Deepa Madam Moves On

Seek another kingdom, my son, for Macedonia is too small for thee.

It was the first school Assembly of the academic year 1991-92. A new teacher walked in late and joined her colleagues on the teachers’ benches. When the Principal, Fr Philip Thayyil, introduced Deepa Pillai to the students and officially welcomed her to Loyola (to a round of applause), I suspect that a few Loyolites amusedly asked themselves: a Late Kate in this paradise of punctuality?

Today, when Deepa Madam put in her papers, she had three more years to go at Loyola before retirement. Sixteen years ago, she had walked in late, but today, she was leaving early. And in contrast to her public entry into Loyola, it was a very private affair as she went to the Principal’s room to hand over the letter to Fr Varghese Anikuzhy.

Loyola’s loss is All Saints’ gain. Deepa Madam had come to the school after a few years’ stint at All Saints’ College in Trivandrum. And it is to there that she will return in the morning of 4 June.

* * *

I’ve often told Deepa Madam that when I write the history of the school, I will write about “The Age of Deepa Pillai”. For Deepa Madam democratised Loyola and made it more egalitarian. She wanted every student in her class to join in organising La Fest — was there ever a platform where every Loyolite in a group had a role? Unlike the Loyola I knew (of Fr Pulickal and others), where “the best” got to the School Day stage, Deepa Madam seemed to believe that “the best” is when everybody gets on to the School Day stage.

She joined Loyola three months after I had left the school, which means, I was not her student. But we collaborated on the school magazine of 2004 and thereafter on a couple of other projects. So, if I am not her student, perhaps that makes me her friend. Interestingly, while all her students call her “DP” as if she is their friend, I call her “Deepa Madam”, as if she is my teacher.

My explanation for this is simple: I grew up in a less egalitarian era of Loyola. The Age of Deepa Pillai is was the Age of Equality: students wishing to talk to her yelled “DP”, from one corner of the basketball court to another. (Imagine shouting “Puli” in the Age of Fr Pulickal!). The response? Deepa Madam acknowledged them, and made them feel important. In the Age of Deepa Pillai, democracy was no longer confined to the election of the School Leader; democracy spilled on to the streets and climbed on to the stage.

* * *

For years, Loyolites have debated: “Will DP leave next year as she keeps saying? What will happen to La Fest if DP goes?” and so on. Well folks, the time has come. Loyola’s finest teacher has left the school.

I am happy. For she’s now on our side. Deepa Madam, welcome to the Loyola alumni movement.

32 Comments

  • So DP is leaving…like you pointed out her coming really heralded a new age at Loyola…with no teacher could we open up and talk so frankly like we could to her. We were a batch which gave her a lot of joy and trouble…if i counted right she walked out on us thrice with tears in her eyes…it took a lot of begging on our part to get the most popular teacher in Loyola to come back to teach us. She was our class teacher in the 11th and 12th and trust me we were a batch that got real close in terms of trouble-making to the batches of the ’70s you wrote about earlier, but she stood by us even when all the teachers said she was spoiling us.

    Amidst all the physics, chemistry and maths that drowned me in Plus-Two it was only her English classes that really held my attention…those Shakespeare, Poetry and Short Story classes of hers found resonance in me, years later when i took to blogging…along with Fr.Pulickal she is another teacher whose influence my classmates still feel in our life.

    At one point i actually hated her when she rang up my parents to tell them i would flunk my ISC…it got me into real trouble at home but i studied real hard after that… when the results came and i scored, i walked up to her and revengefully said “Madam you made life real tough for me” and she was so shocked she replied, “I tried to help you. You did well and is this how you respond??!!” I really felt ashamed that moment. Sorry for the long comment…this is the best tribute i can give her at this moment. Loyola and Loyolites will always remember all the great stuff this special lady did for us.

    Great post Ashok… with more and more readers here, you are bringing us Ex-Loyolites closer than every other initiative in the past.

  • This is a shocking news….
    Even though she used to tell,I am fed up and I will be leaving the next year we never expected her to leave.But time flies by and she has to take more challenges in life and we also have to come to accept a Loyola without ‘DP’…..

    Ajay George Palakuzhy
    Ajay George Blog

  • I am one of those who left school before DP became a legend, but the makings were already there.

