Guru Purnima

My mind has been drifting to the past this Guru Purnima Day and I would like to dedicate this to my ‘guru’ Karol Ashby Leeves.  Guru Purnima is celebrated in India to honour those who have taught us to live an honourable and good life with no expectations in return.

Karol Ashby  was my PE  teacher when I was  twelve   years  old. I was a little girl  with very little self confidence.  I was the only Indian girl in a school of English girls.  I had a leg affected by polio and because I  had difficulty  in walking, I  had always assumed that there were many things I could not do. Up to this point, I was excused from games and PT classes. I would sit and watch the others or read a book.

Karol Ashby bounced into my life  like a little elf. She was so graceful, lithe and tiny.  She was affectionately known as Tich – the little one.  She  firmly  insisted that I join in all the games and all the activities. I used to dread the Wednesday PE classes.   ”  Just do your best, ” she said, when I stood diffidently in front of a long climbing rope shaking my head.  So I began my first attempt at rope climbing and after several attempts made it almost half way to the top.   Next came walking on a beam several feet from the ground and yes I did that too. Then came cycling, swimming and a whole lot of outdoor activities which I once thought impossible for me. ‘Doing my best’ gave me new self confidence and a mantra and habit for life.

I met up with Karol Ashby Leeves  a few years ago when I visited the UK.  She wasn’t the ‘ elf’ that I remembered but was still that gracious inspiring lady with a warm smile. She  shared with me her life after retirement story of helping  teenagers who have been ‘lost’ for a period of their lives.  Others may have written them off as ‘impossible,’ but she didn’t.  There must be so many like me who owe her so much.

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Usha Jesudasan