Mary J Mathew, Head of the English department, Mount Carmel College (MCC), Bangalore, began her teaching career at the college in 1984 and has been there, for almost 30 years now. She has headed the department a number of times, and in her own words watched “entire generations of young Indian women re-define themselves and break away from the mould”. This women’s college was her first love, she says, adding that she has never wanted to work elsewhere.
Having made hordes of students fall in love with literature with her erudite lectures and affable nature, she speaks of the subject fondly, “I always felt that brave new worlds opened up with the study of literature. Literature straddles all the other fields, from history to science, and it has the capacity to liberate the mind. If any discourse can truly do justice to the human imagination, it is literature.”
With three decades of texts and classrooms, she has watched academic environments change and evolve while her relationship with books has remained constant. “I have been a part of a young English department striving to imbue an Indian element into a post-colonial curriculum, and today head an English department with a challenge to fuse literature and technology,” she says.
Author of Curtains, an anthology of short stories, she hopes to write a novel after retirement. When asked if the 20-year-olds that she predominantly teaches read enough, she says, “Unfortunately, the reading habits of the young are determined by peer pressure and popular perceptions. That needs to change.”