Students fondly called her KN Teacher.
She was my teacher in the Middle School at ITI Vidya Mandir, Doorvaninagar, Bangalore 560 016. Outside of school, she taught me Carnatic Vocal music, guiding me until I passed junior level exams. Her daughter is my buddy. I sometimes went over and stayed at KN Teacher’s home. The safety that I felt in her home was beyond any words. An unconditional bond breathed there.
KN Teacher is now 81. She is a reader. An ardent, dynamic, engaging and enterprising reader, she is.
I took a couple of books with me when I went to meet her last October. “Of course I’ll read them, Vinthaa. But, look here, you shouldn’t have taken all this trouble! It is enough for me that you come to see me every time that you are in Bangalore.” Even to this day KN Teacher calls me ‘Vinthaaa’ in her unmistakable, melodious and utterly respectable style.
She reads every day. She gets engrossed in crosswords from the newspaper. She thinks hard about puzzles. She phones up her brother and discusses a crossword that she couldn’t solve that day or talk about current affairs or about something she’s reading. There is an ongoing knowledge exchange there, and transference of skills, ideas and wisdom. The passion is alive, illuminated and catching!
I stayed overnight with her. We chatted. After a long gap of 16 years. Beyond the relationship of being a student and her teacher. Transcending our age and life contexts. There was no purpose, just personhood. We were two individuals, women of different generations. Our conversations ambled through the evening, into the night as I ate delicious oggarane avalakki that she prepared only for my sake with a generous amount of home-made yoghurt, and the next morning too. Our chats took us both through epochs and episodes without dates.
Stories lives weave.
KN Teacher revisited her teen years reminiscing over how twisted life became after her mother’s death. The young woman that she was became the pillar of the family for her father and brothers. Although I already knew it a bit I still listened with fresh ears, curiosity and a kind of awakening that my own life circumstances had kindled me within in the last 16 years. Our synergies recognised each other’s strength, resilience and the life energy. Women like her shone the light of life etching paths with courage, commitment, resolution and sustainable approaches.
A few years ago medical doctors thought she was soon going to be heart-less. Already living a very simple, spiritual life my Teacher decided against medical interventions and prepared herself for the farewell. In a planned, dedicated, conscientious way, without causing problems to her family members or becoming a burden to anybody in any manner. Proving the medical experts wrong, she continued to flourish – helping her children, her siblings and their families, her friends and neighbours. Her heart has been functioning only 45% of the normal capacity. Life has embraced her with a yearning – a need for sustaining such noble humans in this world.
She is living her life independently, with freedom and dignity.
Being short of staff over Deepavali festival her grocer delayed the delivery of her monthly groceries. The previous day of my visit she went over to the shop, got the most necessary groceries packed and carried them home herself. Walking about a kilometre, carrying bags weighing more than 10 kilograms.
KN Teacher is a reader. Reader of the word. Reader of life.
Here’s to my Teacher to mark March 8. With awe and respect.
- Vinathe Sharma