As the young voice of the reader flooded the church, my mind was flooded with memories that her eulogy revived, and my eyes subsequently flooded with tears.
There was nothing poetic about the tragic way in which Ms. Lume died. It was horrifying. It was shocking. More than anything, I thought that her death was unnecessary. That a woman so kind and generous-hearted had to go in such a careless way seemed disrespectful to the memory of her wonderful life. For days since I received the news of her death, I’ve been getting flashbacks of the time I spent with her.
So, as I today have the words and the means to write them down, and as it is Women’s Day, and as Ms. Lume epitomized the perfect woman, this post is going to be a tribute to her and to all the other beautiful women, whom I never appreciate enough.
It was always taken for granted that if anyone needed help with their French, Ms. Lume’s tuition classes were the place to go to. And so, in my last year at high school, when the pressure to increase my scores started weighing down on me and I began to need extra help with my school work, the decision to join her class seemed but natural. Everyone in Panjim knew that she was the best French teacher around.
My acquaintance with Ms. Lume was short. I don’t remember my first impression of her, but I do remember marveling at how neat and organized she was on my first day at her tuition class. She handed me a freshly photocopied French rulebook (which she’d compiled and typed out herself, I would later find out), and pointed me to the nearest available chair. She gave me some six excercises to complete within the hour and turned to the next student, chastising him in her no-nonsense voice and good-naturedly pulling his leg at the same time. This was characteristic of Ms. Lume.
It always fascinated me that she could keep track of all her students, as she had so many of them. She not only remembered their names and the work she’d covered with them in the previous class, but also knew what kind of mischief they were likely to be up to and who they liked to sit with in class. It sometimes annoyed me that when I walked in, she almost instinctively knew who I was going to sit with and directed me to an unoccupied table so that I could waste as little time as possible in conjugating as many verbs as possible. She understood her students very well, which is why it was nearly impossible to fool her.
At times I thought she was a little hard on me. On that first day, after I’d submitted my work for correction, she didn’t commend me for having done all that work in just under an hour, nor did she remark on the near accuracy of my answers. Instead, she just tick-marked each page and told me I ought to go through my mistakes in order to not commit them again. It was much later that I realized that she’d only push a student to do what she thought they were capable of doing, and that is the mark of a good teacher,
She devoted a lot of time to her students, and I don’t think any of us really appreciated that. She’d teach continuously from 3 till 7 in the evening, six days of the week. In addition to that, she took the time to type out worksheets for us. She often seemed quite harried, but she seemed to love teaching, and so we knew her occasional complaints were only half-hearted.
She would often sit by one of her students and chat with them for a while. Some of us would grumble about having to listen to her talk, but in truth, we quite enjoyed her stories.
She was also generous. I remember when it was her birthday; she offered all her students some snacks and drinks. The number of cards she received on that day was testament to the fact that she was loved by her students, by everyone who knew her.
Polished nails, clothes that matched, her pretty face lighting up when she laughed, the neat labels on all the folders in those Godrej cupboards that lined the wall, the little stickers on the cupboard doors, the tumbler of water and glasses thoughtfully placed on a table for her students, the holiday timetables she’d hand out to everyone at the beginning of the year, the shoe rack that greeted you when you climbed the stairs to her house: memories of a brief acquaintance with a wonderful lady.
I can almost imagine her shaking her head sadly at the sorry state of the world and launching into a small monologue on youth on motorcycles, if it had been someone else other than her.
The lives of the best women are not documented on film or on paper. They are documented through the eyes and ears of the people that surround them, the people they love, the people that love them and the people that observe them in society.
Ms. Lume was an exemplary woman, and her death seems so unfair. But in a way, it has highlighted her vibrant life more vividly and ensured that the story of it will remain etched in out minds and hearts forever.