Meeting my craft teacher! Who started the `house’ system at our school

By Pradeep Vijayakar (Class of 1961-66)

I said `Good morning teacher “in the unlikeliest of places on Saturday—in the visitors lounge of intensive care at Holy FamilyHospital in Bandra. Ex-Stanlislite crafts teacher Odette Noronha (1960-72) was another visitor. Her husband also a Stanisilite Edward Pereira was down with a heart problem. I was there for my mother-in-law.

Teacher and student spent the whole night chatting away without realizing about our relationship going back to forty years. I was student 1961-66. Frankly I couldn’t recollect who was the crafts teacher but my cousin Deepak (Godrej) would always recall the craft teacher and Poetry Teacher (one withy fuzzy hair). Teacher Odette told me she was the one who started the `house’ system in the school. Kostka house and all.

Whenever I meet people I don’t intrude, don’t right away ask their names, what they are, what they do my. I think that’s good manners. Actually, the other party gets worried why people don’t want to know about them, no one wants anonymity I suppose. But I do. I seldom go on proclaiming I am the Assistant Editor of the world’s biggest broadsheet, The Times of India. (Teacher still doesn’t know that unless the wife has let it out; she was keeping her company after I left).

So back to the teacher Odette who talked about old Stanis days. How she began crafts teaching because principal wanted the boarders to develop some skills. How intimidating it was because a lot of the boarders were from abroad Africa—tall and tough. ``Some of them were taller than me even when they stood in front and I was standing on the platform!’’ She talked of how all of them were not interested in crafts, maybe didn’t have the delicate fingers for the job. ``I would tell them stories.’’ She also taught history and geography. She talked of how she, Daphne Correa and Noreen Farias were the friends ``as thick as fire’’. She also talked of the harassment when she got married. ``My brother-in-law was a student and there was a buzz in school when students knew I was marrying his elder brother.’’ The harassment came when she married, as the school’s policies stated married teachers couldn’t stay: the school thought leave problems of the married would affect the flow of work. Luckily for her the school became an aided one. ``Neef sir told me not to resign as the government rules didn’t rule out married teachers. I listened to him. But till the school complied, Fr Joseph Lobo treated me badly.’’

Later teacher Odette took a break to look after the family. Fr Rodney of St Andrews got her back to crafts teaching. `` I did half day and half salary. Later it was full day. ’’ Now retired teacher Odette still wants to pursue the craft because things have got better, the tools better and a bottomless pit of material. I told her how I was good in cutting but made a mess of sticking, just not my cup of tea. The will was there but not the skill. I asked her how would she motivate those who were duffers in craft. I told her how today the Japanese had taken it to sublime levels with their Origami. Teacher’s eyes lit up. It prompted her to talk of China. How I wished it was about Chinese craft. No it was the sad story of how her son nearly got burnt to death in a fire in his home owing to a gas leak. Luckily he has survived and still lives there with his Gujarati wife.

I was sorry to see teacher waiting in the foyer late into the night long after she had left our waiting room. The pick-up hadn’t come. I offered to drop her home and come back. She didn’t want me to take the pain. She must have reached home around one in the night. Imagine my surprise when went to the canteen for the morning cuppa and saw her chatting away with another lady. No stress, no pain, amazing resilience. That was our craft teacher. All an awestruck student could say was ``Good morning teacher.’’ Tomorrow I shall change it to ``Salaam teacher’’ . In the meanwhile I have instructed my wife to interview her on the joys of craft making and teaching for the student edition of the Times. Also to get her to train crafts teachers at Guru Harkishan school where my wife’s aunt Rekha is principal. Will share her gyaan with you. And to think my teacher’s conversation with my wife and I began with her describing her woes (read coachroach-breeding neighbours ).

Cherio Pradeep class of 1966

satish arolkar's picture

Re: New Blog entry:

 Mighty nice of you t forward the photo of Our fav Craft teacher. She i remember told great stories and also had a younger sis wo i think was the orignal size Zero. The pencil seemed obese.

iborges's picture

Tr Odette had wonderful

Tr Odette had wonderful values which translated into patience in instructing us in the craft of Craft and filling the gaps with story telling. No idle time for her or for us although telling stories called for efforts on her part and ours was only to listen.No wonder her class was always under control.
Her size zero sister expired more than a year back. I think there is a bit of mix-up about the son who suffered severe burns and is now in China as I under the impression it is the this sister's son.Dr Satish perhaps you want to help with your advice being a specialist in plastic surgery when this son is down.

pkv's picture

RE: Comment for Blog entry: Meeting my craft teacher! Who starte
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Arvind Rajashekar's picture

Hi I do hope her husband


I do hope her husband in now well and recovered, Miss Odette taught me craft and I was terrible at it, but she was a lady with infinite patience and tolerance. She had a wonderful style of narrating stories and we did look forward to her story telling sessions, much in demand with us and I remember the class pestering her for stories!

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