A little background first.

My mother-in-law has been teaching for the past seventy-five years, give or take a few (and anyway, who’s counting at this stage of the game?).

She says it’s her hobby, just a little pastime to keep her alert and to give her a purpose in life. Those of us who know her know it’s much more than that. As in, it’s her passion. As in, she cannot imagine her life without it.

Little boy beside elderly woman in a bed, both poring over his schoolbooks

So this 95 year old woman has a schedule so strict it takes an Act of God to change it – even by five minutes. Her students march in like clockwork: 12:30 is Vijay’s slot and he stays for an hour. Mummy takes a break for lunch and a short rest, then at 3, the parade begins. Gaurav, Preeti, Piyush, Neha, Abhishek . . . she teaches them about punctuality by her own strict adherence to a timetable, about discipline by always coming prepared and expecting the same of them.

Scraps of paper with handwritten grades for various Class two subjectsEach one of them has been snatched from whatever spot they had occupied pre-Mummy and forcibly dragged higher. There is no student she can’t improve. Some are positively meteoric in her hands – Vijay, for instance whose grades we see here, regularly stands first in his class.  Though she was not at all happy with the drop in his science and maths marks (the leap in Hindi and the modest improvement in GK and MS went unremarked – no need to praise what he is doing well in! That goes without saying – literally.)


Mummy conferring with her student's parents

For parents with dreams for their children’s success, Mummy is the teacher of their dreams as well. No one knows their children’s potential as well as she does. No one knows their syllabus, their homework or their exam schedule quite the way she does.

She keeps track. When they leave after a lesson, she doesn’t stop thinking about them. She goes on mulling and planning – what is the next thing they need to understand? How to get them to learn the concept of latitude and longitude? Of division? Of cloud formation? Of the Freedom Struggle?

Where does she get the energy? She is 95, for heaven’s sake. An age when most people are finished, living only for themselves and absorbed in the tricks their own bodies are playing on them. Not Mummy. To hear her tell it, she gets her energy and her strength from her students. They are her inspiration, her source, her reason to go on. They keep her alive, connected and determined.

We named Karuna Vihar after her. And so for her 95th birthday, I invited the old guard – those members of the Foundation whom she had known for years to come and help us celebrate.

Elderly woman with three young teachers giving her a bouquet of flowers

Everyone came – so proud and happy to be asked, to be with her . . .

Three young teachers giving an elderly woman a huge birthday card

Young teacher sitting at the feet of elderly woman, both readingThey brought her flowers and cards and their own dreams, their own lives. They came to sit at her feet and absorb her wisdom and unceasing belief – in education, in learning, in the joy of doing right and doing well and in teaching children with faith and devotion.

They came to learn and to celebrate and to give thanks.


95 years of dedication and integrity and devotion.

How much we have to learn from her!

And, in the process – what fun there is to be had!

Elderly woman's birthday party - group shot

Oh! One last thing.

My sister-in-law Nutan wanted to be sure her gift to Mummy arrived, un-pilfered, undisturbed. Here’s the label she put on the package, practically daring any postal worker to tamper with it:

Postal label: Birthday card for 95 yr old Mom; candy for 95 yr old Mom; vitamins for 95 yr old Mom


No one did. The package arrived intact and Mummy, as usual, was mystified by it. Why would anyone want to go to so much trouble for her?

Why indeed?

People like Mummy are National Treasures. People like her hold the nation together, they keep us from falling asleep, they call us to account and remind us why we are here.

Teach the children! she insists. Make sure they can read and write and do their sums. They will handle the rest.

That faith, that commitment – that’s all that we need.

Happy Birthday, Mummy!










Showing 9 comments
  • Smriti

    She is an inspiration for every one. God,bless her and keep her going.

  • zephyr

    She is an institution in herself. And she makes us realise that we are doing nothing in comparison. She indeed is a lesson in commitment and dedication for all of us. Happy Birthday Great Lady. We salute you!

  • Kunal

    Happy birthday other mummy!

  • Pattu

    Happy Birthday to the grand lady. Reading the blog from miles away , fills me with positive energy and happiness.She is great , to have collected so much love and affection.An achievement!
    I also appreciate all of you who are there to cherish her and follow her.
    She is lucky indeed.

  • Manmohan Rai

    The 3 r’s in full glory and now with a 4th…..”They will handle the rest” Happy Birthday Madam.

  • Shipra

    We all wish that God keeps her happy, healthy and as inspiring forever! A very happy birthday dear Aunty!

  • Rebecca Morris-Chatta via Facebook

    Sometimes, the example we set is the most important lesson of all! What a wonderful example of life-long learning and teaching from the heart! Happy Birthday Auntie!

  • Anne Bruce

    Happy Birthday! What a lesson we all have to learn from you.

  • Shelley Hubele

    It’s late but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

Leave a Comment