Meet a Lakshmi teacher from TN who imparts wisdom at 100 – The New Indian Express
Express press service
TIRUPUR: As daylight hits Balakrishnan Street in Gandhi Nagar in Udumalaipet, a group of students are walking around Lakshmi’s house. The Centenarian awaits them there, with eternal powers to break another dawn upon them – the dawn of wisdom. One of the oldest teachers in Western Tamil Nadu, who retired from formal education in 1981, Lakshmi still has an indomitable spirit to impart knowledge to those who seek it, be they young or old.
Having mastered the Hindi language and with all the experience that comes with her longevity in her pedagogy, she is still very much in demand by many to help them break through the subject. Lakshmi, a native of Coimbatore, was born in Hindupur in Madras Presidency in 1923. She started her teaching career at Saradha Vidyalaya School in Gobichettipalayam in 1942.
Although she has taught all subjects for grades up to 8, her love has always been for Hindi. In 1949, she quit her job and married CP Sunderaswaran, himself a teacher. Later they both started working together at Gandhi Kala Nilayam in Udumalaipet Karattumadam. Although her 32-year professional career as a teacher ended in 1981, she was never to give up her passion as she continued to take Hindi lessons from that same year. It’s been 41 long years since.
“My father died in Chennai when I was four, after which my mother took us to Coimbatore. She always advised me to achieve independence and talked about empowering women,” says Lakshmi.
It was her mother who pushed her to work for a living as a teacher and took it as a promise from her. “She insisted on learning a new language and I joined a Sanskrit class for a while while studying at the Presentation Convent School in Coimbatore in the 1930s. Later I learned Hindi. I became a teacher at Saradha Vidyalaya School at Gobichettipalayam in Erode in 1942.”
Speaking of Lakshmi’s insatiable enthusiasm and passion for teaching, her son Shankar said, “He is someone who slowly and steadily grabs the attention of young students by trying to explore their curiosity. Currently, 20 students attend Lakshmi’s classes every morning and evening. Although age has yet to dampen her will to continue what she loves most, it has certainly challenged Laskhmi on many occasions.
“She started having hearing loss in her left ear in 2017. After receiving hearing aids, she became more attentive to students. She used to sit near the students and watch their lip movements as they said words; and correct them immediately, because she thinks pronunciation of Hindi letters and clear understanding of Hindi speech are two skills that complement each other.
T Kumaraja (83), one of Lakshmi’s first students and now president of the Udumalai Historical Research Union Trust, said he studied under her at Gandhi Kala Nilayam. “She enjoys working with young people, cares about and respects students, and above all is aware of the importance of education in life. This is why more students come to see her even at this age. As generations would accept, even Kumaraja’s daughter and granddaughter have been followers of Lakshmi.
The teaching is always like a meditation for her. She sees it as something that improves her focus, optimizes herself at this point in her life, instills positivity, and gives courage to fight setbacks no matter what.