    DP joined school when I was in 9th. Quite fittingly, it was Fr Pulickal who first told us
    about her. For a person generous with barbs, he was full of praise for her. He also said she was teaching in All Saints earlier. So the wheel’s turned full circle now!

    Then a senior told me she stunned them with `kadichal pottatha vakkukal’ in their English class. Pity she never taught us in 9th as we laboured through Julius Caesar and the rest.

    So it was just one year of DP for me in Loyola – 10th. Before the LA Fest era and before the English drama during School Day involved the entire class. Great initiatives for a school obsessed with academics and results.

    Two things I remember besides the Panorama poems and Caesar. Her note in my autograph book `to be naughty some time’

    And when she spent one entire period talking to us about `humane concern’, braving a sore throat (can’t remember though what stunt we did).

    Don’t know if Loyola will miss her, but Loyolites surely will.

    By the way Ashok, I am impressed with the way you are `breaking’ Loyola stories.

  • Loyola as an institution is not just confined to the school buildings, the football grounds, the basketball courts, the canteen, or the auditorium. More than anything else, it is certain special sparkling personalities who shaped and moulded thousands of young minds – that made Loyola what it is. End of an era? Who among us can shrug it away so easily?!
    Having been blessed with the good fortune of submitting myself to these shaping hands, I cannot think of another way in which I would have wanted to grow up!
    Starting from Fr. Philip Thayyil, who pointed out a word on my tee-shirt, asking me what it meant(come to think of it, I never gave the word a second thought – till father took one look at it and said “Arsenal – pretty dangerous eh!), Fr. Pulickal (who has been inevitable branded deep into all our hearts), Deepa Madam- who was simply the one and all for anything and everything(yes, often DP – but never when madam was around!), Susheela madam at the library(i remember how she would often hold back new arrivals for me!), Aleykutty madam(hindi, more than anything else, became a novelty wheh she got down to it!), Jacob Mathew sir(he who epitomised the ‘perfect gentleman’!) and so many more. Each one of them, a pillar standing tall, holding up what Loyola is to us.
    To each Loyolite, Loyola will be held dear to their heart in their own special way. An era, as you very rightly put it Ashok, is most certainly what all of us fondly look back at. The ‘democracization’ of Loyola from the “stiff-upper-lip” ages seems to have brought about a whole host of additional changes too. Maybe it is a sentiment of resistance to change, a side-effect of the aging process, wanting to cling on to the Loyola that was lovingly etched into our minds, brick-by-brick, that makes us look back at our special moments – wondering if it will ever be the same again!

    But then, having said all this (a lot more than I wanted to, actually)….. Deepa Madam……. resigned?!?!?!? :-O

  • got to know the news pretty late ..hmmm … was kind of pretty upset hearing it .

    apart from fr pulikal i think dp s one person who has influenced everyone of us , she has been along with our batch { 98 isc } for longer than most other … as u put it rightly our loss all saints gain .. i spoke with mam today .. she was telling that its a lot different being with a all women crowd after 15 yrs ..

    dp not being in loyola is still a hard fact to digest .

    all i can say .. the school s lost one of the real gems .

    chucks

  • Real sad news ! Cant think of Loyola sans DP 🙁 Shakespear wouldnt be Shakspear without her ,same goes with flights of fantasy or Tom browns school days or LA Fest or The School day Drama or anything Loyolish 🙁

    Dont think any succession planning could ever bring in a person to clone the amazing DP ma’m…

    Lucky ,All Saints ,is all that I can say…neighbours envy n owners pride was DP to Loyola till now….wishing her all success in the years ahead ,and really feeling bad for the future Loyola batches

    Like Jiby mentioned,good Job Ashok.these dedicated Loyola blogs are really helping in uniting the Loyola crowd

  • ISC ’94 was her first full ISC batch in Loyola. I still remember how she taught us Macbeth. After P A Mathews sir left Loyola in ’92, everyone was apprehensive if there could be an appropriate replacement. Deepa ma’m was quite tentative in her initial classes. Perhaps it was natural since she came from an all-girls environment at All Saints. But it wasn’t long before she was totally in charge.

  • Well i just have one thing to say..

    Teachers may come and teachers may go,
    But DP lives on forever…

    in our hearts and in the heart of the school.

