Fr Zacharias, Society of Jesus
When I visited my parents this time, my mother handed over a few things to me, which she considered valuable. Among them was a letter from Fr Zacharias ( Fr Zach) who taught English at the Loyola English School in the late seventies and which meant that I his student in the 8th and 9th grades.
Fr Zach was quite popular in class, simply because he was affectionate to us all and had a great sense of humor. He was hospitalized for sometime and during a surgery, was pronounced “ clinically dead” . He survived and recovered. He returned to the class and continued to teach us.
Children tend to do better on subjects handled by teachers they like and respect. It was the same with Fr Zacharias. I did well in English that year and also learned to love books. A trait that has continued lifelong.
This letter from him was in response to a query my father sent him from Lagos inquiring about my performance in school. The reply is typical of a man who took up service to humanity as a lifelong vocation. There is affection and genuine concern for all kids irrespective of their religious faith and the ability to see good in everything. I quote “ My only ambition is to do some good to children like Vinod. I tell you they are a wonderful set of kids, the whole lot of them and I love them. I love them well Mr Nateshan and that is the secret of my success with these kids.”
Fr Zach once told me to keep smiling and said that it would take me far. I never knew the background of this letter or that what he thought of me. It however gave my parents a lot of solace and it explained why my mother thought it “valuable”.
I also never saw myself as “docile but receptive” or that I had in me “the makings of greatness “ and that I will “become great” one day, but I do now bow my head in reverence to a Jesuit priest who wrote that about a Hindu student from a middle class family in an elite school. I guess you have to have it in you to see it in others.
Lost touch with him and with some great teachers there, but wherever they are, I always will wish them the very best.