Facts and Events
Akkamma Devi - A Life Of Service
. . . . Akkamma Devi is alert, highly articulate and possesses an impressive memory of her long and productive life. She recalls that her entry into formal politics in 1962 began with a summons to Madras from Chief Minister Kamaraj. Akkamma travelled under the assumption that she would be asked to contest an assembly seat in the Nilgiris but was speechless upon hearing that Kamaraj wanted to send her straight to Delhi. He had assigned her the Nilgiris Lok Sabha seat, arguing that the constituency had so far lacked a representative from the hills. Further, Akkamma Devi's educational achievements and fluent English meant she was ideally qualified to participate in parliamentary life. Akkamma Devi also retains fond recollections of Jawaharlal Nehru who encouraged her parliamentary activity. The loyalty to Congress and the Nehru family remains strong. Once in Delhi, Akkamma Devi promoted the Nilgiris with energy. She was deeply concerned by the plight of small tea growers and worked to build institutions like cooperative factories that would make them more secure. The cause dearest to her is the education of girls.
The story of Akkamma Devi's eventful life has been narrated in detail in a book authored by her daughter, Hema Raman. The volume, Daughter of the Mountains (published by East West Books), . . . . was deliberately written so that children would read it and appreciate the value of education and social service.
Akkamma Devi is quick to pay tribute to two important men in her life. Her cherished husband, Joghi, supported and encouraged her work. Her father, Motha Gowder, made great sacrifices to advance her education. He walked his daughter five miles to St. Joseph's Convent School in Coonoor every day. His dictum, educate a woman and she will educate her entire family, was put into practice by Akkamma Devi as a mother, social worker and member of parliament. She promoted schools and women's self help groups in the Nilgiris. A long and distinguished career of service was recognised by a Lifetime Achievement Award from the All-India Women's Conference (AIWC). The AIWC award recognises members aged over 70 with 50 years of social service. Given the devotion to service and the needs of the villages of the Nilgiris, it should come as no surprise that Akkamma Devi took inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and recalls his visit to Coonoor during her childhood. She continues to value simplicity and the welfare of others.
Akkamma Devi also esteems highly two women close to her. Her mother Subbi was a pillar of strength who spread happiness and humour in her family and village. More recently, Akkamma Devi's daughter, Hema Raman, has become another pillar of strength. . . .
Akkamma Devi has no regrets for herself. Even losing the Nilgiris seat in 1967 is borne philosophically. It was simply the wind of the DMK that took it away. However, she fears that the tradition of service in political life is in danger of being lost. . . .