In 1947, she began Gandhigram Trust in Tamil Nadu and all the freedom fighters of the time used to visit,” says Srinivasan. “She was one of the greatest souls I have ever met. She really served the nation.” In 2005, the Tamil Nadu government released a postage stamp in Dr Soundaram’s honour.
Srinivasan’s interests lie in the arts. She has made friends all over India and the world, who come to see her. She keeps an open house on Diwali and some of the extended TVS family still drops in to visit. When I ask if she is the matriarch of the family, she says, “No, in fact, I don’t even exist for the younger generation.”
Growing up in Chennai, it is hard to escape the TVS family. Bangalore, where I now live, is different. The city’s millionaires come from the new fields of IT. I’ve often wondered what it is like to be part of an old wealthy family such as TVS, Godrej or the Tatas? Is it a strong foundation from which you can fly or an anchor that weighs you down? Large business clans often become self-referential, keeping tabs on each other but oblivious of the wider social milieu. Such criticism has dogged the TVS clan as well with its members populating each other’s boards and foundations.
As I leave, I ask about a relatively new member of the TVS family—one from my hometown. “Oh, Rohan (Murthy) is a lovely boy,” she says with a broad smile. He is very hard-working and highly principled.”
And then she gives perhaps the highest accolade a grandmother can give. “Rohan reminds me of my husband.”
Also Read | Shoba’s previous Lounge columns
Shoba Narayan has met Dr Soundaram—on a postage stamp. Write to her at [email protected]