Meet Lakshmi teacher from TN imparting wisdom at 100

As daylight strikes Balakrishnan Street at Gandhi Nagar in Udumalaipet, a group of students strolls their way into Lakshmi’s house.

Published: 27th March 2022 05:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th March 2022 05:32 AM   |  A+A-

Learning a non-native language — Hindi — is easy for those being tutored by this centenarian from Coimbatore| MP Saravanan 

Express News Service

TIRUPUR: As daylight strikes Balakrishnan Street at Gandhi Nagar in Udumalaipet, a group of students strolls their way into Lakshmi’s house. The 100-year-old awaits them there, with perennial powers to break another dawn upon them – the dawn of wisdom. One of the oldest teachers in Western Tamil Nadu, who retired from formal teaching in 1981, Lakshmi still has the indomitable spirit to impart knowledge to those who seek – be it young or old.

Having mastered the Hindi language and with all the experience that comes with her longevity in its pedagogy, she is still much sought by many to help them crack the subject. Lakshmi, a native of Coimbatore, was born in Hindupur in Madras Presidency in 1923. She began her teaching career in Saradha Vidyalaya School at Gobichettipalayam in 1942.

Though she taught all subjects for classes up to 8, her love was always towards Hindi. In 1949, she left her job and married CP Sunderaswaran, himself a teacher. Later, they both started working together at Gandhi Kala Nilayam in Udumalaipet’s Karattumadam. Though her 32-year professional career as a teacher there ended in 1981, she was never to walk away from her passion as she continued to take Hindi tuitions starting from that very year. It has been 41 long years since then.

“My father passed away in Chennai when I was four years old, after which my mother took us to Coimbatore. She always advised me to attain independence and talked about women empowerment,” says Lakshmi.

It was her mom who pushed her to work to earn a living as a teacher, and took that as a promise from her. “She insisted to learn a new language and I joined a Sanskrit class for some time while studying in Presentation Convent School in Coimbatore in the 1930s. Later, I learned Hindi. I joined as a teacher in Saradha Vidyalaya School at Gobichettipalayam in Erode in 1942.”

Talking about Lakshmi’s unquenchable enthusiasm and passion towards teaching, her son Shankar said, “She is someone who slowly and steadily draws the attention of young students by trying to explore their curiosity.”At present, 20 students attend Lakshmi’s classes every morning and evening. Though age hasn’t yet quelled the drive in her to continue what she loves the most, it has certainly challenged Laskhmi many a time.

“She started having hearing loss in her left ear in 2017. After getting hearing aids, she became more attentive towards the students. She used to sit near the students and observe their lip movements when they pronounce words; and immediately correct them, for she believes pronunciation of Hindi letters and a clear understanding of Hindi speech are two skills that complement each other.”

T Kumaraja (83), one of Lakshmi’s earlier students and now the President of Udumalai Historical Research Union Trust, said he studied under her guidance in Gandhi Kala Nilayam. “She likes working with young people, cares about students and respects them, and most importantly is aware of the importance of education in one’s life. This is why more students come to her even at this age.” As generations would agree to it, even Kumaraja’s daughter and granddaughter have been Lakshmi’s disciples.

Teaching is still like a meditation for her. She sees it as something that improves her focus, optimises herself at this stage of her life, instils positivity, and gives the courage to fight back against setbacks come what may. 



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