She was a teacher, one loved by all, for she gave of herself unstintingly. She gamboled with the young ones, playing games that they giggled over. She made her little students learn to hold a pencil, and draw lines till they were perfect. She would walk into a senior class and take a class on Shakespeare, enacting the roles of the three witches in Macbeth, while the students would sit, wide eyed and inspired, not moving a muscle till the last sinister chuckle. A big heart she had that could encompass the whole world, for she saw good in everyone and everything! Children loved her for what she taught them, parents adored her for what she meant to their children. She could be firm and inspire awe, but the firmness would disappear the moment her lessons were imbibed.
In Kerala, the Pulluva ladies are known for their songs sung to the accompaniment of little lute like instruments. These women come to houses and sing of blessings and little joys. They accept little tokens of money from the owners, who request them to sing of blessings to their loved ones.
It was on one such occasion that I watched as my beloved teacher stood outside her house, waiting for her turn. There were a number of women, including a lady sage, all of whom watched the little ceremony.
The voices were soft, each mentioning the names of the people they wanted blessed. Most spoke for their sons and daughters, a few for their grandchildren, yet others for their nephews and nieces. The lady sage also asked for special blessings to be bestowed upon her children and grandchildren. The singing continued, the musical instrument played on.
Finally came the turn of the teacher, who had been standing patiently, with a smile on her beautiful face. She was the last in the line and the women looked at her expectantly, waiting for the names that she would utter. She offered them some money, folded her hands and said in soft tones, but clearly, "Bless all the children in the world, bless the child of every mother and every father, for they are all precious!"
Tears came, unbidden, as I heard that lovely voice, and the compassion that shone from the face of that wonderful teacher. They were tears of joy, for I was also included in that list of children, as were all the children in the world. They were also tears of joy because I was so proud of that beloved teacher, who loved, and still loves the poem, Abou Ben Adhem, because it symbolizes all that she believes in. But what I was proudest of was the fact that this teacher who had taught thousands of children how to live life with joy and compassion, and still does so, is none other than my own mother. And in the words of Abou Ben Adhem, "May her tribe increase".