Beloved wife of Dr Vedi Dyall who was a well-known GP in Flacq, Devi/Aunty Devi — as she was affectionately addressed by her near and dear – left us shortly after collapsing in her bathroom on Monday morning 4th January. She was aged 84, but hardly looked her age, as the accompanying photo taken the day before shows.
‘It was almost a programmed exit,’ mused poetically inclined Vedi as I sat holding his hand on reaching their residence in Moka soon after I got the sad news. In fact, he told me, just before that they had both talked to her elder sister Shanta, and the day before she had met all her close ones at a family gathering.
‘At least,’ he reflected with calm stoicism, ‘she didn’t suffer.’ That was the general feeling shared amongst us all who had come to pay homage to her.
She was born Satyabala Anandi Devi Bundhoo in 1936 at Port Louis, the second of six daughters of Dewakur Bundhoo, second Hindu pharmacist in Mauritius, and Janee Pandoo.
She attended the Young Men’s Hindu School, coming first in the Junior Primary Scholarship Examinations in 1947. Coincidentally, her future husband, Vedi Dyall came first in the Senior Primary Scholarship that same year.
Devi was admitted to Loreto Convent Port Louis in 1948 until she cleared the School Certificate. Her father, a pharmacist and a pioneer in promoting girls’ higher education, was very keen that his two elder daughters, Shanta and Devi, should pursue careers in pharmacy and medicine respectively. He therefore got them transferred to Bhujoharry College to study science subjects in Higher School Certificate as these were not on offer at Loreto Convent.
In 1953, as Devi started Upper Six, Vedi (Laureate RCC Science Side, 1952) was hired as a teacher of Chemistry and Mathematics by Bhujoharry College. He was then assigned to coach the class of 1953, which included Devi (and also the future Dr Krish Gajadharsingh). This was the beginning of a beautiful romance between Vedi and Devi. The coaching led to a laureateship being awarded to Devi in 1954. They both pursued higher studies in Bristol, UK, where they eventually got married in 1958. Following the award of their respective degrees in Medicine and in Chemistry, and the birth of their first daughter Veena in 1959, Vedi and Devi returned to Mauritius in 1961.
Devi started work as a Chemistry teacher at the QEC in 1962, where she eventually taught the first HSC batch in Chemistry and coached students to compete for the Science Laureateship. Her QEC career resulted in many students being awarded the scholarship. She moved to the Ministry of Education in 1975 briefly, prior to joining the newly-created Mauritius Institute of Education. There she promoted science education, and was part of a team that introduced Integrated Science in the curriculum of Forms I to III. Besides being involved in numerous science-related committees and projects, she trained generations of science teachers at the MIE prior to retirement as Associate Professor in 1996.
The couple had five children, two of whom in their turn became laureates, Veena and Sabrina. What with their logical and scientific mind, a trait they transmitted to their children, it was always a sheer pleasure to engage with them on any subject under the sun, none being taboo. The clarity with which they shared their views and life lessons were always delightful learning experiences.
Equally delightful were the meals that both Devi and Vedi enjoyed cooking. Those who have so often enjoyed them will savour the nostalgia of shared moments of joy and laughter. But there was more for, like Vedi, Devi was also a voracious reader – and a faithful one of the Mauritius Times. She was missing the printed edition during the Covid lockdown, not knowing that it was coming out online, which I then started forwarding to her. Sadly, this was the last time I met her.
She will forever be remembered as a brilliant teacher and promoter of science, devoted wife, caring mother, wonderful cook and hostess, and always with a shine on her face. She was, after all, Devi, etymologically in Sanskrit a ‘Being of Light’.
Perhaps what captures her best was the response of Cookie to her photo on Facebook, ‘It is… so her!’ Indeed.
Shubh Sadgati to her atman, and our deepest condolences to Sabrina and Ruben who are here, and Veena, Niven and Amanda with their respective families who unfortunately could not be present because they are abroad. Om Shanti.
* Published in print edition on 12 January 2021