Teachers who shaped us in Simla of the Sixties
One fine morning, during the morning assembly, held for prayer every day, we saw a smiling smart face of a woman, stylish hair in bob cut and an execuite silk saree draped over her shapely figure. Throughout the prayer when we sang, “Aei malik tere bande ham…” I was trying opening my eyelids a little to catch a sight of the unknown new face standing alongwith our teachers. This face wa a smiling one whenever I caught a sight of her.
Miss Sharma our principal came forward, after the morning prayer, which made us look forward to some important announcement as it was not everyday that the Principal mam would say something during the morning assembly. Miss Sharma cleared her throat and in a voice choked with emotions introduced the “smiling face” mam. ” Mrs Goswami would be the new principal of the school.” There was pin drop silence as if everyone had forgotten to breathe….a nerve shattering and unexpected news! Suddenly Mrs. Goswami came forward and smilingly spoke in a very stylish English, that we were not much used to. Perhaps at that time I could not understand but that was the best an incoming principal could have said about the outgoing principal…what I remember vividly even today is, ” Let’s give her a big hand….” And she clapped. It was, what I understood, that Miss Usha was leaving the school to get married and Mrs. Goswami was wishing all the best for her new role!!!
But some girls said, ” how happy she seems by sending our principal mam!” And few others were smitten by her charm. And I was so impressed as she had come from the Tata Hall school, a school where I wanted to be admitted when I was much small. And what stylish way of speaking….I really looked forward to her class if she ever decided to teach us.
And luckily she started taking our English classes and what a transformed class it was by her interactive sessions, teaching much beyond the syllabus. Once she came late to the class and explained that she was at the final last pages of a novel and could not just leave the book. That day she shared the story of that novel with us.
And today despite having read thousands of books I still am touched by the charm of the story dhe recited in class initiating live for reading amongst do many in the class.
Then stories started coming in…Rita, my classfellow, was a tenant of Mrs. Goswami. The quaint little beautiful cottage in Kaithu was Mrs. Goswami’s home. Someone would quip, “but she is a divorcee!” Now that was a big news for us as in Simla of the Sixties e still were prehistoric beings, the ancient ones.
Another one added, ” she has a monkey as a pet!” Now that was another interesting news. And during my solo sojourns of the Mall I saw her walking with a monkey in chain held by her!!! How impressed I was.
Much later in 1975 or 1976
Femina, that I had started subscribing to, ran an article on women having broken the bond of marriage and emerging powerful…..and there was my dear Mrs. Goswami there….beautiful and bold Mrs. Goswami who became a model teacher for so many if us studying in Lady Irwin School In Simla of the Sixties!!!
And many years later when I was around 48 and happened to go to Kaithu. I could not restrain my curiosity and walked to that quaint little beautiful cottage that I remembered so well and pressed the bell. The door was opened by someone….I was taken to the drawing room and in walked my dearest mam…older but more beautiful…and still so very elegantly dressed in silk saree!! I introduced myself as one of her students in the school way back. I was so full of emotions when she hugged me though she acknowledged that she could not place me in her memory but added in the same manner as I had seen during our morning assembly, “But how does this matter…what matters is that you remember it.”
She praised eloquently the Khadi shawl that I had put in, the shawl with red and green embroidery, my trademarkand embroidered one. I wanted to give that to her but she refused. I promised to make one for her. When we were saying goodbyes, I was still thinking of making a shawl for her, as I walked up the Kaithu as rnt, I was still thinking of making a shawl for her. But the bus journey back to Hamirpur, my banal routine followed drowning away the promise to embroider a shawl for the teacher I so loved!!!
I am sorry Mrs. Goswami for not keeping my promise but I have kept all other promises that I made to you when you taught us with so much love and passion in lady Irwin in Simla of the Sixties !!!!
(I got to know today only that Ms Goswami died 5 years back. It is a pity that despite thinking about her for years after that meeting, in Kaithu cottage, I could never connect with her….I lament it wholeheartedly. The lesson learnt is not to be late in conveying our emotions to people you live!)