This article was first Published on January 13, 2019 at – :https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/savithri-vaithi-founder-of-vishranthi-old-age-home-no-more/article32819812.ece
Ms. Vaithi, 90, had suffered a cardiac arrest early on Saturday morning, a member of her family said
Savithri Vaithi, founder of Vishranthi, a home for the elderly, died in Chennai on Saturday. She was 90. Her niece Srilekha said Ms. Vaithi had suffered a cardiac arrest in the early hours of Saturday.
Vaithi, who hailed from a family of judges in Mylapore, was raised in a joint family. She began her journey in social work when she was barely 16. She, along with a group of women, started a charity club. She was the founder president of the Madras Charity Club and of Vishranthi Old Age Home.
“A philanthropist, an activist and a social entrepreneur who provided a safe haven for abandoned women, left us this morning to a safer world. A role model for, and an inspiration to many NGOs in India, we have lost a great soul today,” said Ms. Srilekha.
Kumuda Srinivasan, a long-time associate recalled, “My mother-in-law made me a member of the club for ₹2 a month.” Once, during a discussion with philanthropist Mary Clubwallah Jadhav, the subject of starting an old age home had been mentioned. But it was forgotten as there were concerns about running it. “Then Savithri stood up and said she would do it,” Ms. Srinivasan said.
The journey was fraught with struggles. Nobody took them seriously but Vaithi did not give up. She managed to find a home to house destitute elderly people in 1978. “We used to stand in a queue outside the Hindustan Lever office to collect washing powder for clothes,” Ms. Srinivasan said.
Later, with financial support from Help Age India and a donation of one acre of land from A.V.M. Rajeshwari in Palavakkam, Vishranthi finally found its roots. Vaithi relied on V.S. Natarajan, then a medical student pursuing geriatrics at the Madras Medical College, to help women at the old age home, Ms. Srinivasan said.
Dr. Natarajan recalled the initial discussions at the Government General Hospital. “Three important events took place in 1978. We started a geriatric outpatient ward, Savithri Vaithi was launching an old age home and Indirani Rajadurai became the regional director of Help Age India. I remember the discussions we used to have. At that time, the elderly in the home were all healthy but within a period of five to 10 years, as many as 5-10% of them began suffering health issues – either falls or concussions. I used to conduct geriatric camps for them,” he recalled.
Lakshmi Natarajan, vice president of Madras Charity Club said: “Vishranthi was the first home for the elderly to be started in Chennai. Ms. Vaithi was a pioneer in social work and was one of the first ladies to get public and media attention to focus on the plight of aged women. We have lost a great leader. The loss is not only for us, but for all destitute women. She has done selfless service. With her service-minded ability she has trained all of us to do sustainable service to the needy. We call her Savithri amma. Our Amma has left us all but she will remain in our hearts.”
Ms. Srilekha said the old age home now has 175 residents.
The last rites of Vaithi will be held at Vishranthi between 2 and 3 p.m.