“I was born and brought up at a time when the Dravidian Movement was at its peak. Tamil Nationalism was the order of the day. My father had told that Tamil activists had torn the movie screen at Naaz theater, while it was it was showing the Hindi movie, ‘Toofan’. The Coimbatore Hindi Sabha was sacked, and miscreants had set fire to the premises. Pundit Sivasubramaniam saved the day by dousing of the flames and taking the Hindi books home.
My mother, Aravindakumari was keen to ensure that my brother, Suresh and myself learnt Hindi. She wanted us to learn several languages. We spoke Telugu at home and the medium of instruction was English at School. Both of us had picked up Tamil from our society. Therefore, my mother felt that it would be better to add one more language and she chose Hindi for us. Those were the times when G. R. G. school followed the CBSE syllabus, and we had Hindi teachers of repute. Subbhulakshmi, Baskar Iyer, Banumathi and Mohanambal taught us Hindi until our 12th standard.
Mom decided to learn Hindi to ensure that we picked up the language well. She engaged the services of the kindhearted Hindi Pundit, Suseela of Perur. Suseela miss used to come home everyday and teach Hindi to all of us. This included my aunts, Nirmala and Vasantha. While we were progressing through our school, my mother and my aunts made progress by clearing the Hindi exams prescribed by the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachaar Sabha. My mother cleared Pratmik, Madhyama, and Rashtrabasha.
Our Hindi teacher, Suseela had a musical tone. She used to wear a Khadar sari and was dark complexioned. Her handwriting and diction were beyond comparison. She would talk to us in a sweet manner while also ensuring that we picked up the language. I must thank her for my handwriting and reading abilities. The kindhearted Hindi teacher was associated with the Sarvodaya Movement. She used to throw hints on self-sufficiency, reduction of wastage and conservation of natural resources. We had to use lesser of paper and also the pencil till it was not possible to hold it with our little fingers.
Suseela miss and her associates practiced Sarvodaya (Progress of all). They used to go house to house and talked about empathy and charity. These good Samaritans shunned non-vegetarian food, alcohol, tobacco, and violence. They used to collect used clothes and other surplus goods from residences to share it with the needy.” I still remember the ‘Sarvodaya’ pot at home. “We used to deposit a fistful of rice into the pot before cooking the meal for the day. The members of Sarvodaya would come once in a way to claim the rice from the Sarvodaya pot.
My grandmother, Lalitabai and others would welcome those Sarvodaya volunteers with open hands. They would be offered refreshments during each of their visits. However, the volunteers would just take two bites of the snack and a glass of thin buttermilk. They would refuse to eat deep fried items while also staying away from beverages like coffee and tea. The volunteers used to state that it would be better to abstain from luxury while indulging in service. They stated that their greatest indulgence was serving the needy and abstinence helped them in that sense. My grandmother used to say that such women were the greatest assets to our society. She would also express that service and abstinence equaled the Vrats that were followed at home.
The Sarvodaya volunteers would listen to the accolades showered on them and declared that it was possible because of the grace of God. They would affirm this statement by adding further details about their lifestyle and prayers at home. These marvelous souls would always share stories about our national leaders and heroes like Narasinh Mehta, Samarth Ramdas, Santa Sakkubai and Ekanath. We were advised to follow these role models and come up in life with the idea to serve the nation.
I must thank my Hindi teacher, Suseela for giving me the opportunity to understand the meaning and purport of Sarvodaya.”
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