My Maths Teacher, Mrs Kapoor

There are so many people we meet in the course of our lives. So many. Some in passing and without any legible footprint. Inconsequential really. Then some for few fleeting moments but with lasting impact. Some who remain with us forever but not really. And then those who stay and make us who we are. Paths intersecting, some diverging while some converging but all creating lives and shaping personalities, at the end of the day. 

Last week, I lost one such person, someone whom I met while in school, one of those who have influenced the few positives in me. My middle school Maths teacher, Mrs Kapoor.

She was something. Really. The Iron Lady of our school, our Master Shifu of Maths. We loved her classes though she was strict as strict could be. I remember how she would first check if we had our geometry boxes with us. Trouble was what you had in store if you forgot one. Every student knew you never go to a Mrs-Kapoor-Maths class without one. And the Maths books, of course. 

Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry, she made us fall in love with numbers and angles. She was that good kind of strict teacher who made you want to learn. I can't believe that she's no more.

I remember how she would check our homework, she at her desk looking into our copies while we stood next to her. And some days she would flash you her trademark smile too. If I close my eyes, even now I can see her in that mustard colour saree of hers, a red, no maroon sweater vest on top and her specks. And I still remember her voice, firm yet sweet.

She lived in a beautiful cottage next to our school. Such was her aura that every student instinctively switched to their best behaviour while crossing those few yards that marked her home.

She was more than a teacher though. She was much much more than a Maths teacher.

I remember distinctly when one day she taught me the importance of encouragement and appreciation in her own unassuming way. I didn't quite know then that I was gaining a valuable lesson in life. But over the years every time I think of encouraging someone, I go back to that day.

We lived in Shillong where from time to time there would be some strikes and bandhs. On one such day, my parents decided to not send us to school anticipating trouble, very less attendance in school and hence no classes. But as the day proceeded we got to know that classes were indeed on in spite of limited attendance. At that time, I hated missing school so much that my dad agreed to take me even though it was already late. I think I reached school after the second period. The first class I attended that day was Mrs Kapoor's and she applauded my zest, my drive to attend school and all this in front of the whole class. I still find myself smile at that memory. She was one great lady and an extraordinary teacher.

I feel ashamed that I didn't think of her often. I feel like an ungrateful student. So many years and I don't think I thought of her enough. And when I did, I didn't make an effort to know where or how she was. So many years and not once. But today when I learnt of her passing, it was as if not a day had passed since that final results of 6th standard. Little did I know then that would be the last time we would spend talking other than the customary greetings.

That was the last day of middle school after which I would move to the high school section where we would have a different Maths teacher. It was an important curve of my school life too because now both sections would be merged. More students, more competition. Constructive of course. That day sensing my thoughts, I guess, she told me that I had scored the highest percentage not only in my class but in both the sections combined. She told me that I should continue working hard and be the best version of myself. I can't believe that was the last time we really spoke and that now she is no more.

I was lucky to have had some wonderful teachers during my school life. Teachers who accentuated the respect of this noble profession. Mrs Kapoor was one of those. You don't find teachers like her these days.

Today, I mourn my Maths teacher. Today, I wish I could tell her thank you, at least one more time. At least one more time.



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