Teacher remembered

It’s going to be a desolate X’mas this year at No 4, Langford Road. The reigning matriarch of that charming old world home, with its trellissed verandah, sloping driveway and chaotic garden, is no more. She died the day after Christmas last year. It was also her birthday which she gaily celebrated with her family.

She even had herself photographed, the morning sunlight shining on her hair and face. She wore her years lightly with laughter and banter. Nobody would have guessed how she agonised silently over her son battling against cancer. She kept her private sorrows away from the prying eyes of the world.

Our friendship went back to those golden years in KGF. In a row of bungalows in the Mysore Mine, ours was the first. The Mascarenhas family lived in the last. We were orthodox Hindus. They were equally orthodox Roman Catholics. Yet, we lived like one family whose friendship continued over the next six decades.

Therese was the eldest of four children and taught me maths during my last three years of high school. She loved to announce this in public with special mention of my dubious academic credentials. I would retort “now you know why I am still weak in arithmetic!” And she would laugh heartily. She had the ability to laugh at herself even as she teased and made fun of others.

Her interest in people was amazing. Her knowledge of world affairs never ceased to surprise. She had an opinion on everything under the sun, whether it was politics, cricket or religion. She debated the antics of a Raj Thackeray with the same passion as she discussed papal policies in the Vatican.

Well informed, highly literate and remarkably articulate, she was the ideal senior citizen whose mental faculties remained razor-sharp till the end. She died as she lived. Smiling, laughing and surrounded by friends whose friendship she valued above all else.
Maybe, it will not be so desolate a Christmas, after all. I am sure the amiable spirit of my one-time teacher still lingers in every crevice of that lovely home.

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