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Prof. M. A. Jeyaraju - A Tribute
|by Prof. Dr. Dominic KV|
It is with a sunken heart that I edited Volume 3 Number 1 of Writers editors Critics’ issue published in March 2913 by GIEWEC.
Born into a fervent Christian family that was economically poor but rich in values, Dr. M. A. Jeyaraju, fondly remembered by many as Dr MAJ, was the eldest son among five siblings. His parents M. Arulappan, a dedicated high school teacher, and Mary Stella, an ardent homemaker, imbibed in him the unfailing Catholic faith and the spirit of a teacher that were my father’s defining characteristics throughout his life.
My Dad took pride in having been the best student, especially in his English classes. He even remembered his teachers’ names and said that he was offered ‘bigger’ books for reading which other students weren’t. He was a seminarian; but did not fulfill the Almighty’s call. It could have been God’s decision! Nevertheless, Dad had always been regretful about it. During every difficult phase (and he had ample) he said, “I should not have ignored God’s call.” At Loyola College, Chennai, he was one of the few best students but certainly one with the least means. I remember him speaking of classmates who hopped into huge cars and imposing bikes while Dad did a stint waiting at coffee shops. We, his children--Danny, my younger brother and I, were not exposed to such hardships but Dad made sure we got an insight into how he had come up. We shall always remember this.
Dad spoke with pride that he had become a teacher at an early age of 19. But he had just started his strife to support his four young brothers and his only sister. Dad gave tuitions to students, did other coaching jobs, put himself under much hardship and piously called it his duty to his father who had given him the best of education in spite of the poverty. I vividly recall my father telling that he had begun smoking at 19 to overcome stress, which actually proved fatal after 45 years. Dad’s unfailing sense of duty continued till his last days.
Dad met my mom in 1970, and after two years they were married. Then he was employed at the VHNSN College, Virudhunagar. Dad’s philanthropic activities to his students were varied and steady. Students were welcome at any time of the day and night for clarification. At the age of four, I still remember sitting with Dad in his study (shrouded by cigarette smoke!), at 4 am, amid a group of UG students preparing for their university exams and Dad giving them his famous “Rama killed Sita” and “Sita was killed by Rama”. Later these same lines became mine at every grammar class that I taught for UG students. Dad and I had a good laugh when I told him of my obsession with these lines. My memories of Dad at this stage are filled with him travelling for paper evaluation, the All India English Teachers’ Conference, Seminars and meetings.
Dad made our evenings bright with a game of carom, stories and his famous bedtime songs. Soothing, protective, loving, teaching in his own way and inspiring, Dad made our days special. Dad always believed that we were the ‘chosen few’ and so we had our share of ‘God’s test’. We had to stay in Pondicherry, Dad’s hometown, and away from Dad. Every weekend he travelled across 400 kms to stay with us for a day. He strengthened us by his mere presence for a few hours. Every moment was an attempt at tempering us.
My father’s appointment at the Gandhigram Rural University, Dindigul, began another phase in his career. Academic Research took up almost all his time. Much was spoken about the topics, research methodology and of course his students whom he called his children. He did go out of his way to help his students; and yes, he got himself into too much trouble for his large heartedness. He had eyes only for those underprivileged children. We have often seen many a parent’s eyes turn moist when Dad assured him of his child’s safety and future. So have I seen much thanks offered to Dad of which he was totally unselfconscious!
Daddy was generous with money too. He paid the tuition fees for many needy students. I have seen him pay special attention to those physically challenged youngsters too. His term as Director of Employment Bureau was a great success to him. He called it a ‘God send.’ For, he could help many of his students get jobs which erased the question of want from their lives permanently. Such was his passion for his underprivileged students. He was very happy when I received my doctoral degree and proud when I became an Assistant Professor of English. He was prouder that my brother was a Post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. He told that he saw us in his students.
Another passion he had was for Communication skills. Many remember him for that. Anything that he said had his signature style to it. He was broke because he could not spend time after his retirement with the young minds he had definitely moulded; we knew it. When we tried to console him, he said in his characteristic way, “I’ve run my races, I’ve won my laurels, although with a few hiccups, and I’ve no wars to wage!”
My Dad was the member of many learned bodies. His association with the Guild of Indian Writers, Editors and Critics (GIWEC) was long. He was one of the founding fathers and former vice-president of the Guild and a member of its executive committee. When Daddy retired on 31 May 2012, he had done something he had liked for 45 years. He was once again busy with plans for publications, seminars, and had a lot to read as was usual. While my father’s health was the cause of much worry to us, it never was for him. He said he was fine. He had his first cardiac trouble a year before he retired, the next shortly after that and the fatal one on 17 December 2012, a few hours after he heartily sang the birthday song for his grand-daughter on her second year. On the way to the hospital, when his pain was unbearable, he muttered “Oh God, why do you test me?” and gave up his spirit. After a Holy Mass at the same parish where he was baptized, he was laid to rest at his family cemetery at Nellithope, Pondicherry.
Daddy’s love extended generously to his children-in-law too. He was very proud of my husband at whose hands he breathed his last. His daughter-in-law was the apple of his eye, his choice and gift to all of us. He left only after blessing us all abundantly with education, family and values which we consider precious.
“We all love you, Dad.”
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