Student Mental Health during the Pandemic- Pitstop 1: Interview with Ms. Lakshmi Sundaram

Hello! I am Priyadarshini, a life-long learner, a foodie, and a yoga buff. I love to read a lot and I love to write as much as I read. With the pandemic and lockdown arrangement stalling my college admissions, I was looking for a sign through which I could create an impact from my capacity. 

I wanted to create something that served as a repository of collective experiences that spoke of solitary, strength and laughter during these uncertain times. 

This is when I applied for an internship with Speaking Grey. It was a Wednesday afternoon that I got the opportunity to speak with the Founder of Speaking Grey, Ms. Aditi Joshi. We discussed the pandemic and how it is all the more essential at the moment to spread awareness about Mental Health. 

I was thrilled to start working with the organization that shared the mission of mental health awareness. Having the aim to reach out to students, we decided to create a student section in the blog where students can have access to stories and links to online courses.

Articles with multiple perspectives will be recorded for the visitors of the website, particularly student on-lookers. The need for reassurance that every feeling is valid from every student will find its destination here because the topics focus on the effects of pandemic and illustrate what we just said above- that every feeling is valid. 

Join me in this journey of meeting teachers, students, psychologists, and artists who will take us through the issues of lockdown, education, post-lockdown world, and about how students can deal with the challenges that may come their way! 

Cheer up! This is the right time for the saying that goes “Tough times never last, but tough people do”


Our first pit-stop is at Aarabi Couture, Nanganallur. Famed for her prodigious designs and a natural flair for teaching design, Ms.Lakshmi Sundaram has it all: empathy, knack for designs, and a successful sense of entrepreneurship. Her students are none other than home-makers near and far. Ms.Sundaram aims to convert home-makers into self-sufficient and independent designers. Let’s find out more about this teacher and her lockdown experiences.

Ms. Sundaram is a native of Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu. A literature graduate from Annamalai University, she decided to pursue what she was passionate about since childhood- creating various kinds of art and particularly designs on sarees. She had received a lot of appreciation and support while growing up and also decided to continue her learning after marriage.  

I settled in the middle-east after marriage. My turning point was when I enrolled in the company’s ladies club. I learned hand embroidery and thread work from a Pakistani lady”.

She started designing a lot of her own sarees and her children’s dresses. Her friends requested her to design their sarees as well! After moving to Chennai, she decided to set up a boutique.  

Classes as a stress relief

Ms. Lakshmi has students from nearby and faraway places. She has made very effective use of the lockdown period. 

Initially, we relaxed for 10-15 days. We thought it will end. But since the lockdown continued, we started our online classes.

She gives the material to students and also uploads instructional videos in which she teaches them the art of designing sarees. She specialises in Kutch work since that is not very popular down-south. 

She tells us that the classes are a source of therapy for students. Her students being homemakers work hard at their homes by cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids, etc. In such a busy schedule, doing design work is a kind of relaxation for her students. She has helped recover a 70-year-old student from depression simply through teaching her design work! 

Ms. Lakshmi also provides job opportunities for her students. That grants financial independence to her students. 

Lockdown Experience

When asked about the advantages of lockdown, Ms. Lakshmi states that the lockdown has cut down transit time to a huge deal. This, in turn, helps students focus more on productivity and efficiency. 

The flipside of lockdown although, is the lack of human contact. ” Normally, I correct them by telling them areas of improvement as they are stitching. Since they are at home these days, it is harder for me to tell them”. Says Ms. Lakshmi. 

Post-lockdown Plans

I asked her how she envisions teaching her students and building her business in the post lockdown world. 

Ms. Lakshmi aims to continue social -distancing even after the lockdown. However, she does plan to continue regular classes for students who live nearby. 

We will be strictly following the preventive measures such as using sanitizers, wearing masks and gloves, etc,” says Ms. Sundaram. 

With regards to her business side, with all the stress-relief and encouragement that Mrs. Sundaram had been providing to the home-makers, they have been motivating themselves and each other to finish a large chunk of work. So, in addition to an online store, Aarabi Couture is planning to open a shop in Chennai itself, since they have a large stock of material ready! 

Ms.Lakshmi Sundaram inspires all of us with her teaching style, her zeal to revive a lost art, and a vision to contribute to the society. She has changed the lives of many of her students with her constant encouragement and selfless enthusiasm.  

Advice to Students

“Students mostly give excuses for not finishing the work. I don’t encourage that. I have a note written that says “ No excuses’. And another advice that I would like to give students is to keep at it- keep practicing what you do. That will make you perfect”. 

2 thoughts on “Student Mental Health during the Pandemic- Pitstop 1: Interview with Ms. Lakshmi Sundaram”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *