Jashodhara Hanafi, the teacher who taught us love

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Teacher, Uncategorized, Women
Tags: , , ,

Apart from our parents and immediate family the people who have the greatest influence on us are our teachers. But as we move on in our life pursuing higher degrees, careers and our ambitions we tend to lose touch with our teachers, who have had such a great role to play not only in our academic life but also in the way we think.

We all have had several teachers in our lives who have given us the wings to fly and have taught us to take on the world but there was one teacher who taught us how to love, and that was Jashodhara Hanafi. There is no denying the fact that some teachers in South Point School were more popular than others and she was one of them. There were plenty of students in our school, who had not taken a single geography class from her but they knew her, generations of students talked about her and if I may have the liberty to say so, she was kind of a legend in the long corridors of South Point High School, Kolkata.

Why? She was a brilliant teacher, yes. But as my friend Indranil Halder has written in his book Warrior In The Sanctuary, most students, especially the boys, had their eyes pinned on the silver key rings that hung from her waist and made a jingling sound every time she moved to write on the blackboard. The guys, who had made it a point to move to the front benches for her class, sighed with every move. The girls on the other hand were busy admiring “aunty’s” (that’s what we called the teachers in school) fascinating wardrobe of stylish sarees, her string of lovely danglers and her perfectly-plucked eyebrows.

When I look back and think of those geography classes I sometimes wonder, “Did she know what was really going on in the class?” To say that she did not would be insulting her intelligence. But she remained unperturbed, never got angry at the back benchers whispering, smiled and taught us chapters from the geography book that was impossible to forget.

She was extremely affectionate towards her students and this was something about her that I found more attractive than anything else. In a class of 60 it was not possible to arrange for return gifts when she was showered with so many on Teachers’ Day, but she at least tried. A gesture, I am sure, my classmates will always remember. She bought the entire class ice cream twice during our Class X session. Once, if I remember right, was on Teacher’s Day and the second time was on the last day of our Class X year. It was a small gesture but she was the only teacher to have thought about it. She watched us as we all devoured the popsicles and posed for photographs in our sarees (which we were allowed to wear on the last day) and obliged us as we wanted to click her too. She smiled, her dazzling smile, and looked at us lovingly, happy to have made us happy. My admiration for her grew manifold.

She continued to be my teacher in Class XI-XII. With time I realised aunty had an uncanny ability to gauge the mindset of the people setting questions during exams. If we prodded her for suggestions she would come out with it. But I often dared to take it too far. I walked into the teacher’s room during lunch hour handed her the geography text book and told her cheekily, “I will only study the parts you mark. So can you please mark it for me?” After a tiring morning session she was probably biting into her sandwich then but she would accept the book, and the boring task with a smile – her lovely smile.

I actually got into the habit of studying only what aunty marked, the rest I left out. So just prior to the geography exams during the Higher Secondary exams when I saw that my classmates were fervently going through a 20-page chapter of which I had just studied two pages, for the first time I felt a knot in my stomach. “School exams were fine. But what if aunty goes wrong this time?” I thought. I entered the examination hall nervous. There was one question from that chapter and it was from those two pages I studied. Till today I don’t know how aunty did it. But she did make my life easier by marking my fat books, a task she could have happily refused to do, because it did not come within the purview of her duties. But she always did it, with love and with a smile.

Actually Jashodhara aunty came to my rescue more than once. Although she never told me this herself, I found out. In Class X, the naïve and headstrong girl that I was, I got embroiled in something that I should have stayed away from. A female friend of mine was regularly writing love letters to a class friend of ours and he was reciprocating. But when his mother discovered the letters he washed his hands off the affair and put the entire blame on her. His father was well connected and ended up in the principal’s room with the letters and my friend was asked to leave the school. I was so upset about it that I actually confronted the guy for giving my friend so much grief. And the result? The guy went and told his father again and I couldn’t find my name on the first list of admissions in Class XI despite having the marks. Later I found out that it was Jashodhara aunty, my class teacher of Class X, who had stood up for me at the teacher’s committee meeting and ensured I got admission in Class XI. But she never for once told me about it.

After I left school I sent her a card every Teacher’s Day. But as the years passed by and I got tied up with our so-called busy lives there were years when I never realized when September 5 came and went. Till one day on a pre-puja shopping spree at a saree store I heard a familiar voice. Yes, it was Jashodhara aunty and without thinking, instead of touching her feet, I just hugged her. She hugged me back with the same child-like excitement. She was with our PT teacher Kabita aunty and both were indeed happy to see me. We exchanged numbers and I promised to call them and take them out for lunch post-puja.

