(Last Updated on : 15/01/2009)
Dr. Soundram was the founder of the Gandhigram Trust. She was simple and selfless and dedicated her life for the poor and needy. She considered that her mission in life was to serve women and children of the rural areas in the fields of health, education, welfare and building up self-confidence. She believed that only education could irradiate all the evils from the society. She was given the Padma Bhushan Award for her selfless service.
She was born on 1905 into an affluent family of Madurai. Her father was in transport business. Her mother actively participated in the constructive work initiated by Mahatma Gandhi
. The family took keen interest in the welfare of poor laborers. Soundram was married to her mother's brother's son. Her husband was a medical doctor. She had a very happy married life but it did not last long as she became a widow at a very young age. So she decided to become a doctor and continue her husband's work, dedicating her life for humanity. She passed Matriculation and joined Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi
. After her graduation she went to Madras and joined Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy. The two of them started the Avvai Home for children and Avvai Health Services for the villagers.
Soundram remarried G. Ramachandran of Kerala
. During the Quit India Movement she toured the villages of Kerala for the promotion of constructive work. She was expelled from Kerala and as a result, she went to Madurai to her parents' home. They did not approve of her marriage with Ramachandran as he was a non-Brahmin but her parents gave her equal share of the wealth along with her brothers. She spent it in developing the Gandhigram Institute in Authur block, which stands today as a monument of her hard work and organizational ability.
Her main concerns were developing heath and family planning services for villagers, promoting khadi and other village industries to provide employment to the people and to relieve rural poverty. She also started cottage industries for soap making and preparation of Ayurvedic medicines and a home for orphans and for women in distress at Gandhigram. She became the Vice Chairman of Khadi and Village Industries Board
Soundram was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly and she took charge of community development work in Madurai district and worked as Honorary Community Project Officer for Madurai. She represented the backward constituency called Veda Soundur and helped the residents of the constituency in developing facilities for education, health, bus transport and electricity, with the full cooperation of the people. Soundram organized one of the four Gandhi Museums at Madurai She visited China as a delegate of the Indo-China Friendship Association and studied the rural development activities in China. Soundram served as the Deputy Minister of Education for five years. As Deputy Education Minister she started rural institutes for women.
She was a living legend, who dedicated her life for the people. She breathed her lat on October 1984. Her death was a big loss for the country. The Gandhigram Institute stands as a living monument to her memory. She will ever live in the heart of all Indians.