Dr Gopee

‘Cotoc’ Maureemootoo: Monument, Institution 

— Dr R Neerunjun Gopee 

‘Monument, Institution’ – these are some of the terms that ex-RCC students whose lives he had marked were using to describe the man they had come to pay homage to: Mr Maureemootoo, alias ‘Cotoc,’ usher at the Royal College Curepipe until his retirement in 1970. Within a couple of weeks of the demise of another stalwart of the RCC, Georgy Espitalier Noel, Cotoc also had left this world.

 Peacefully, in the early hours of the morning of last Friday, according to his daughter Sheila, a colleague and spiritual sister, who so lovingly looked after her father during all these years: he would have been 99 years old in two weeks’ time. 

I had the opportunity to visit him at his home in Vacoas a few times about four years ago, due to certain circumstances. He never looked his age, and was fit, with no major health problems. He had a regular morning routine of exercises, and spent most of his time reading voraciously, a habit that seems ingrained in almost all those who have passed through the RCC either as students or staff, like a contagion! He spoke little, making me remember the words of Sai Baba: ‘Before you speak, ask yourself: is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?’

Generations of students of RCC owe to him their sense of discipline, and when we look back he is remembered more as a stern pater than a patrolling policeman out to nab victims. He was all over the place at the RCC, walking around the compound, checking into the classes, not failing to pick latecomers and admonishing them. He had his landmark notebook in his hands, and when the occasion demanded would immediately slap an arrest on any defaulting student.

And arrest used to be a serious affair; no parent could ever dare question its imposition. There used to be the standard one-hour arrest during weekdays, or the Saturday arrest of three hours’ duration. And Cotoc it was who had the responsibility of supervising those who had to stay back for their arrests. He assigned tasks during that period, and made sure that they were completed – the arrest period was a class in itself, and one could not escape. I do not know whether in those days there was this modern bane known as the scheme of duties: one did what one had to do, was trained for. The call of duty was paramount, and it wasn’t about showing off to one’s superior.

I am sure that Cotoc would have been appalled by what I saw once at a secondary school much later after my own days at the RCC: a man rushing with a bag in hand towards the main entrance of the school building. He had tousled hair, was unshaven, and the top buttons of his shirt were unfastened. It turns out that he was the usher. I guess that no more need be said about discipline.

What a contrast to Cotoc the usher, as we reminded ourselves last Friday: always elegantly dressed in his grey trousers, navy-blue blazer, and wearing his tie. One could not but be impressed by his neat and tidy look. And he always addressed us in impeccable French. As the saying goes, those were the days!

Sincere condolences to his bereaved family, and may his jivatma continue on the journey towards moksha.

RN Gopee 

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