A few days after puja I got a call from her daughter telling me she was no more. She had an accident on a holiday in Delhi. I had to hang up to take deep breaths and called her back. How did she get my number? “Mom had your visiting card. I found it. She always told me she really liked you.”

I hope she knew I loved her. She was one of the few teachers, who could love her students – unconditionally.

(I had clicked this photograph of Jashodhara aunty on our last day of Class X but thanks Arpita Mukherjee Mitra for scanning it and uploading it on Facebook. I have downloaded it from there.)

  1. Indranil Halder says:

    Another well written master piece by Amrita. It was a trip down the memory lane. Jashodhara was truly a teacher who should be admired, loved and remembered for her grace, talent as a teacher and her helpful attitude towards South Point students….

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Indranil,
      Thank you. She was indeed a talented, affectionate and helpful teacher. Hope she knows her students remember her with so much fondness and respect.


      • Sanjay Dhar says:

        Hi Amrita,
        Feel sad today as I read this. That Jasodhara Aunty is no more. I am one of the rare few who actually knew the real Jasodhara Aunty.

        South Point were to distribute ice creams post lunch break on the occasion of annual day. I was in class when news came that my mother is sick and I have to go home – probably in 1981. My brother was 2 yrs junior to me and I called him from his class and we went to Jasodhara Aunty to co-ordinate the organisation and permission for us leaving school during tiffin. Aunty did so.

        But what differentiated her and other teachers is that, she offered her own ice cream to me and took another from a fellow teacher and offered to my brother. We were hesitant. She simply opened the flap, dipped the wooden spoon, and inserted the scoop in my mouth. And then gave me about 60 paisa as train fare for 2 from Ballygunge to Jadavpur station.

        I know all are mortal. But Aunty, I TRULY TRULY TRULY miss you. If I could ever have got the opportunity to touch your feet once.

        Sanjay Dhar
        A Student of Jasodhara Aunty

      • amritaspeaks says:

        Dear Sanjay,
        Through this anecdote you have beautifully shown how through small gestures Jashodhara aunty always touched our lives and taught us to be better human beings.


      • Sudarsan Ghosh says:

        Dear Amrita,
        I read this only today and I liked it very much. You have written in a very lucid manner and you have capture all the essences – your writing took me downw memory lane. Yashodhar Aunty taught us once possibly in Class IX but over the years I almost completely forgot about her unless today when I saw your writing. I am deeply moved by the sudden demise of aunty which happened so suddenly and tragically.

  2. Amrita – Thanks for this lovely article on a teacher whom I never knew much… But on a 5th September day I think we should pay tribute to all, who were not only our teachers, but were good human beings as well. Most of us suffer from that syndrome of corporate busy-bees and fail to keep minimum touch with the people/teachers who had helped to build up our initial platform for so called “SUCCESS” at some point of our life… However at least it feels great to remember Jashodhara Aunty through your blog and pay respect to her and pray to almighty so that her soul can rest in peace.

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Prasenjit,
      Thank you for writing your pertinent observations in this blog. You are right we should take this opportunity to pay tribute to all our teachers who made us what we are today.


  3. Barnali Mukherji says:

    Amrita- very touching i just cant believe she died. May her soul rest in peace. i had never been her student but yes you are right all south pointers talked about her.

  4. Anshuman Roychowdhury says:

    Thank you all for narrating a completely different perspective of the legend called Jashodhara Hanafi – not too many people remember her for all that!

  5. Dr Debapriya Sengupta says:

    We really miss her, what a nice teacher she was.

  6. Dr. Abhijit Lahiri says:

    Such a graceful, such a dignified personality can rarely be seen. Aunty we all love you and miss you too. We really miss those days of SPHS.
    With Best Regards to you Aunty

  7. Jashoswi says:

    Nicely written. I whole heartedly agree with you on her sense of reading an examiner’s mind.

  8. Never had the good fortune of being taught by aunty, but, my uncle, who was her student, was deeply shocked to know about her demise… I had heard a lot about aunty both from ex-students and from teachers like Sharmila Aunty and Sujit sir..may her soul rest in peace..

  9. Joydeep Dasgupta says:

    thanks amrita for this lovely piece…very very well written…really transported me back to the years 1982 to 1984 when aunty was my geography teacher…she was really great as a teacher and more importantly as you have said a great human being…i remember in class 8 during a class test i took out the book from the desk to check an answer…she saw me but kept quiet and called me to the teachers room during lunch…asked me how was the exam and i said bad…she asked me whether i find the subject tough…i was quiet and she probed me further by saying that she has checked and i have been doing good in all other subjects…i just blurted out…its all because of you..i am so engrossed looking at you and your charm that nothing else gets into my head…she laughed loudly held my hand and said that next exam you have to do well…it was so inspiring that from there onwards i did very well in the geaography…it was really sad when i heard that she met with an accident on her way to agra from delhi…will always remember her..thanks once again for this amrita…really appreciate….cheers….joydeep dasgupta

  10. Amrita

    Very well written. Though Jasodhara Aunty was our geography teacher for 3 years in senior school, I never had the opportunity to be as close to her as you have been. The news of her death does bring a shock. May her soul rest in peace.