  • Hey
    i thinki dug up why she actually left
    i just called her and asked why
    she said she always had the job at the college
    but then they told her that unless she rejoin this year around she will have to resign
    so..umm she left
    as stated
    loyola’s loss is All Saints gain

  • ITs not very easy to describe what we felt… for one thing, it’s all tragic.. and every time we open the poetry book or leaf thru Macbeth, the feeling of loss is omnipresent. Well, the year is gonne be tough.. but there’s a question that I’ve always wanted to ask, right from our 10th boards, to this.. WHY HAS IT ALWAYS GOTTA BE THIS BATCH ALONE?

  • Amidst all this, I hate to strike the discordant note, but come on, people, you have to fell relieved for her too. There’s only so long someone like her could have carried on without the necessary supporting environment. She was a lot of things to us, her students, but she was also a professional with a vision. And it was clear that her vision of what students should become was not always in consonance with what the school wanted of its students. I think instead of whining, we should feel happy for her.

  • True, Loyola School will never be the same without Deepa Madam. Though some of us never had the privilege to work with her for LA Fest, we enjoyed her classes. She taught us to read deep into the text and derive meanings. And of course, she is the only teacher who maintains a very good rapport with all her students. I am sure, Loyola School remain indebted to DP.

  • I wanted milkshake, I got ‘Tang’

    When my batch-mates visited DP’s for the first time in the twelfth, they were treated with milkshake, some distant kin of ‘the sharjah’. I couldn’t go.
    I was one of the first boys in my batch to use the two wheeler, and since her place is only five minutes by vehicle, I didn’t put off my ‘first visit’ for long. And then what I got was ‘Tang’ and not milkshake.
    An ‘ISC’ and an ‘Entrance’ down the lane I had the opportunity to savour her sugary concoctions under the various guises of orange, mango and lime. All were ‘Tang’s and no milkshakes. Through the initial semesters of my engineering education I continued my evening escapades to her place, though off-late my attendance has been low. And it has always been ‘Tang’.
    DP has many ‘students’. I know I am just one among them. I always had a feeling in me that kept bogging me down; “Among ‘her boys’, I am never the best, never the most skilled, never the most loved..”. By some queer logic of co-incidence, or is it that DP stopped experimenting with milk, I kept receiving pale combinations of artificial flavour – ‘Tang’, every single time.

    Yes, DP left the school and people were talking about it, messaging it about, blogging, scrapping, posting, commenting et al. I waited for some days and finally dialled her up today.
    “When you write a book, give me a complementary copy”, said I. “Yes, I will”, said she.
    Later today I went to her place, much like that five minute ride three years and a longer half ago. I rode through my familiar route with a curious eye; for no one knows what lies round the bend. This time she asked me “Didn’t we have fun?”. “Yes, madam, we sure did”, said I. And we settled for another ‘Tang’. This time I cannot complain; the sugar was well-mixed (I did the stirring), the ice-cubes were cold (looking back they always have been, I guess) and the flavour was less sour.

    I realize now, (been long. should have seen this long ago), that like the Lord Krishna and his Gopikas in His Rasa-Leela, DP connects with us one and all. At her place I am on equal footing with the ex school-leaders, the general captains, the intellectual London school of Economics guys, the young entrepreneurs and alumni kingpins.

    Yes Ashok, DP stands for Loyola’s democracy. And that democracy spilled and climbed atop the School Day and the Lafest stages. And when once it did I was narrator and then anchor.

  • What an irony!

    Great take on madam, Ashok.I simply marvel at how you always come up with the right article at the right time. Perhaps you epitomize ergonomics in your current profession of editing and publishing.

    Talking about Deepa madam (Though we too used to refer to her as DP in third person, I cant remember an occasion when we called her that) it is so very ironical that she taught us the best English and yet I am at a loss for words to describe her!!!! What is more, ”irony” was one of her most used words.

    I can hear madam reading this and muttering “What nonsense”…..!

    Madam we all simply love you.Loyola was Loyola because of a handful of visionaries like you.Thousands like me may not be able to express it in as many words despite all the pains you took to improve our vocabulary, yet I’d like to make it known that you have a most previleged place in all our hearts,one that will remain uneffaced for years and years to come……..Thank you madam for ALL you’ve done.

    And (I know mam that one should not begin a sentence with ‘and’…..still…)as Ashok rightly pointed out, all of us senior Loyolites are now more than happy to have you on our side. School’s loss is OBA’s gain!

