The Life of Our Founder

Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao was born on the 18th of July, 1878. After a brilliant academic career, he graduated from The Madras Christian College. On securing his B.L. Degree, he became apprenticed to Sir C.V. Kumaraswamy Sastri. He was enrolled as a Vakil in July 1903. In July 1904, he formed a partnership with Mr. Radhakrishnaya, his college mate, and they practiced under the name of Venkatasubba Rao and Radhakrishnaya.

In the space of few years, Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao become one of the leaders of the Bar. His forte was on the Original Side.

He was appointed Judge of the Madras High Court in 1921. His appointment was unique in two ways. He was the first practitioner on the Original Side to be appointed a Judge. Secondly, he was the youngest person to sit on the bench of the Madras High Court.

In the year 1922, he married Andalamma. This marriage was a milestone in his life, in as much as together with her, he was able to implement his passion for social welfare and reform, in founding the Madras Seva Sadan.

For his outstanding ability as a Judge, he was knighted in 1936.

After serving as a Judge for about 17 years, he retired in 1939 as the acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.

Later in 1939, he was appointed as the Agent for Berar of the Nizam of Hyderabad. This choice fell on him and it was given to him as the first agent to lay the foundation, to devise the pattern and set the tradition of the high and unique office which had no precedence to fall back on.

He will always be remembered first and foremost as one of the greatest Judges who adorned the Madras High Court.

Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao’s judicial career was marked by his passion for justice, complete independence of outlook and adherence to the truth as he saw it. He had an iron will and never accepted conformity or ready acquiescence as a principle of action. As a result, his long judicial career was one of the most successful and eventful in Madras Legal History. Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao had a passion for thoroughness which he carried into his everyday life. He hated shoddiness and disorder. He was scrupulously particular about dress and food. Cleanliness was to him a part of Godliness. Then again, in his public activities, he was equally thorough. He could not tolerate anything slipshod, anything vague and equivocal or anything which was underhand. He was always kind and courteous. He was a great philanthropist, giving away a great part of his wealth for social causes, in particular to The Madras Seva Sadan.

Another great passion of his was for Social Reform. He stood for the rights of women and their status in Hindu Society. The Madras Seva Sadan is a standing monument of his zeal and enthusiasm to uplift Indian women.

At the age of 82 years, on the 30th of December 1960, he reached the lotus feet of the Almighty, ending a glorious and beautiful life.

To commemorate the name of the Founder, The Madras Seva Sadan started the Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao Matriculation Higher Secondary School at T. Nagar in 1971. Our school too has been named in honour of Our Founder, to carry with pride, not only his name, but also his noble ideals. Our motto is inspired by his wonderful life:- To brighten the way for others, to serve with one’s own hands, with one’s whole heart and always with a smile.



The Life of Our Founder

One hundred years ago, Madras was, as you can imagine, a very different place, where huge, shady trees formed lovely avenues, very few vehicles were seen on the road, and people led gracious, simple lives.

It was, in other ways, not an idyllic place. There were many injustices in those days, especially against women, who were not treated well at all.

It was into that world that our founder, Andalamma, was born in the year 1894. Since she came from a well-to-do family, she had the benefit of good education (not many girls did, in those days). She went to St. Thomas Convent, Mylapore and the Presidency High School, Egmore and learnt all the crafts and skills of a young lady of her time. Andalamma, as she grew up, was also learning something else that no school taught, but everyone needed. That special ‘something’ was Social Awareness – the ability to feel compassion for the poor, helpless and less fortunate and the desire to some day do something to change their plight.

Little did she realize how her opportunity would come. At a very young age, Andalamma became a widow and thought she must now accept a life of seclusion – for widows in those days could not remarry or mingle in society.

It was then that she met the person who would change her life the Hon’ble Justice M. Venkatasubba Rao, a brilliant and much respected judge who was determined to make Andalamma his wife – a brave gesture in those times! Justice Venkatasubba Rao was a very special man – learned, courageous and upright in his beliefs. He deeply wished to transform the ills of society and in his young wife he found the ideal partner. Together, they set out to brighten the lives of hundreds of under-privileged people. Both of them believed in living by example – never to preach, but to practice their ideals, to show others by lighting the way.