  11. Amitava Das says:

    We shall never forget you Jasodhara aunty. A very well written memoir .

  12. Arindam Lahiri says:

    Thank you Amrita for the wonderful recollection of one of the wonderful teachers from our school days. Being a science student, I still did amazingly well in the Social Sciences primarily due to two of the most amazing teachers – Jasodhara aunty and Somesh sir.

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Arindam,
      It is good you mentioned Somesh Sir too. He made history so interesting and will never forget his oft-repeated phrase, “merey jal chhobi baniye debo!” But he was the last person to beat up anybody.


  13. Sarbendub basu says:

    Amazingly written! U did transport me back to those days at school. Really sad to hear abt aunty!

  14. Subhodip Ghosal says:

    well written! brought all those memories back. thank you

  15. Rituparna says:

    Thanks for such a touching article dedicated to Yashodhara Aunty on 5th sep….she had something in her character that always attracted students…great teacher..no doubt, but certainly a great personality.Now after so many years you really transported me back to my school geography classes…which definately shaped me from those early days to become a geography teacher myself. This reminds me of all the teachers we pointers were lucky to have….later in our life we realize they were all so great.HAPPY TEACHER’S DAY TO ALL OF THEM !!! Rituparna Ray Chaudhary (batch of 1997)

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Rituparna,
      Thank you for your comment. It’s great to know Jashodhara aunty inspired you to become a geography teacher. She would have been happy to know that you are following her career path.

      Good luck

  16. Sanjoy Guha says:

    Dear Amrita – I’m 81 Madhyamik passout – lovely reading ur meticulously crafted article about our beloved Jasodhara Hanafi aunty- you have helped me to remember all those days of 1979-80-81…. remembering Jasodhara aunty, how gracefully she used to walk down the alleway … and we boys used to hushhhhhh !!!! And what a fantastic teacher she was – I remember my Madhy. Geography marks – 80, all because of her notes and her nice teachings…. to draw diagrams with each relevant articles – use of different coloured pencils – all I learnt becos of her teachings …. I adore her – she was beautiful, smart and a lovely teacher – May her soul rest in peace.

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Sanjoy,
      Thank you for adding your lovely bit about Jashodhara aunty in this blog. Yes, now that you say I remember the diagrams and the coloured pencils. I used to follow that too.


  17. Anupam Sen says:

    Dear Amrita,

    You helped reliving old memories on respected Jasodhara Aunty. Geography was never a subject on my favourites list, but she through her teaching style, helped me in taking interest. She was indeed helpful as a mentor in her role as myClass Teacher in Class IX in 1979. Her ever smiling face used to tell it all, her care, her affection towards her students and deep love for her subject. I have a huge respect for her and she remains a source of inspirations for me for all times to come. May Aunty’s soul rest in peace.

  18. Dr.Quazi Toufique Ahmed says:

    She was our teacher in Class 7-8(1994 maybe)..and honestly she was one of the best!
    May her soul rest in peace….
    Must Thank Amrita for this journey into the memory lane

    Dr.Quazi Toufique Ahmed
    World Health Organization

  19. Arundhati says:

    She is one of the few teachers I remember vividly. My Class teacher of Class X who had made me Monitor of the class :). I used to be extremely fond of her. There was respect, but there was something beyond that – love & affection. I was quite shaken when I first heard about her demise. Will always cherish those fond memories of her. She was my favourite.

  20. Babumoshai says:

    I have been her student in SPHS 1978 Class VII F. Respected Mr. Indranil Guha was our Principal then and Mr. Satikanta Guha our Rector. Miss Hanafi was a very caring teacher and helped all silently. She was popular with the adolescent teenage boys in the class as mentioned, but just to clarify very respectfully to her memory that she DID NOT encourage the infatuated advances. I still remember her and deeply shocked with the news that she is no more. Pray to GOD almighty – may her soul rest in peace.

