We knew her as Ms Hima Devi.
I always remember her as a lady with immense attitude, a cigarette between her fingers, puffing smoke in our middle school classroom. After a while our Victorian “ha, hoo” shocked by her stance, simply stopped.
Hima was just Hima… cool. No, we did not use that term then. But in my mind, I always remember Hima as an angry woman. Upset with the world outside, while the insides of her brain were immersed in drama – Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, Shakespeare… and continually pacing in the classroom, her feet were perhaps eager to dance in Manipuri while her fiery eyes matched the exaggerated movements in a Kathakali.
She once picked on me in class announcing rather dramatically that I would be the first to go behind the ghunghat (a long veil drawn over my face) — symbolic of a newly-wed bride (in another era)… 😉 Would she chuckle, I wonder, if she knew that I almost missed that opportunity of wearing the coveted veil… or would she roll her eyes in disbelief!
I wonder if anyone remembers how we were summoned to pay an immediate visit to Strand Book Stall – no, not New York’s Strand that claims to hold miles of books in its single store in Manhattan, but the one off Pherozeshah Mehta Road, and a stone’s throw from the Reserve Bank of India building in Mumbai. Alas, Mr. T.N. Shanbag has also passed on. The book, I remember, that was imperative for us to get – in middle school, again, within walking distance of this ‘bookstall’ (a book lover’s delight) – was the late 17th century literary work of John Bunyan… The Pilgrim’s Progress!
There’s very little I actually knew then about this doyenne, a grand dame if you will… every now and again I run a search to find so little. While updating my previous post that I wrote five years ago, in the comments I added some articles others have referenced her in. But here are some visuals… piece these together to learn a little bit more… note how far back these will take you…
Although there are few references available, there’s little doubt in my mind that hundreds and thousands of students who were under her tutelage, however briefly, would always have at least an atom sized space about Hima, in their memory. We loved you, admired you. Few can emulate your grace, sharp wit, your elegance, your style, your sense of timing, your voice, the words, the tone, the pitch, diction, the drama… you will stay with us.