Prema Kumar: Perfectionist in all aspects of life
By Dia Rekhi | Express News Service | Published: 20th May 2017 03:31 AM |
CHENNAI: C Prema Kumar, the grandniece of Sir M Venkatasubba Rao and Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao and long-time correspondent of the Lady Andal School (LAS) in Chetpet, commanded respect wherever she went. The 67-year-old passed away early on Friday after battling an infection for a few months.
Known for her sharp business acumen, probably a result of her B Com degree, she earned her Diploma in Montessori Teachers Training and dreamed of setting up a school that was child-centric rather than academics-centric. This culminated in the formation of LAS.
For students, the school was a reflection of Prema Kumar’s views and ideals. Images of Prema Kumar wearing her characteristic red bindi and crisp cotton sarees are a vital part of every student’s memory, who reminisced about her ability to remember them.
“I don’t know how she did it,” said a LAS alumnus. “She had a knack for not only remembering us but also what we were good at. It was incredible! It only goes to show that she took a personal interest in all of us.”
Apart from LAS, Prema Kumar was the driving force behind the Madras Seva Sadan (MSS) schools in Chetpet and Tambaram from where she started work in 1976. More recently, she was the correspondent of the Sir Mutha School from its inception in 2012.
“She was the pillar of MSS and all its affiliated institutions,” said a source close to Prema Kumar. “Anyone who interacted with her knew she was a perfectionist. She was a wonderful mentor.”
MSS — a multipurpose social welfare and charitable organisation founded in 1928 — runs an orphanage, old age home, mental patients’ rehabilitation centre, centre for visually challenged children, vocational centre, hostels and empowerment programmes for women and students, Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, ORCA swimming pool and seven schools.
Prema Kumar was the MSS general secretary.
Prema Kumar was always at the forefront of activities that promoted social welfare. She was a member of the Soroptimist International Chennai — a global voice for women through awareness, advocacy and action — and its president from 2006-2007. She was also trustee of the Thatikonda Nancharamma Charities, Thatikonda Rajamannar Trust and the Dewan Bahadur Thatikonda Namberumal Chetty Charity Trust and member of the National Association for the Blind and International Women’s Association.
Prema Kumar was recognised for outstanding services in the field of education on International Women’s Day in 2006 by the Tamil Nadu Arya Vysya Mahila Sabha, Madras Unit, the Outstanding Women Achiever Award from Dr MGR Medical University, Chennai in 2012, the Bharathi Award for Social Service in 2013, the SHEROES Award for excellence in education and her inclusive education policy in 2014 and, most recently, the Best Philanthropic Edupreneur in the South from The Education Post, Karunya University and Parivartnam in 2016.
She was passionate about inclusive education and ensured that children who were dyslexic, spastic, autistic or had Down syndrome, among other issues, had a learning centre and occupational therapy centre to cater to their needs.
“She wanted to provide children with a happy environment, so they would look forward to school,” said a former teacher. “An atmosphere where they could develop skills, where everything was encouraged. She never wanted the emphasis to be on fitting children into a mould but letting them find their own.”
Prema Kumar, who believed that technology could be an effective tool for education, was the Governing Council Member of the Tamil Nadu State Chapter of the International Society for Technology in Education in India (ISTE India).
She was fascinated by the scriptures, enjoyed travelling and had visited numerous countries. She was also fond of the performing arts, reading and was particularly interested in swimming. She won five gold medals and one silver at the Tamil Nadu State Aquatic Association Fourth Masters’ Swimming Championship in 2014.
While her death leaves a void in the institutions she built, her ideals will live on. Prema Kumar is survived by husband, C Pratap Kumar, sons C Krish Kumar and Capt C Kirthan Kumar and daughter Krithika Kumar Quintal.