  21. She gave me 10/10 in Madhyamik viva even though I couldn’t answer much 🙂

  22. shib sundar roy says:

    A very well written memoir.i have had the opportunity to study under her guidance & respect her both as an educator & human being.everyone & everything related to my school is so special for me that i’m really feeling the grief.i feel sorry for her family & our wards who could never know her personally.may her soul rest in peace…

  23. Sunanda Dutta says:

    I had the opportunity to be her student in Class VIII in 1984. She was a very nice person and a very good teacher. May her soul rest in peace. Thank you for the article.

  24. Joydip says:

    Jashodhara aunty was faboulous a rare breed of teacher , read under her for 2 consecutive years in class 9 &10

  25. Sudip Bhawal says:

    She was our class teacher in class X in 1989. The article is indeed well written and took me down the memory lane.My respects for the departed soul. RIP aunty

  26. Joydip Mondal says:

    May her dear soul rest in peace…..!!!!!!

  27. Sandipto Ghosh says:

    I was lucky to be in her class in the Xth grade, 2003….. Jashodhara Aunty had a peculiar talent of drawing the map of India on the black-board facing it backwards…… My commiserations…..
    It is a really nice tribute to our teacher, A WONDERFUL NOTE…… 🙂

  28. Chanchal Dasgupta says:

    A wonderful piece of memoirs. She had really taught her students how to love. Thank you Amrita.

  29. Sachin Rao says:

    Amrita, you have been thanked by so many already and I add my appreciation to it as well for such a well written article and also extend my love to you as a fellow Pointer. Jasodhara aunty was my class teacher in class IX in 1978. Like every boy, besides having a lot of love and respect for her,there was also the “crush” as a teenager. From school to medical school and then a doctor–thats what I became and everyday thereafter I was dreaming about meeting aunty,till finally I did..it was just before Puja vacation. I had gone to the Parents-Teacher’s meet for my daughter(she was in SPHS as well) and met Jasodhara aunty. Mustered enough courage, went upto her,touched her feet and said you wouldn’t remember me aunty but I was your student many years ago. I was stunned when she said–“there is no reason why I shouldn’t be remembering you, Sachin, if you can remember me.” ….and then within a few days I heard that aunty’s gone,waiting for us somewhere else. With a huge sense of loss there was a ray of light–the thought that she never forgot any of us !!!!

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Dr Sachin Rao,
      Thank you for sharing this poignant anecdote here. She was a teacher who made an effort to make every student feel special that is why so many people, after leaving school so many years back, have come to this blog and written their feelings here.


  30. Pratim says:

    Stumbled upon this lovely heartfelt write-up… written about a dear former teacher by a dear former colleague! Kemon achho Amrita-di? Kothay achho ekhon? So good to read you after so long! If you are on facebook or twitter let’s connect. I am there as Pratim D. Gupta.

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Pratim,
      Thank you for your comment. Hope you are doing great. I am in Dubai now but I keep going to Kolkata often. I am on facebook and twitter too. Stay in touch.

      Take care

  31. sanchita guha says:

    Hi Amrita,
    We don’t really know each other but being a fellow pointer I completely reciprocate your feelings………….ur writing has a lot of heart and whereever ‘Aunty” is, she will know that you really love her.

  32. Ranajoy Dutta says:

    Hi Amrita, It is so nice to come across your post on our one of most remembered Teacher’s of SPHS. This took me down the memory lane when I was in Class VIII A(1991). I can still see those faces of my fellow classmates, running around to grab a seat in the 1st/2nd bench just before Jashodhara aunty’s class. I still remember how she carried herself even in those days. I dont remember seing her scattered ever and the way she carried and presented herself was tremendous. She actually made us realize what beauty is.

    Lot of rumours were around then, but still she was a fantastic teacher. The way she used draw the maps, was amazing. I happened to get special attention of Aunty, when I was down with fever just before the exams and I still remember how she helped me remember the chapters and draw the maps. That’s is something I will never forget.

    RIP Jashodhara Aunty.

  33. debashis biswas says:

    Dear Amrita,
    It is indeed a magical journey you have arranged and helped me to go back to my school days, particularly to the class of one of my dearest teachers. once in my report card of class X, which was too risky a document to be shown to my parents, i put my signature in the space meant for my father to sign. Ms. Hanafi realised the matter but never disclosed it to anyone other than me. now being in a senior administrative position i realise how important that lesson was. she made our geography classes magical.

    Thank you once again

  34. Atin says:

    Thank for writing this. I remember Jashodhara Aunty well. I am a teacher now. And teachers like her serve as inspiration for me.

