"Meenakshi' as she is better known in Auroville, hails from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, and joined Auroville in 1976. She is a professional social worker, experienced university-level teacher, writer, translator, magazine editor, counsellor and guide. She is also a well known educationalist in Tamil Nadu in the field of innovative methods of teaching, particularly for the non-schoolgoing children and child labourers.
Poetry and writing
Meenakshi is a well-known modern poetess of India. To her credit she has published four books of anthologies of her poems in Tamil under the titles 'Nerunji', 'Sudupookkal', 'Deepavalipagal' and 'Marupayanam', the last with English translations. Her poems have been included in the multi-lingual National Book of Poems by the Indian Centre for Cultural Relations, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Some of her poems have also been prescribed for the university students in Tamil Nadu, and Penguin has included her poems in two of its English books, 'The Women poets of India' and 'The New Writing in India'. 'World Poetry' published by W.W.Norton & Company, New York, as a compilation of 1,600 verses from the past 4,000 years, also includes her poems, as one of the five poets of the 20th century chosen from India.
Meenakshi has received the prestigious Coimbatore Devamagal award for her contribution to Tamil Creative Writing in 1998. She has also been honoured as a leading educationalist and poetess by Soundaraja Endowment at Chennai, and was awarded the Dr.Henrich Award by FAO German Action Group, Germany, for her active contribution in the field of rural youth work in the year 1978.
Meenakshi has initiated a group involved in realising the Tamil Heritage Centre in Auroville. The land for this project has been assigned within the Bharat Nivas complex. A series of lectures on Tamil Heritage was organised by her at Bharat Nivas last year. She is also running a Tamil newsletter (Auroville Grama Seydhi Madal) for the past three years to link Auroville villages & Tamil Nadu at large.
On the educational front, Meenakshi is the founder and director of a school in Auroville, Ilaignarkal, which has for the past 24 years dedicated itself to education of the needy young people in and around Auroville. Ilaignarkal concentrates on Tamil heritage projects, through which languages, cultures, history, science and other basic social life structures are taught in a joyful way. She is also one of the coordinators of Tamil Ulagam, an after-work school programme which manages eleven schools in Auroville region serving nearly 1,000 children from both school-going and working backgrounds. She takes care of the teachers' in-service training schedule, has created new teaching tools, and is carrying out regular evaluation of the interactions between Tamil Ulagam schools and the village communities. Another of her projects has been the creation of the Auroville Education Resource Centre (AERC), together with other outreach educational activists in the Auroville region and a number of dedicated Auroville educationalists.
Meenakshi is one of the founders and an active executive of SEWA (Small Employer's Welfare Administration), a unit of Auroville Foundation serving in the fields of employer-employee relations, worker's education, housing, job placement, etc. SEWA has completed a mega socio-economic survey of all the employees of Auroville, the first of its kind, with the support of Stichting De Zaaier Foundation, Holland. She is also a member of the Bharat Nivas (Indian Pavilion) management team; one of the coordinators for the Centre for Indian Culture; and a consultant in special areas - such as Indian culture, Hinduism, Tamil heritage and culture, Tamil literature, women's studies, local herbal medicines, South Indian cooking, the socio-economic, political and cultural life of the native Tamil people, local handicrafts, village relations, the teaching of Tamil language and allied subjects, for guests, visitors, Aurovilians, local teachers and students as well as researchers from all over the world.
It is noteworthy that she was awarded the Dr.Henrich Award by FAO German Action Group, Germany, for her active contribution in the field of rural youth work in the year 1978.
Representative for Auroville
Meenakshi has traveled widely. She has delivered lectures, recited her poems, and conducted lecture demonstrations in many educational centres in the US, Europe, Indonesia and India. She was nominated by the people of Auroville to receive the 'Fifty Global Communities Award' during the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the United Nations in 1995 in New York. During the same visit there, she also received on behalf of Auroville an 'Altar of Peace' (a huge redwood table) gifted to Auroville by George Nakashima's daughter and family at a ceremony in St.John's Cathedral, New York. This special table is at present kept at the Centre for Indian Culture, Bharat Nivas, but will be shifted later to the complex planned for the Sri Aurobindo World Centre for Human Unity (SAWCHU).
Present and future commitments
Today Meenakshi is devoting much of her time to Auroville's Unity Service (a conflict resolution group), and is regularly approached not only by Auroville Working Groups, but also by outside agencies - to help in building better working relations with the local people and to find ways to develop their interests. Her other work in Auroville continues to focus primarily on non-formal educational methods, worker's welfare schemes and Tamil Heritage related projects.