Living life's purpose
Often women in India who lose their husbands fairly early (and by that I mean immediately after retirement) are seen leading dreary, unhappy lives, confined to themselves most of the time. This is especially true of women in India’s middle-class society.
It is therefore refreshing when you meet somebody who has accepted her grief and carries along with determination and purpose. Revathy Srinivasan, who has been a physics professor the past 42 years, lost her husband about four years ago; he was in his early 60s and perhaps could have lived for a decade and more. Revathy now teaches physical optics at Sankara Nethralaya’s Elite School of Optometry (attached to BITS, Pilani), an innings that began in 2003-04 after her retirement from SIET College where she spent 34 years. That is only one part of her life – on the other, she is a rare social worker.
Born in Bangalore on Independence Day, Revathy grew up in Madras, in Mylapore. Her father K.V. Venkataraman worked for the Imperial Bank of India (SBI). The last of seven sisters (she has two brothers as well), Revathy studied at the Lady Sivaswami Girls High School, Mylapore. After pre-university at Queen Mary’s, she joined Presidency College to pursue a degree in physics – she was inspired by Sir C.V. Raman. She obtained an M. Sc Physics degree in 1966 from Annamalai University, specialising in electronics. In June, she started her career as head of the physics department at Visalakshi College, Udumalpet. Here she served three years.
In November 1968, Revathy married Srinivasan, who was physics professor at D.G. Vaishnav College – they had met at a conference. Marriage brought her to Madras and, in July 1969, she joined SIET College as lecturer in physics. She went on to become Head of Department and Reader. In 1980, Revathy completed her M. Phil (chemical physics) from Presidency College; in 1992, she acquired her PhD (medical physics) from the University of Madras.
Revathy is a life member of the Indian Red Cross Society and has donated blood 60 times. She is the Ruling President of the Lioness Club of Madras Nandambakkam, and Ruling Secretary of Lion’s Club Silver Pearls. She is set to take over as Council Chairperson of Lionesses Clubs in Chennai (15 clubs) District 324 A5. Revathy regularly visits Corporation and special schools to conduct eye-screening and dental camps, and hospitals and the Cancer Institute. In 2007-08, she organised 12 blood donation camps (during 1985-95, she would conduct such camps every Independence day at her residence) – 1,773 units of blood were collected. In February, she organised a first-aid training programme for the hearing impaired at St. John’s. She regularly visits Narbhavi, an old-age home in Sholinganallur that houses 42 women.
Every year, the past 20 years, Revathy has been donating two sewing machines to needy women. “My mother Pattammal used to sew clothes most of the time. She said that every home should have a sewing machine,” she says.