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One Winter Morning… by Alaukikaraje Khachar, Jasdan

Oct 11th, 2008 | By | Category: Alumni Blog

A winter morning at the Rajkumar College, The College obviously looking its best, I enter the Principal’s Bungalow. I’m not enamored. I have seen this sort of thing before. My husband is more nervous. He has come back to his Alma Mater for the first time after finishing school, being invited for the Flag Hoisting and Prize Giving ceremony in January. He is also trying to convince me to put our boys into this school.

Suddenly in walks this petite not so young looking lady. She first greets Satyajit like a long lost son. I’m on my guard, my royal upbringing, my most courteous manners, and my best handshake all in place. Suddenly she gives me a warm hug and all the barriers come crashing down. In the next hour that we spend with her I find myself laughing and shamelessly crying all at once. This was my first rather memorable meeting with Miss Cooper.

She was interested to know about me and my work, and we seemed to hit it off well together. After a few years of this meeting we started our very dear Priyalok Vilas in 2001. And there has been no looking back since then.

It’s been one of those relationships from which I’ve learnt and learnt and only learnt. Madam has that charming personality which changes the atmosphere in a room. Young and old get drawn to her. She has this unique quality to bring out the best in all those who work with her.

Paying attention to the finer details is perhaps a trademark of Madam’s. She is a thorough perfectionist. Finer details in planning a programme or even a visit of a friend, or whether it was giving instructions to the carpenter, or putting things up in class were always important. Even the finer details of a person’s personality were all important to her.

Priyalok was not an exception. It had to be the perfect place for toddlers to grow up in. The environment the heritage building, paintings by a well-known artist a meaningful language programme and a curriculum which facilitated the overall and total development and well-being of each individual child are our forte at Priyalok.

The superb garden and outdoor area she planned have received praise from all quarters. Pigeons, guinea pigs, ducks and tortoises soon joined the Priyalok family. The children are observing, experimenting, enjoying and ultimately falling in love with the outdoors that Madam has created. Her love for nature percolates right through to the staff and students. And whenever she is in Rajkot she spends a few hours there with the children showing them the wonder that is nature.

While working with Madam, we were almost simultaneously running a personnel department with large number of visitors to Priyalok. Old boys, Parents, CEOs, artists, writers and ambassadors would visit us at Priyalok. In their visits I saw the respect and admiration they held for Madam.

Her concern for the staff was also something to learn from. On Gandhi Jayanti we held a special ceremony, where sweets were distributed to the ayahs and peons. Children and staff take this opportunity to thank them for their services throughout the year. During our first Gandhi Jayanti celebration Madam insisted on serving “Mohanthal” to the staff and students. We were all a little perplexed until she explained how “Mohanthal” and Mohandas went together. We were absolutely stunned at the simple answer.

Even from far away Lahore, she has been sending us ideas for annual functions, poems and sometimes even drafting our letters to parents. In short, we never really have learnt to do without her. In many ways, we react or do things at Priyalok the way Madam would have us do.

Madam is always concerned about our staff development programme. Developing good habits of reading, befriending a dictionary, thank you notes and discarding slang soon became a way with most of us at Priyalok. When the Priyalok staff went on a workshop tour to Baroda, Madam enthusiastically accompanied us. She wanted to be a part of every visit workshop or meeting we had there. Her energy never ceased to amaze us. When we visited the Department of Human Development & Family Studies at the Maharaja Sayaji Rao University, she praised my work to the Head of Dept. They were so impressed and suggested my name for the Alumni Award that year.

After returning to Rajkot and in spite of her flight to Lahore the next day, Madam wrote a letter praising my work, and my personal and professional capacities to the Department once again. They could not ignore the plea and it earned me the Alumni Achievement Award for 2005. For this, I’m ever so indebted to Madam.

One could write pages of the experiences we have shared but I realize of Miss Cooper that one cannot count her achievements by the buildings she built or the trees she planted but rather by the smiles she put on the faces and the hearts she touched. As I write this, I wonder whether my husband was actually nervous on that fateful day of winter. The more I think it makes me sure that he was confident Madam would touch another heart, warm another soul.

Alaukikaraje Khachar
Jasdan

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