My cousin Kishore passed away last Saturday at the age of 82 at his residence in Quatre Bornes after a relatively short illness, surrounded by his loved ones. He was the only one of our generation of male cousins to have moved from Curepipe. ‘Cousin’ is a misnomer, for although he was the son of my father’s first cousin, our ‘Barka Papa’, he was looked upon as the elder brother in the Hindu tradition. This was even more so as, at least until the early 1960s, there were twelve of us children of three families staying in the same yard at Farquhar Street, Curepipe Road, he of course being the eldest, starting with his own siblings of four sisters and one brother.
Kishore was my main playmate in my early childhood years in the 1950s, and our playground was the plot of land on which the Dhunputh Lallah SSS stands today. It was then a racehorses training ground belonging to the Gujadhur family, and there was wooden fencing surrounding the circular race track on which we used to do gymnastics in the evenings. I recall a very good friend of his who used to be there too, Heeralall who stayed nearby. They both attended the Royal College Curepipe. Heeralall was a laureate and went on to become a doctor in the UK.
But Kishore was a pure classicist, having done Greek and Latin. He completed his HSC in 1956, a feat in those days – no private tuitions, but very hard work under the stern supervision of our Chacha who was also a product of RCC. I remember the day when it was announced that he had secured a post of clerical officer in the Civil Service, with a pay of Rs 228 per month – then a princely sum, and a great relief to my Barka Papa who had recently been laid off from the railways which were closed down in 1957. His obtaining this post was therefore more than providential – it was critical for supporting the family, seeing the brothers and sisters through school, at the same time as he pursued distance learning that eventually led to the BA London degree.
This enabled him to become an Education Officer in 1969, working at his alma mater RCC before moving to Sookdeo Bissoondoyal SSS in 1974. In 1978 he became secretary at the PSSA, where he was later Deputy Director until his retirement in 1996. Education was his vocation, so he could not stay away from it, assuming duties as Manager Hindu Girls College after retirement, and then Board Secretary until recently. All through his career, his calm and composed behaviour commanded admiration, respect and consideration from superiors, colleagues and subordinates alike.
He met his wife Shanta in the public service and they got married in 1964. They had two children, Sheila and Robin.
Between the two of them they gave private tuitions in English, Maths, Latin and Greek – and all the younger brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews on both sides of their family went through the rigour of their discipline and teaching like all the other students.
After his wife passed in 2000, he carried on the crusade alone, including being doting grandparent to his three grandchildren. But that was not enough, for he had another passion: football. He used to play in the centre back position and was nicknamed ‘Homme de Fer’ by his mates, with whom he played every Friday afternoon for more than forty years. As a result, he was indeed a man of steel, and never took one day off from work for sickness during his whole professional career!
A caring husband and loving father and grandfather, he also made a great impact on several of his past students who remembered him fondly and took pleasure in meeting him even thirty years after leaving school. Many of them are highly successful professionals who acknowledge him dearly. To them, as to his family, he was teacher, guide, mentor, and friend.
Giving great importance to family values, he started to organize an annual get together with us all, particularly at the end of the year. He used these occasions to emphasise that education is the passport to success in life, recalling the tough times that we had all gone through but that never deterred us from the path.
As his atman pursues the inner journey towards moksha, many shared memories of him will ever remain fresh in our hearts. Om Shanti.
* Published in print edition on 19 October 2018