In my faint memories of childhood, her wrinkled skin, tired face and grey hair did not seem to belong to the paragon my mother had spoken of. And as I grew up, she withered like a loose petal. But the legacy our great grandma left behind was so great that it cast a spell every time we needed some magical strength.
Sarojini Amma teacher, they called her, for she was not only the headmistress of the Mannathu Government School, Alappuzha, but was also a mother to thousands of her students. She personified the word ‘Guru’ in its absolute essence, for she was an indispensable part of the lives of each of her students.
Teaching was not merely a profession for her.
She devoted her whole life to it, which was evident in her benignant expression. She could not bear to see school kids poverty-stricken and dropping out of school and working in menial jobs. But the monthly government salary that she and her husband received was not sufficient to educate these many kids.
And so she sold her plot of land and gave scholarships to as many kids as possible and arranged desks and books to ensure unhindered education. This intervention, done with unconditional love, bore fruit when her students passed with flying colours. She was acknowledged by the then President of India Zail Singh, who presented her with a national award for her work as a teacher.
Determined and strong right from a tender age, she was beautiful in all senses of the word. It gives me goosebumps when I think about the age and times in which she lived and her unwavering self-respect and courage. Even in her early teens, she had the spine to go and pull the collar of a man who eve-teased her in public in broad daylight.
Now every time some injustice happens right in front of my eyes, a nasty comment, an abuse, I think about her and the guts she had, which would be enough to boil my blood, and an unwavering stare would be enough to make the abuser back off. The blood she left steaming for the generations to come and the strength that her kind gestures showed us make us bow down at the Guru’s feet all over again.