Ninety-three-year-old renowned educationist Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy, known by students and well-wishers as Mrs YGP, passed away on Tuesday afternoon at Apollo Hospital in Chennai. She is a 2010 Padma Shri awardee for her contribution to education and literature.
Of her many accomplishments, she is famously known for founding Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan in 1958. She laid the foundation for the school at Lake area in Nungambakkam along with friends from her ladies' club. The school, which began with just 13 students, grew into one of the country's finest institutions. It soon mushroomed into a chain of schools across the city, with branches in T Nagar and KK Nagar, followed by the PSBB Millennium schools.
The school further housed Bharat Kalachar, the cultural wing which promoted Indian arts and culture. She had told TNIE in 2017 that the school was her crusade for Indianisation of children. “Knowledge about everything is important. But, I see a lack of knowledge about our heritage among youngsters. They are moving towards westernisation They should be exposed to our roots and that will create a ripple effect,” she had remarked.
A firm believer in women's rights, Rajalakshmi studied at St John's School and Holy Cross College, Madras. She did her postgraduation in journalism from Madras University in 1947 and worked as a journalist in The Hindu and in Kumudam. She then went on to complete her MEd and acquired a Master's degree in History from the University of Madras.
She married playwright and dramatist YG.Parthasarathy and had two sons - YG Mahendra, an actor himself, and YG Rajendra.
She has often said in interviews that it was her husband who encouraged her to start an educational institute.
“My husband (YG Parthasarathy) didn’t ask me to work for him or ‘serve’ him. He encouraged me to start a school instead. We weren’t happy about how most schools were imitating the Anglo-Indian system, without even questioning or tweaking it according to the Indian system. So, we wanted to establish one that would guide children about our culture and tradition, without compromising on the contemporary aspects,” she told New Indian Express in an interview in 2017.
And true to these words, PSBB had classes rarely seen then in other schools, including Indian Music, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga. In addition to this , the school laid a huge emphasis on extra-curricular activities, including dance, music and art. Classes were held after school hours to train students in the same. There are several prominent alumni from the school who've excelled in various fields, be it the performing arts, sports, media or science and medicine.