  35. Jayashree Basu says:

    Thanks for letting me know Amrita. It took 2 years for this shocking, heart-breaking news to reach me. Deep inside I knew this day will come one day as Jashodhara was 17 years older than me. She was not there in my world….now I’ll have to live with the fact that she is not there anywhere in this world.
    At least, I am not the only one

  36. Sandeep Roy says:

    Hi Amrita-
    In all the years that I had spent in South Point, she is one of the three teachers I recollect even to this day (the others being Mumtaz Rauf in Class IV and ADG or Anjan Sir of Class XI-XII). She really made Class X C a fun and an exciting place. Indranil is correct about what the boys felt and did in her class 🙂 but not even for one day she had been perturbed by the same – maybe it was the respect that all of us had for her as an human being and teacher. I can connect to the incident that you mentioned but then all of us had some memory attached to her. Mine was also on the last week….I had brought a camera flash and one of my friends had brought the camera. Since the flash could be operated independently, my friend set it off during a class and the teacher (I guess it was biology class) had pulled me up and confiscated the same (and I had not bothered to tell my parents when it brought it to school 😦 ). The next day (after a thorough dressing down at home) I came to school with lot of fear and trepidation and on the stairs met Jashodhara aunty who asked me what the matter was after looking at my gloomy face. I told her the same and also handed her the letter from my father. After lunch, when I met her, she asked me to go to the teacher and get the flashgun from her. I went there in the teacher’s room in the annex building and the teacher handed it to me without any word. I was left wondering as to why she would do it for me but then she was Jashodhara Hanafi.

    Sorry to hear her untimely demise. May her soul rest in peace.

    Thanks again for bringing back the memories of school days.

    Sandeep Roy

  37. Ashish Bose says:

    Joshodhara Aunty was our Geography teacher. Sad to hear ,she was no more.

  38. Abhik Datta says:

    Lovely and touching. Thanks for reliving my school days. Jasodhara Aunty was my Geography teacher in class VIII and again in class X and I had always liked to attend her classes. Very easy going and illustrative in her discourses, she was a favourite. ..

  39. Kaushik Banerjee says:

    Yes after so many years she still lingers on my memory. South Point School & it’s history will be incomplete without her. With all due respect she was out heart throb. Our Miss Universe.
    Thanks Amrita for bringing her memories back. She’s immortal.

  40. Sougata Mukherjee says:

    It’s an excellent tribute to an excellent teacher. She was a very nice person, jovial, full of life and taught extremely well. She was my geography teacher in class 6 and class 9 in 1981 / 1984 and I used to have a good rapport with her.
    One day some boys of our class comnented something about her (you have mentioned some of these in your note) and i started giggling. She couldn’t hear the comments but heard my giggles, was offended and left the class. I got a thrashing from our history teacher (i wont name him, he is no more with us) because of others’ fault :). I met her in the staff room, apologised and she was very graceful, forgave me and came back to the class. I was saved from further thrashing:).
    I dont live in calcutta and heard about her demise from a friend. Felt very sad and remembered her smiling face.
    Your note is excellent and brought back fond memories. Thanks a lot!

  41. ARNAB MAJUMDAR says:

    She was an icon of womanhood as in those years of ours.
    We boys learnt the different faces of womanhood in our small world of South Calcutta.
    Yashodhora aunty always a brilliant teacher and am lucky to be her student for three years in my stint of five years in high school.

  42. purandarsenguptagmailcom says:

    Apart from her wonderful Pedagogy , she was very kind and affectionate to students .

    I have received her immense support during sustained absenteeism due to some domiciliary reasons ..that was 1986 . She was proactive and spontaneity driven in facilitating me to cope up with daunting circumstantial adversities .

    Her kindness is deeply engraved within my psyche . I am grateful to you Aunty

  43. Supriyo bhattacharya says:

    Simply beautiful were those days.Our teachers made every moment special.At times they seemed unreasonable but now when my son is going to same school feel they were always right.They made us what we are today.Miss those beautiful school days.
    I too had first bench memories of Jashodhara Aunty’s geography class in IX. Loved every word you have wriiten.Thanks a lot.

  44. Meena says:

    Loved reading this blog👌

  45. Oindrila Ghosh says:

    I loved reading your account. Such fond memories of an amazing teacher about whom sitting in Delhi iam quite familiar with. She was my Chotoma’s( mom’s younger sister) classmate in college where they both studied Geography hons and a very good friend of her’s..

  46. Sujoy says:

    She remembered our names even after three years since she was our class teacher in 9A.
    She came an invigilator in our class 12 test and referred me by my name.I was so thrilled that aunty could remember me!Pranam to aunty

  47. Rintesh Roy says:

    I remember her. She used to be our geography teacher, as far as I can remember. It’s sad to know she is no more.

  48. Nilanjana Sen Basu says:

    Yes indeed .She an extremely good teacher. A good human being too.

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