Some of the English dailies in Hyderabad carried a small news item on the 9th of March, the significance of which far exceeded the space they gave to the story. The Times of India said Malladi Subamma, a city-based writer and feminist donated Rs 36 lakh to Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad, on the occasion of Women’s Day on Thursday. The contribution was made towards construction of a new building for the centre located on HCU campus.
A rationalist and humanist, Subamma, has been elected to head the AP Rationalist Association several times. She also has about 110 books and 500 articles on women’s issues to her credit. She has acted in films too. Rekha Pandey, coordinator of the centre, said, “It is not that she comes from a very rich business class family but that she could take this decision speaks volumes about her commitment to the cause of women.
while The Hindu‘s headline (the accompanying photograph dates from The Hindu also, but from a few years ago) was
Well-known social worker and women’s activist Malladi Subamma took the lead and donated Rs. 36 lakh for the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad (UoH), on Thursday. The cheque worth Rs. 36 lakh was handed over by Ms. Subamma to Vice-Chancellor, UoH, Professor Ramakrishna Ramaswamy. The donation is towards building a centre, which will be named after her and will be dedicated to teaching and research on women.
“We value the contribution a lot for the fact that this donation has come out of the personal savings of Ms. Malladi Subamma which she created by selling all her property and jewellery.”
And thereby hangs a tale.
What is remarkable about the donation is the spirit with which it was given, a personal gift out of her savings, for supporting teaching and research in a public University. This is extremely rare in the Indian context, at least at this level. Smaller donations are common enough, and very large endowments are also common, especially from corporate houses or alumni donors, but to have a citizen of Hyderabad donate such a large amount, to a University with which her association was tangential at best, can only be described as an act of pure generosity.
Her act should also help us reflect on the role of the University in civil life. While we are a central university, we are also embedded in the matrix of Hyderabad. As much as we need the city to interact with us, to recognize the value we bring to it, we also need to contribute to the intellectual life of the city and help it to grow in ways that Hyderabad may not have realized. More participation by our teachers and students in urban matters, outreach by way of lectures, events, continuing education… There is no limit to the spheres in which we can link with the city, and I believe that we will also then see more of the citizenry contributing to our growth and development, like Malladi Subbamma, and also perhaps in other ways.
And then, in addition to being the University of Hyderabad, we can also learn to be a University for Hyderabad…