to me, which was pondering in my mind. So, I guess my father’s meaningful songs recital to me at my young age, should have ultimately influenced my interest in the Tamil language in my adulthood.
Can you recall your first public appearance?
At that time, we lived near Pachaiyappa’s Arts College. I used to attend the literary events that took place in that college. They had an oratory competition and in the absence of a judge, I was called upon to judge the competition by Mu. Varatharasanar. I bluntly refused that call, telling that I have never been to college. They persuaded me and I was one among the three judges. Once, the competition was over, to my surprise and shock, I was called upon the stage to announce the winners. I was literally shivering, and some how managed to speak on stage. Once, I came off the stage, everybody praised my oratory skills. I gradually developed my skills.
How old were you then?
I was about 18 or 19…
How did you balance your family and career then?
I never failed in my duties. In the absence of the maids, I make sure I do all my house hold chores. My husband was very supportive. He encourages me to read, write and give public speeches. My husband tells me about the country, leaders like Gandhi, Barathiar and others. When I am given a topic to speak, then I read on it. Like wise, I was developing my knowledge in various fields. At that period, none of our relatives lived in Chennai. So, we used to get a lot of relatives coming for treatment, college admissions and so on. It used be a very cordial relationship among our relatives.
You live in Chennai for a very long time. Still, are you in touch with your relatives?
Oh, yes. We attend all the functions, in our native. Recently, I celebrated my eightieth birthday at Taj Coromandel, Chennai. I bought pink color saree for all my relatives. It was very beautiful to look everyone in pink. All my relatives had come for that function.
Your daughter, son, grand daughter, grand son all have inter-caste wedding. How do your relatives perceive it?
None of my relatives has expressed their resentment over these issues. Right from my grandmother’s age, we are not against inter-caste weddings. The reason for such a kind of belief is that, when Rajajie was in Thiruchengodu Gandhi Ashram, Gandhji was his guest. At that time, Rajajie’s daughter Lakshmi was in love with Gandhi’s son Devadoss Gandhi. They both got married. So, the elders in my family where of idea that, when these great people could accept the inter-caste weddings, why don’t we?
What is your idea? Do you regret for it?
No, absolutely not. I have never regretted for it. All of them are happily married. So, I have no such kinds of feeling.
What do you think are the pros and cons of the Tamil society?
In Tamil society, I don’t see any cons as such. In the villages, people are financially backward. That is what I think as something to worry.
Do you think to-day’s women have been uplifted?
Definetly I am very happy for to-day’s women. It is due to the education, they have really been uplifted in their lifestyle.
What suggestions, would you recommend in to-day’s women’s lifestyle?
My suggestion would be to get the girls married at the right age, say at twenty. You can not wait for a correct match. Girls must develop patience and tolerance, to succeed in their married life. If they are over twenty five years or so, they have their own opinion and ideas. Then it becomes difficult to get an apt match. So, it is better to get the girls married at the right age.