Although I started blogging only today (yeah, so many posts in 1 day... guess it's beginner's excitement), I created this account with blogger more than 6 months back. Not for a happy cause though. My favourite teacher, Mrs. Rani Chandran, who taught me English in school, died in a road accident in USA and a blog was created for people to share their memories about her. That's when I created this blogger account... to pay my tribute to my Morrie (hope you've read Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, else please do).
I also wrote an article about her, because her life was inspiring. A slightly abridged version of this article was published in Eve's Touch in September 2005.
To Mrs. Rani Chandran, With Love
When I heard of Mrs. Rani Chandran’s untimely demise on June 22nd, 2005, I was devastated. From the number of emails and tributes that flowed into mailboxes and online blogs, I came to know that several others felt that way. Why were we so upset by the death of a teacher who taught us so many years ago? There can be only one reason… because she was exemplary in her profession and in life.
The first thought that struck me once I overcame that grief was to write to a magazine about her. Why would others be interested in reading about my teacher? One, because she was an extraordinary person and I think these recollections can inspire many. Two, I want all the teachers who are reading this to know that their good work will be remembered by their students for many years. Not only teachers… whoever you are, in whatever profession, you will be remembered by people if you give your best today.
Mrs. Rani Chandran was an extraordinary teacher and taught in several schools in India and abroad. Starting 1991, she taught English for close to a decade at Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary school, K. K. Nagar, Chennai, where she also served as Additional Vice-Principal. She’s remembered today not only by her acquaintances, students and fellow teachers, but even by a whole lot of people who met her only one or twice in their lives.
Her dynamic and energetic presence was awe-inspiring. When she taught English, her perfect diction and voice intonation would cause the characters and plots from Shakespeare’s plays and Robert Frost’s poems to come alive. Her language was so impeccable that every conversation with her was a lesson in the nuances of English.
A student once asked “Excuse me, Mrs. Chandran, can I come in?” Promptly she responded. “Yes child, you can but you may not!” For a few minutes, we were left wondering what she meant. Later, she patiently explained that one must use ‘may’ and not ‘can’ when addressing an elder.
Another alumnus recalls what happened when she walked into Mrs. Chandran’s class one day saying, “Please can I have Mahima?” Spontaneously, Mrs. Chandran turned around and asked, with a twinkle in her eyes, “For lunch or for dinner?” After the laughter died down she taught the girl to ask “Please may I speak to Mahima for a moment?”
She was passionate about theatre and came up with mammoth productions for the school’s anniversary celebrations. She would carefully plan every detail of the play from script to props and train every student to perfection.
One of her old students recollects the hours spent dubbing dialogues in a recording theatre, “She wanted me to speak the lines for Lord Krishna in ‘Meera’. She made me repeat it like a 1000 times. ‘When righteousness declines, when wickedness is strong....I rise, thrusting the evil, succouring the good!’ I hated every moment of it then, I'd give anything to have those moments back now.”
She bubbled with enthusiasm and was one among us. Whether working on some project work or planning the next issue of the school magazine or helping us prepare for a competition or organizing an event, she was there with us, guiding and helping throughout.
The most remarkable thing about her was that she was more than a teacher. She mentored her students, conversing with them at a personal level and sharing their interests. She had a knack for identifying and fostering every student’s talent, however small. Marks did not matter to her; she was more concerned with preparing the youngsters for the larger examination called Life!
She was very close to every person she knew, moving with simplicity and complete frankness. You could be so sure she’d tell you exactly what she felt. But there was never a harsh word. Even when she wanted to correct a student, she would do it in a subtle and humorous way, which in itself instilled confidence making them do better.
Even after she left India five years ago, due to health conditions, to live in USA with her sons, she remained in touch with PSBB, offering whatever help and advice she could, despite being miles away.
We loved her. I think God loved her more. On the 22nd of June, 2005, Mrs Rani Chandran, her mother and younger son died in a fatal road accident in USA.
In a prayer meeting held in her memory, several members of staff and alumni recalled, tearfully, unforgettable memories of their dear Mrs. Rani. Uncountable tributes were posted on mailing lists and blogs by her former students. Listening from heaven, she must have celebrated a moment of triumph when one of her old students walked up to the mike and announced that she wanted to become a teacher like Mrs. Chandran, one day. That’s the mark of a great teacher… indelibly written in the students’ minds.
Quoting from another teacher’s homage to Mrs. Rani Chandran, “She’s in a better place now. But, what was the hurry?”