Janaki akka was much more than a teacher for me. She gave me a life I might never have had otherwise. I am what I am today because of her. It was her encouragement, support, warmth and affection that saw this child of a house help finish her graduation and find a job.
My parents, who were construction labourers, barely made enough money to feed the family; therefore school was only a distant dream. When our parents worked on the site, we would be there playing. One such day, a woman approached us and asked us if we would like to study. I had never wanted anything more in my life and I said YES! From that moment this stranger became my Janaki akka.
Although Ananda Bharati was not a regular school I didn’t mind because Janaki akka loved me for who I was. I was only five when I started going to Ananda Bharati but even then I noticed how much closer Janaki akka was able to come to us. While everybody else I met stayed far away from me, as if afraid to touch me, Janaki akka let me sit on her lap, held my hand when I walked and hugged me.
Janaki akka was a very different kind of teacher. We never felt that she was teaching us, it always seemed like she was learning along with us. Akka had the patience and perseverance to continue teaching us a concept until we all understood it. Even if it meant that she had to explain a point several times. Learning was fun at Ananda Bharati. Books were not the only source of learning there. Janaki akka would take us out into the garden, pick leaves and seeds with us. Using these we’d learn about different shapes, sizes, colours and also the numbers. Understanding fractions, additions and divisions therefore was never a problem.
I left Ananda Bharati after class five to join a regular school, and there I learnt that all teachers were not meant to be Janaki akkas. Teachers always stood near the blackboard with a stick in hand. Janaki akka was unique.
Although it’s been a decade since I left Ananda Bharati, my association with my teacher Janaki akka will continue to remain my source of strength.