I got woken up this morning to hear my brother say, "Didi, Anusua Miss emailed and she just wrote that Rathin Sir passed away this morning."
It did not really sink in, until I actually read the email myself.
"Rathin Sir" we used to call him, although he wasnt actually a teacher. He was always there, for good or for worse, he was there. He was our Principal, Joya Maam's husband. If Madam was our school's foundation rock, Rathin Sir was the calming water.
I remember being tormented in school with important things as the school fest, teachers day celebration or the annual function. Being one of the students who always had a "calamity" to face because of being involved I used to be running around campus looking for solutions to a problem or looking for problems to solve. Seeing Madam would mean rushing up to her asking her for her opinion. Seeing Rathin Sir would mean rushing up to him and asking him for an opinion only to get the answer, "Ami kichhu janina, Karta ke jiggesh koro". (I dont know anything, ask the boss!") If I asked where I would find Ma'am he'd say, "Look for the tornado, youll find her in the centre".
I always saw Rathin Sir behind Ma'am. Just Always there. There was something about him, calming. Not calming like staring at a mountain. But the feeling of calmness one finds while watching a trickling stream, flowing through the woods. We know that the Nature surrounding the stream is not only its creation. But the stream is of great significance to the life around it. The stream used to be part of something huge, but is slowly trickling now, as if its job here is done.
Rathin Sir always smiled, was always happy except for the last few months I saw him.
I hardly saw Rathin Sir after we came to know that Madam was seriously ill. I was one of the first two or three students to know. We wrote our ISC exams in the middle of the calm before the storm which was about to happen. Joya Madam was still always there, Rathin Sir was also always there. But while Madam tried to be the same, I dont think Rathin Sir was. Perhaps it was the feeling of impending loss, I dont know. But something was wrong in the school.
I travelled from the ashram in their car with Gargi Miss to visit Madam at the hospital, Apparently I could have been a blood donor. It turned out I was a perfect match except for one minor detail. I remember walking into the room to see Ma'am folding a sari and getting some stuff ready for me to give Rathin Sir. When I came back to the ashram Rathin Sir was sitting in the Ashram office, beside the entrance to the Meditation Hall I handed him the Sari and the Tiffin Carrier that Ma'am gave me. He had this look on his face. I will never forget it. He did not even ask me how Madam was, and somehow I felt that he did not want me to say anything. So I did'nt.
The last time I saw Rathin Sir was the last time I saw Ma'am. I got woken up at about 5 am in the morning by a phone call from Gargi Miss. She wanted me to get Diya and come to the school as soon as possible. I knew what was wrong. We showed up, but could not bear to go inside. Diya and I went to the market to find as many white roses as possible. They were her favourite flowers. By the time we brought them back there were people everywhere. The last I remember seeing Ma'am, was a first: she was for once in one place at one time. Again in the centre of a tornado. And right behind her: Rathin Sir. He looked up saw the white roses and had a sad smile in his eyes. The peace that we always associated him with was still there. But there was something else, something inexplicable about that moment.
That was the last I saw either of them. The day I went to The Future Foundation School to say bye to the teachers, the students, the staff and my school, I tried to find Rathin Sir. I couldnt find him and I think I was told he was resting. Im happy I never saw him again. I like to remember him the way I remember him: with Ma'am in the centre of a tornado.
I dont believe in Heaven, or an after life. But when it comes to Rathin Sir and Joya Madam, I have a strange vision of an after-life of togetherness.
My school: http://www.sriaurobindoinstitute.org/container.php?page_name=educational/ffs/in_brief