Miss Subba never taught me. Yet, when I read the news on Facebook of her having passed away last night, the sense of loss was personal.
Thoughts flash back to the second-storey classroom in one of the two old stone buildings below the main field (both were demolished in the 1980s/90s to make way for new buildings). Lieutenant Colonel Francis Younghusband and his regiment of British Indian forces had used these buildings in 1904 as their garrison while making a forced march into Tibet. My thoughts, of course, are of a much later era in 1982. I was in L.K.G. (Lower Kindergarten) and Late Mrs Damayanti Gathraj was my classteacher. From the classroom next door, there were frequent sounds of singing and dancing – little kids, perhaps a year older than I was, would raise their arms up in the air and dance to the sounds of ‘Doomdooma doomdooma doomdooma doomdooma’…the teacher leading that class and singing in unison was Miss B. Subba. Each time I heard the singing, I looked forward to going to Miss Subba’s U.K.G. (Upper Kindergarten) class the following year and joining in all the fun.
When I got a double promotion from L.K.G. to Class I, my biggest regret was having to miss Miss Subba’s class. Of course, that was not to be in any case, as even if I had studied U.K.G., I was to be in the other section taught by Mrs. Gurung.
One afternoon, a few years later, my close friend Animikh told me over lunch, “When I passed by the classroom, I saw Miss Subba sitting on her chair before the teacher’s desk with her spectacles on the tip of her nose. She looked just like a doll.” The words may not have been exact, but were similar. Miss Subba was short, chubby, cute, with curly hair forming a halo and a deep voice. As I reflected on Animikh’s words, she was indeed a beautiful doll in a sari.
One morning as I walked up the road from the school gate to the main building, inadvertently wishing ‘Good morning’ to the teachers I met along the way, a voice called me from behind as I approached the side of the main school building with the words in green, “Enter for Wisdom and Learn to Serve”. “Naaaaresh, I’m soooooo sorry. I didn’t hear you. GoooooOOOD morning! Goood morning!” The amiable and loving words in the loud, enthusiastic voice were Miss Subba’s. I hadn’t even noticed that she hadn’t wished me back and was deeply touched to see her take the trouble to come after me and wish me ‘Good morning.’
In 1991 and in Class IX, when I was writing an article on the History of TNA for the school magazine, I was told that two good sources of information would be Mr P.B. Chakraborty (who was no longer in TNA then) and Miss B. Subba. I was surprised to learn that Miss B Subba was so old in the school, and that she was almost nearing 60 then. I thought she was 20 years younger. From all my memories of her from kindergarten to Class XII, Miss Subba looked the same. She never aged.
In 2004, when Siddhartha helped me fulfil my wish of singing on stage, and there was one big laugh riot in the school auditorium as I sang ‘Taarif karoon kya uski..jisne tumhe banaaya’, and people held their tummies to control their laughter, Miss Subba came up to me and held my hand. She was laughing continuously as she shook my hands repeatedly and congratulating me, said, “Naarrreeesh. That was hooooooooooorrrrible.” That was the fondest compliment I got that day 🙂
I don’t remember having seen her in the years since leaving TNA in 1995, but my memories of her are as fresh as ever.
On learning about the acclaimed actor Patrick Swayze’s death on Facebook recently, a friend remarked, “Life is not too short for a life that has made a mark.” Thank you, Miss Subba, for having left a mark on generations of Tenacians – the proud students from Tashi Namgyal Academy, Gangtok. We all remember you fondly!