This is what they did: In 1928, with their own money (a grand sum of Rs. 10,000 which at that time was a generous figure indeed) they founded The Madras Seva Sadan – an institute to protect, teach and help destitute women and children and people who had been abandoned and mistreated by society. Here on the sprawling grounds of this noble institution, all the ideals and love in the mind and heart of Lady Andal began to take shape.

At the Madras Seva Sadan, women who thought they had nothing to live for found new purpose and meaning in life. They were fed and clothed, given work, taught skills and learnt to become happy, independent members of society. The numbers grew from 8 to 3,000 in just 30 years.

So, the Madras Seva Sadan and all the many other institutions under it, grew from strength to strength under Lady Andal’s firm and careful guidance. She didn’t just lead her people, she took a personal interest in each one. Her stately presence was loved by all. Dressed in beautiful silk sarees she would weave flowers into the hair of little girls, feed them personally with rice balls, take them for evening drives to the beach. (She was one of the first ladies to drive her own car in those old-fashioned times). When the holidays came and some children had no home to go to, she took them to her own beautiful house where they spent memorable times together.

In fact, she was truly a mother to many, taking care of them until they were old enough to marry, finding good husbands for the girls, and organizing the weddings, for which she herself would buy the sarees and jewellery.

Lady Andal worked tirelessly to organize the many activities and functions of the Madras Seva Sadan. Breaking all barriers of caste, creed, religion and social stigma, the Madras Seva Sadan took in people from any and every background. In fact, once a Harijan girl joined the school, but the upper caste children did not want to eat with her. Lady Andal did not scold or lecture, but taught the children a lesson they would never forget. She invited all the children to eat with her. At the meal, she seated the Harijan child on her right, with the other children all around them and then she began to eat. Once the others saw this, they realized how small and limited their thinking was. The problem never came up again.

This was how Lady Andal, like a bright star, lit the way for others, dispelling the darkness of ignorance and prejudice. Yes, for all her greatness, she was a humble lady. She was honoured with very prestigious awards – the king George’s Medal, the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal and the Padma Bhushan – all for her outstanding work in social welfare, but these honours did not change her nor did any of her work ever come in the way of her being a loving and devoted wife. She stood by her husband in all his important postings. She welcomed equally into her home the most illustrious of persons (royalty, national leaders and famous personalities would visit often) as also the humblest. No one could ever doubt their welcome in her home. She always had time to celebrate birthdays and festivals with the family and filled their lives with joyful moments, beautiful gifts and fun-filled occasions.

In 1960, Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao passed away and it was as if the light had gone out of Lady Andal’s life. Deeply grieved, she bore her loss with courage and still carried on her duties with a smile and a kind word for all. In 1969 she joined her husband at the Lotus Feet of the Almighty.


A Perfectionist

Mrs. C. Prema Kumar, the grandniece of Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao and Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao and long-time Correspondent of the Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao School in Chetpet, commanded respect wherever she went.

Known for her sharp business acumen, probably a result of her B. Com degree, she earned her Diploma in Montessori Teachers Training and dreamed of setting up a school that was child-centric rather than academics-centric. This culminated in the formation of Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao School.

For students, the school was a reflection of Mrs. Prema Kumar's views and ideals. Images of Mrs. Prema Kumar wearing her characteristic red bindi and crisp cotton sarees are a vital part of every student's memory, who reminisced about her ability to remember them. She had a knack for not only remembering them but also what they were good at. It only goes to show that she took a personal interest in all of them.

Apart from Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao School, Mrs. Prema Kumar was the driving force behind The Madras Seva Sadan Schools in Chetpet and Tambaram from where she started her work in 1976. Mrs C.Prema kumar was also the Founder Correspondent of Sir Mutha School which was established in 2012.

