Nair matriarchy home gave rise to leaders
The recent death of Capt Lakshmi Sehgal, who was a part of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, has brought to focus a matriarchal Nair joint family system “tharavad” which has produced several illustrious daughters of India.
Besides Capt Lakshmi, who died recently in Kanpur, some other women of the “tharavad” who made a mark in society were freedom fighters, A V Kuttimalu Amma, Ammu Swaminadhan (captain Lakshmi’s mother), (and in current times) choreographers Mrinalini Sarabhai and her daughter Mallika Sarabhai and CPM leader Subhashini Ali (Lakshmi’s daughter).The family home, built in the typical “nalekettu” style of Kerala still exists with its sprawling courtyard and spacious verandas. Cutting across political lines, hundreds of people had visited the “tharavad” to pay homage to Capt Lakshmi, who led the women regiment of Bose’s INA, when she passed away last month. Lakshmi had spent her childhood at Anakkara and frequently made return trips, even in her advanced years.Many members of this family have fought for the country.
Kuttimalu Amma, Captain Lakshmi’s maternal Aunt, was one of the early women leaders of the Indian National Congress and a two-time member of Madras Legislative Assembly in the pre-independence period.The dedication she had shown to rehabilitate orphaned and destitute children had even impressed leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Later, her husband Kozhipurath Madhava Menon held key portfolios in the government led by C Rajagopalachari.