Towards the end of her life of 69 years, she was tired and drained. That is how my children have known her. But it was not always that way.
For instance, here are some pictures of my mother with her teacher friends. My father’s caption for these photos is: Kamala’s colleagues while she was working in the Viswabharati Hr. Ele. school, Choolai, Madras, 1956-57. They had been invited by Kamala for Tea.
I have an even earlier photo of her from the time she was a student in Holy Cross Convent in Trichy.
Looking at all those nuns in the picture, I am reminded of The Sound of Music and how Maria was unable to conform to life in the convent. My mother was also someone who could not be restrained by curfews and rules.
Her brother, my uncle Sathy, told me that she would often not return home on time after school and her family would go looking for her. She was never up to any mischief, but she would be about her own happy business; one time, she was returning from the market with a bunch of flowers to take to her teacher the next morning.
A couple of years after the the time the photos with her fellow teachers were taken, my father went to Syracuse in the United States to do his M.S. in Library Science. For her safety, he left my mother in the hostel of St Joseph’s School in Madurai; obviously my mother was a teacher there. When I was speaking to my cousin Pradan Annan recently, he told me about this and how after a few months, she could put up with the rules and dinner bells no longer. So she “discharged” herself, and took off to Madras city where she found work and fended for herself till my father returned three or four years later. Knowing how she was, I had to laugh at this story.
Doesn’t she sound a bit like Maria, of whom the nuns sang, “How do you solve a problem like Maria? / How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? / How do you find the word that means Maria? / A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown“?
Her life in Madras was not uninteresting. She thrived. She taught at the Muslim High School in Triplicane and lived in the Thousand Lights area. She was methodical and organised. On more than one occasion, my father needed his books from India, and my mother always sent him all that he needed immediately. For this my father was grateful and kept a packaging cloth from one such parcel; I found this among his things after his passing.