Monday, December 19, 2011

BIS #2738 HELENA NAIDU, EDUCATOR, RIP

Bento D'Souza


BHINGAR, DECEMBER 19, 2011: "Now that she's gone, it matters not how it happened, but that it happened.  God rest Helena's soul."
Helena Naidu was an excellent teacher and dynamic headmistress of the Priyadarshini English Public School Takli, Dhokeshwar, fifty km from Nagar on the Kalyan Highway No 222. Mother Teresa of Kolkata breezed through Ahmednagar on September 05, 1986 and left an indelible impression on Helena and she wished to be like her and do something for those children who have to make a journey of hundred kilometers each day to attend English school.  She really responded to the cry of those who could not pay their fees and found ways and means to find the money to buy them the things that made school life taxing on their farmer parents. No child went without means to have the things they needed for daily school, when Helena was around.    
I first met Helena at a birthday party and she spoke to me about her school in some distant part of St Anne's parish, ten kilometers from Dhotre an outstation and mass centre of the parish, and I quickly got interested. At the first occasion, I visited the students and did a tiny workshop on study methods for them. I visited her school on many occasions and I was impressed by the care she took of her children; neat notebooks, carved calligraphy and disciplined student lives. My mind conjured up a wide range of aspirations of what a small school, lost in the middle of nowhere, might need.  Her Annual Day function was meticulously planned with a plethora of dances item numbers, skits and plays.  I was privileged to be invited to give the Keynote Speech to the parents in English. Not too sure of how to help her build her own school, I referred her to Mr J. C. Anthony, renowned Project Proposal Writer of the Don Bosco Community College.  They both met and decided that a residential home and hostel would be ideal to serve the place which would belong to her as well as serve the local school-going children.
 In July 2011, a group of French Volunteers, called Tambi Inde came with raincoats and funding and put up two sheds that would serve a two dormitories for the students. On day one, she had to take the enthusiastic French college students to Pune to cash their Traveller's cheque of two and half lakhs necessary for the construction, as the documents had one signature less and she successfully took them to Pune and achieved this task. He cared for them in her own home taking care of their needs and providing them with all the information and transportation needed to visit the site and enjoy a pleasurable stay in India. Assisting foreign tourists coming for the first time to India who have limited time, budget and food constraints is not easy but she applied herself to the task and they all went way admiring the hostess for her tenacity and hospitality. It was she who decided to name the venture 'Mother Teresa Home' for children.
I repeatedly asked her to come and discuss the completion of the wall and the start up of the project but she just would not come.  I thus wondered what the problem would be. She refused to confide in anyone and she carried her secrets to the grave. When pressure from the inner world get bottled up and people are not encouraged to seek professional help, tragic and self destructive things happen.
Helena remains a good daughter of her religion and a grateful daughter of her Church, trapped and entangled in an interfaith marriage and lived in a respected and caring joint family household.
Her grieving husband and two children, Prabhu, and a two month old baby girl Kimberlay (meaning the wonderful one) will miss her.  Her life and contribution to education in a tiny village in India will be remembered. She will also be remembered for taking the risk of leaving the big two institutional giants Auxilium and Sacred Heart and launching into the interior of rural India to serve those deprived of quality education. She will be remembered fondly by those who know her, love her and admire her.
Like a truly committed married person, she leaves behind a new institution where the residents of Takli Dhokeshwar can assist at Mass once a month, instead of travelling ten kms away one way, a true follower of the Precursor of Jesus. 
Just as this mission began twenty five ago with the collapse of the St Anne's roof, the next twenty five years begins with this tragic and sad case of 'domestic self-violence", an epic issue of our times.
The funeral Mass was held at 11 o'clock, St Anne's Church and the final rites were held on December 17, 2011 at the Bhingar Cemetery. God rest her soul. 

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