We mourn this week the passing away of Mr Brahmanund (Sanjay) Mohabeer Padya, the first Mauritian Director of the Meteorological Services, at the age of 89. He had been ill for some time. Our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family, including wife Narainy, sister Lalita, sons Girish and Sailesh and daughter (Dr) Amita Pathak, and their children.
With him we lose another one of the few remaining representatives of the great old school that the English Scholarship class of the Royal College was, before the advent of the Cambridge Higher School Certificate. (Mr Philippe Forget who passed away recently was another such). The Royal College of those days bred real English-style gentlemen. The books that were held in the college library were precisely the same as those held in those pre-war days at great English public schools like Eton and Harrow, and were regarded as character-forming books. All those who came close to Mr Padya will testify to his unassuming, affable character that enabled him to put you at your ease and tell you the truth about anything including yourself very softly with a good dose of humour too.
He also had a way of dealing with children and other young people that was quite surprising and well in advance of his time, when scolding, spanking and caning were the usual methods of dealing with children. He would simply laugh you of whatever you might be doing wrong.
He was not a professional teacher but he would teach in such a way that you felt you had discovered the solution yourself. I know a thing or two about it because at the end of Form II my private tutor Naraintuck Banymandhub, who taught me all the English I know, and some Latin to boot, took me to his brother-in-law Sanjay for coaching in science and mathematics in Form III and onwards; he accepted readily even though he knew full well that he would not receive any remuneration given the penurious situation of my family.
By the end of the year (Form III) we had completed the School Certificate syllabus, and after a few months of revision he decided to introduce me to higher mathematics; by the end of Form V I had completed all of the Form VI maths. Shortly after the School Certificate exams he got me to sit (at the age of 17) for what used to be called the London Intermediate Science Exams: I got through in both Pure Maths and Applied Maths (as separate subjects) but Chemistry, particularly the practical paper, let me down. Nothing daunted, he got me to sit again for it the following year, this time in four subjects – Physics, Chemistry, Pure Maths and Applied Maths. I got through in all four subjects with flying colours. There was little more he could do for me at that age, and he arranged for me to be taken to Mr D. Burrenchobay (later Sir Dayendranath). I learnt a good deal from the latter (what I enjoyed most was curve-tracing), but my interests had by this time taken another direction. I really had no need to study much more, but sadly I neglected English and French very badly and lost the habit of writing: that was my undoing. But all the science and mathematics I learnt, I owe to Mr Padya. I also owe to him my acquaintance with PG Wodehouse and Stephen Leacock.
He did not forget me even when I left him; a few years later, when I was working in the Extension Service of the Department of Agriculture and living in Rivière des Anguilles, he drove all the way there from Vacoas and brought me an application form for the post of Air Traffic Controller in the Department of Civil Aviation and urged me to apply for it. I did, and that changed my life.
We all have our exits and entrances. I am glad for this opportunity of putting on record my debt to our beloved Sanjay Bhai.
* Published in print edition on 18 October 2013