‘Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well…. Aristotle’
-‘This story is from Manipur when the militants (in North East they call them as undergrounds) were ruling the roost and fear in the villages was not uncommon. That day 36 years ago this story tore my heart apart but the one that happened in Eid Gah shattered me. One of the reasons could be that my dear wife is a teacher, mind you of great qualities but obviously not better than me (tongue in cheek, hope he does not read this). Children are our love and anything for them is the motto’! When she heard of Satinder she was in tears and the similar expressions I had seen when we were newly married when I told her about a lady by name of Christain, a teacher again whose family had been shot dead by PLA undergrounds’! That was a tear jerker and so was this! Just the gap was 36 years but the environment was the same! Needless to say ballistic’!
-‘ About Satinder the brilliant principal (kids also call them princy in a slang which sits on the tongue of those growing up in their formative years) the young ones who would be surely missing her must be saying to her pictures, you inspired us, you entertained us, and because of you we ended up learning a ton even when we did not know anything. Now we know but you left us all alone’!’
-‘I’m sure when the children get back to school they will think twice before entering because Satinder would not be there but obviously smiling from the skies, ‘I’m there with you, but alas! You cannot see me! Anyway never mind I can see you’!
-‘If I see the incident that happened thirty six years before and the one which happened after the same amount of years, they had several similarities. The only thing which was a bit different was the difference of time and distance between the two capitals Srinagar and Imphal, as a matter of fact is (63 hours add the break time which is a necessity, 3,207.8 km via NH 27. Please add a few kilometers more because both happened in the interiors’!
-‘The similarities are many, both were God loving and fearing ladies, Christain was a disciple of Mother Teresa that means loving humanity was her principal aim and Satinder too was on same a wavelength as she took an orphan girl into her lap, both were teachers and loved children and took pains in teaching each one and everyone so that they (children) could see the tomorrow of hope.
-‘Christain was not a government teacher by the way. She was trying to run the family school that had been set up by her father! The family’s ancestral home was in Nongmaikhong in District Bishnupur, Manipur (also christened as the land of dancing)!’
-‘Another similarity is that both the places are trouble zones though in Manipur the heat has subsided (but not in those years) in Kashmir it is still there! Both are great places to be in if you are an adventurer and army men fall in that spheres of fantasies where you never know as to what is up next’!
But the disappointing climax is that the two ladies died with bullets piercing them and silencing the heavenly smiles with just one trigger press of a brute. In the case of Christain it was her own and in the case of Satinder I do not know but there has to be a school student connection for sure because she was a lady who was spreading the message of humanity and someone was not liking the same. Chances of someone else entering the school along with friends with a gun in his/their back pockets or slung inside a loose fashionable shirt or shoes looks a bit of an impossibility but cannot be ruled out. But one thing is a bit odd as reports say four young killers casually walked through the gates of the Boys Higher Secondary School in Srinagar’s Sangam Eidgah locality at around 11 am Thursday 06 October 2021, and within 15 minutes left behind shock, disbelief and a fear psychosis that has led several of the Kashmiri Pandit community to leave their homeland. The principal was forced out and teachers paraded to show identity cards and then the killing? Someone would have seen them? Masks are all fine but sketches do matter, especially so of the eyes?
In the case of Christain she was killed while she was having an evening cup of tea before crossing the gate of her house! Last familiar thing was that children and women mourned their deaths the most. In Manipur it was more expressive but in Kashmir a bit subdued. The killers of the lady in Manipur were shot dead within days with local ladies wanting them to be hunted and in Srinagar TRF may well be soon on the run as the strike back has begun as it had to be imminent!
In Manipur the Indian Army chased out the brigands and like snakes on a slithery run crept into Myanmar, they were scorched there also! Where would these insane creatures run! Hell is quite a distant away and heavens are no nearer! If they want to play, the dice is in their hands but the game ploy the Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police knows it better. The deaths of innocents never go to waste and I know that!
It was Sunday that day and Christain had invited me to her school in one of the inner alley’s of Manipur where a State Bank of India existed. Since her home was in a village in Bishnupur we did know that a family of a teacher stayed there but those who were living never looked to me as teachers since they seemed to be workers and they were till the time I was there just across the Loktak lake, if I remember correctly Thoubal District of Manipur. That day I had to proceed to Dimapur and subsequently on leave, casual leave though! So I dropped off at the massive Assam Rifle gate in Imphal with a bag hung around my right shoulder! Shopping was not my concern but attendance at the lady’s school was! There was a reason for that too and it was that one way or the other that we did help the school to grow. The strength had risen from forty to one hundred and thirty five! It was not because of us but the local teachers. The function was small but still extravagant and I told Christain that I had only an hour and a half to spend or maybe two before I left on a local bus to Dimapur! She just smiled and said in broken Manipuri English lingo, ‘time, no one can challenge, officer, you are here so be here’! I finally did leave and it was half past seven in the evening but it was her brother Mitchell (Manipuri boy) and her cousin, Johnson driving me and all the way telling me in the morning we would be at Guwahati! We had a lavish dinner at Dimapur and sure enough we were at Guwahati at half past five in the morning! Early but not so as the sun rises early in the North East! He saw me off as I boarded the Lohit Express and he left for Imphal. It was 17 days later I came to know that Christain had been shot dead! The reason would baffle many, ‘she refused entry of PLA undergrounds into her house and school premises. One of the killers was her cousin, Johnson and not the one (Mitchel) who drove me to Guwahati but the one who sat on the front seat of the Maruti van in which we travelled! I later came to know that the cousin never wanted Christain to teach the children the things that she was but instead wanted her to fill their minds up with the struggle of Manipur (in retrospect again a useless cause. It was all the way)! She could not have thought of that and she never did that but should of that since a serpent was around her all the time! 37 days later the school reopened and her sister Julia took over! How Suman Bala’s name changed into Christain and how Rajni Bala’s name became Julia is a different story altogether but that too is of humanity and so is the story of Raghuveer Simha (Mitchel) and Vishnu Simha (Johnson)! The strength of the school today is over three hundred! But the lady always told the Manipuri children, Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat. I’m sure her taught kids must be doing very well and most of them I know!
A similar thing will happen in Sangam in Srinagar! This school is special because a lady of virtue, humane, lover of humanity died in the premises killed by men dwarfed by some stupid vocabulary spoken by someone and stuffed into their blocked and botched up brains! Satinder is no more but she has left behind a legacy, a massive void, but trust me that would be fulfilled! The principal from Sangam always taught her students about courage, kindness, friendship and character. Most learnt but a few did not These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness. But the killers of her are bound to see the dungeons of hell!
There is some kind of a sweet innocence in being human in not having to be just happy or just sad in the nature of being able to be both broken and whole, at the same time. Both the teachers were and all the teachers are!