Mrs. Prema Kumar was a great leader, the pillar of The Madras Seva Sadan, a visionary, a wonderful mentor and a perfectionist in all aspects of life. Mrs. Kumar was always at the forefront of activities that promoted education, sports and social welfare such as:

Hony., Gen., Secretary
(April 1976 – May 2017)
The Madras Seva Sadan, a Multipurpose Social Welfare and Charitable Organization founded in 1928 – which over the years has run an orphanage, an old age home, a mental patients rehabilitation centre, a centre for visually challenged children, a vocational centre, hostels and empowerment programmes for women and students, as also the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, ORCA - Swimming Academy and seven Schools.
(April 1976 – April 2011)
The Madras Seva Sadan Industrial School, Chetpet.
(April 1976 – May 2017)
The Madras Seva Sadan Hr., Sec., School, Chetpet.
( April 1976 – May 2017)
The Madras Seva Sadan Hr., Sec., School, Tambaram.
(July 1987 – May 2017)
Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao Mat., Hr., Sec., School, Chetpet.
(July 2012 – May 2017)
Sir Mutha School (CBSE), Chetpet.
Member (2004 – 2017) & President (2006 – 2007) Soroptimist International Chennai – (a global voice for women through Awareness, Advocacy and Action)
Honorary Secretary
(1995 – May 2017)
The Christmas Fair Association (a 60 year old Association helping various charitable organizations).
Founder Committee Member Harrington Road Residents Association (promoting improvements in infra-structure, togetherness and self help in the neighbourhood)
Governing Council Member Tamil Nadu State Chapter of the International Society for Technology in Education in India (ISTE India)
Trustee (2006 – 2017) (i) Thatikonda Nancharamma Charities.
(ii) Thatikonda Rajamannar Trust.
(ii) Dewan Bahadur Thatikonda Namberumal Chetty Charity Trust.
Member National Association for the Blind
Member (2001 – 2017) International Women's Association


i. Award for outstanding services in the field of education on International Women's Day on the 8th of March 2006 by Tamil Nadu Arya Vysya Mahila Sabha, Madras Unit.

ii. Award for outstanding contribution towards Education by Global Tamil Telugu People Foundation on Teachers Day, 5th September 2006.

iii. Vocational Excellence Award 2011 presented by the Rotary Club of Chennai Towers.

iv. Outstanding Woman Achiever Award presented by the Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, Chennai.

v. ‘Bharathi Award' for Social Service presented by the former Judge of the Supreme Court, Hon'ble Mr. Justice S. Natarajan on the occasion of the 131st Birth Anniversary of Mahakavi Bharathi on the 30th March 2013.

vi. Award for achievement in Social Work and Education presented by Vasavi Club affiliated to Vasavi Clubs International on the occasion of International Womens Day 2013.

vii. SHEROES AWARD 2014 in May 2014 for excellence in education and in particular her Inclusive Education policy. This Award has been instituted to recognise extraordinary women from various walks of life.

viii. ‘Women Achievers' Award 2014 for outstanding women from Jaguar LandRover, VST Grandeur and RITZ Magazine for excellence in education.

ix. ICON award for education from Jeppiaar College of Engineering on the 25th of February 2015.

x. Best Philanthropic Edupreneur in the South Award on the 25th of April 2016, by The Education Post.

Mrs. Prema Kumar was the pioneer of inclusive education in India. She worked tirelessly to mainstream children with physical and learning disabilities and other special needs. To facilitate this, she started an Occupational Therapy Centre and a Learning Centre to cater to the needs of the special children.

She wanted to provide children with a happy environment and atmosphere where an all round development was encouraged so that they would look forward to School. She never wanted the emphasis to be on fitting children into a mould but letting them come into their own.

She was fascinated by the scriptures, enjoyed travelling and had visited numerous countries. She was also fond of the performing arts, reading and sports. She won five gold medals and one silver at the Tamil Nadu State Aquatic Association Fourth Masters' Swimming Championship in 2014.

On the 19th of May 2017, she was reunited with her beloved Sir Mutha and Lady Andal in their Heavenly Abode. Though her journey on this Earth has come to an end, her ideals and legacy will live on.