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.