Sathibai akka: seize and throttle
by Saira Kathpalia


‘My girls’, as she called us, in a voice with more than a hint of suppressed pride - a phrase that was hers since time immemorial.

Sathibai akka was truly a legend in her own right.

Her scientific theories alone surpassed even the greatest minds known to history, firmly believing that none of the girls should enter the common room with oil in their hair for fear of it evaporating and settling on no other spot but her beloved cushions. I don’t think any house contested and maintained a record for the category of ‘keeping old cushions looking like new’ for no one truly possessed the knowledge critical for victory.

She was a master of the ‘little rituals’, from giving her girls mali flowers everyday to specially ordering extra coconut barfee that she’d quietly come and give the ISC room at night, warning us not to tell. Ooops.

There are a lot of things I remember about the time I spent with her in Amaltash – Her little trips to the backyard at 2 in the morning to make certain that the iron had been switched off; always sitting in the box room at night making sure that the girls drank their milk and the kettle was empty to prove it. How she would be continually after us to water her plants for fear that we’d fall prey to a deadly eradication campaign were there not constant vigilance on her part, a quality that she benevolently displayed especially when it came around to Sunday morning duties, the common room group praying the hardest of all.

But as time wears on these memories fade and its only the little affectionate details that linger on – her love for ‘foreign’ chocolates, getting letters from her old girls and reading them out to everyone who’d pass by in her loudest voice, her trips to the ISC room to show off her latest sari’s and of course the ‘cool’ sunglasses that she’d wear calling herself a terrorist, always being careful not to admit that she enjoyed all the attention and sly comments that the episodes were sure to bring her.

Nothing would ever prevent her from doing what had to be done come rain or shine. It never failed to amaze us, (grumble as we did) how such a frail looking woman of her years in life could have such a zest and love for life and its simple pleasures as well as (let us not forget) a voice with the ability to reverberate inside your head for days on end, ears that had an extraordinary aptitude for picking up unspoken thoughts and a nose that possessed the skill to smell a rat be it in the next galaxy.

She was truly an extraordinary person proving that only fools are deceived by appearances. She lived a fulfilling and rich life to the end of her days and in Calvin’s words she always lived to seize the day. Wherever she is now I’m sure she not only continues to seize the day but throttle it as well: )

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