In fond memory of a benevolent disciplinarian

I distinctly remember the principals’ office housed in a tiny room with low ceiling. The office was small and modest, but the person occupying it was a woman of stature with an impressive persona. Mrs. Shakuntala Roy was the head of the institution when I joined MCM DAV College, Chandigarh as a faculty member a little over four decades ago. I can never forget her awe- inspiring personality. ‘Mrs. Roy’, the way everyone would address her, was a strict disciplinarian. Every morning before the start of the classes, she, in her crisp cotton saris in summers and rustling silk in winters, would be standing in the college corridor. No close circuit television (CCTV) can ensure the kind of punctuality and discipline that her presence did.

Don’t be misled. Mrs. Roy was soft spoken. Seldom did she lose her temper or raised her voice, but her big eyes were enough to inspire awe and command obedience. I can’t forget the way she used to remove her spectacles to give a ‘look’, a signal for all of us to put our act together. Etched in my memory is an episode when I was summoned to her office for not wearing a pure white sari which used to be Monday uniform for the teachers. I was a fresher wearing my mother’s white sari that had a small dainty border embroidered in pink. But how could Mrs. Roy’s allow infringement on white, or you may call it beach of dress code? That was the kind of discipline and adherence to rules she ensured.  Though sari no longer remained the compulsory dress code in the college during later years, such was the grooming that I continued to wear sari with pride till my last day in the college.

Mrs. Roy was authoritative, yet a compassionate motherly figure with a pleasing demeanor. I can never forget her sweet gesture when she came to bless my little one and gifted him a beautiful blue baby set that she knitted herself. My son was not the only one to receive her blessing; all the staff members had the privilege of getting her hand knitted baby sets for their new borns.

In 1980, when I joined the college, it was still in its nascent stage. Brick by brick the founding principal built the college personally supervising all the construction activity. She was conscientious, sincere and dedicated to the core. These were her exemplary leadership qualities that inspired the faculty members to do their best. I remember piles of notebooks for correction in the staff room. Seems unbelievable today, but that was MCM culture. The fact is every organization has a distinct culture; undoubtedly the head of the institution has a major role to play in shaping it.

Not only was there an amazing work environment, but a congenial family- like atmosphere existed in the staff room. The staff members would stand by each other in thick and thin, and we still do. The credit for laying the foundation of camaraderie that we share even after retirement is to be attributed to earlier principals Mrs. Roy and Mrs. Mahajan. It is indeed exemplary the way we, the retirees have stayed connected, share a strong bonding and uplift each other.

(This is my humble tribute to the founding principal of MCMDAV Chandigarh, Mrs.S. Roy on her birth centenary April this year.)

( Published in Hindustan Times, Sunday Read dated  16 April 2023 )

4 Replies to “In fond memory of a benevolent disciplinarian”

  1. Rama . You are a gem of a person who writes incidents so well. I was also impressed by your article about Vipul’s birth. Keep Rocking.. always. God bless you dear. Love you always 💞

  2. S Roy madam was the principal of our college when I was a student. I was very much impressed by her. I was then an innocent teenager,thought madam was a Bengali.We also maintained strict discipline .We worked very hard even to fetch good second division at that time.In the college,there was no room for partiality.And Madam Roy was the captain of the ship.Madam, I remember those days a lot.

    1. Garima, good to hear from you .
      We were fortunate to have known Mrs Roy , you as a student in your teens and I as her subordinate when I joined the college at the age of 23. Needless to say , she left an indelible mark on me .

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