    Long live Deepa madam!

  • M. Pradeep Kumar Says:

    Dear Ashok,

    Reproducing part of my comments posted elsehwre…..

    This AGM seems to be different to me for one point in the Agenda …. a place for Deepa Pillai…. successor of Maya Thomas and Chittoor as a good English Teacher. Thats the best benchmark I can give..probably the best one for us belonging to 1974 Eleven-year ISC batch. I had written an article on “Lady Macbeth – Oru Swabhavapadanam””in our School Magazine 1974, inspired by Literature classes.

    Let me point out that I too had opportunities for interacting with her by contributing towards the School Magazine as well as during other occasions much earlier, but not with the effectiveness as you did. I dont know whether she remembers all this.

    Her popularity has kept me tantalizing.. is there any chance of attending her classes ? Some special classes for older old boys ?…….

    M. Pradeep Kumar,
    Past President – LOBA
    1974 ISC Batch

  • Aju’s made a point there. I do not think that her vision was was reflected in the de facto aims of the school. It did fit in with all the “holistic education-raise up men” stuff that was filled in the school diary, but it certainly didnt fit into the sort of dull centrism that Loyola came to stand for in the 2000’s. I’m sure she loved the job; she’s told me that many times, but the only thing she’s told me more is how much it took from her. I’m happy that she’s still teaching, and in a way, her classes will be more fun now because she will be teaching undergraduate students. Even after I left school, she remained one of the very few adults I could talk openly about my life with.

    But her worth was in the fact that she represented that one chance at widening the life spectrum for a bunch of noisy, often misdirected 16-17 year olds. While her left-liberal views sounded radical to me at that time, now I realize I’m much more passionate about some of those issues than I ever was. And that what I dread. I worry that Loyolites will no longer have the one teacher who openly pulled their leg about HAC girls. I fear that those kids will not have someone who teaches them to look beyond the mundane for anything in life, whether it be organizing a fest or choosing your career.

    DP might have moved on, but I think Loyola as an institution could do very well in incorporating some of those values she used to impart somewhere between the “aiyyo rama parameshwaras” and the perpetual foot-in-mouth classics. But what Loyola can not do, and will not be able to do, is replace DP, the English teacher. Which brings me to my main issue. Why doesn’t anyone talk about DP the teacher that much. For God’s sake she was not just a brilliant human being, she was easily the best at what she was hired for- teaching ICSE-ISC English. She could accurately predict board papers and set extremely challenging question papers, but she also managed to instill in many of her student, a true love for the language and its literature. I doubt that the school will ever find someone of the same caliber to fill that void.

  • When my son joined Loyola as an UKG student I was surprised to find Deepa madam on the grounds, because I was a student of hers at All Saints’. Usually, it’s the other way around (from school to college). I immediately met her and she was very friendly towards me when I told her that I was an old student of hers’ though she didn’t remember me. She was my favorite teacher too; the one that we girls at All Saints’ didn’t bunk class. After that I was waiting for my son to grow up and be in her class. Alas! I was cheated out of my wish when she left for All Saints’. As is often written on these pages ‘Loyola’s loss is All Saints’ gain’. It’s seldom possible to find someone to fill such a big void, but I fervently hope so for the sake of the boys in Loyola because it’s teachers like her that makes a difference in your life.

  • It makes me feel very good to read all that you have to say about Deepa whom I have known since we were in Class X(1969) of Convent of Jesus & Mary, St Joseph’s High School, Poona. She had come to the school that year; was very very quite and kept much to herself; as a result most of us did not know of her.

    My first vivid memory of her was her iron grip while we played kabbadi. She used to quite a fly on the wall on the sidelines and would suddenly overpower the unsuspecting opponent with a grip that sucked her breathe away! I must have been a recipient or how would I have known… Some of us soon realized that it was to have Deepa on our side.

    Well, I felt very good reading how she has touched all your lives in meaningful ways. And, of course, most of you write extremely well. Congrats!

  • I am one of her students from the first batch she taught at Loyola and today after 17 odd years, I still remember Deepa Ma’am for exactly the same qualities that every one here is talking about. Is there some way of getting across to her – email/ phone number? Anyone who knows can reply privately at sridhargk (at) hotmail (dot) com

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