Nirmala Misra will live on…
...in the hearts and minds of thousands of rural children she has taught for 51 years at the Bharatiya Gramin Vidyalaya, and the countless lives she touched.
Nidhi Jamwal 26 Sep 2023 6:54 AM GMT
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
When I visited the school at Kunaura village on the border of Lucknow and Barabanki districts, I invariably found Nirmala Misra sitting in a sturdy wooden chair in the corridor, flipping through school registers.
This is where Nirmala Misra and her husband Dr SB Misra, then just married for two months, started Bharatiya Gramin Vidyalaya in a thatched roof hut, 51 years ago.
Nirmala Misra, passed away yesterday, on September 25, after transforming the lives of countless children for over five decades.
She was a source of strength, dedication, and boundless love for her husband and was his steadfast companion. She worked shoulder to shoulder with him to make Bharatiya Gramin Vidyalaya a model school while she also raised her twin sons, Neelesh Misra (Founder, Gaon Connection) and Shailesh Misra (a software engineer).
The first time I met Nirmala Misra was on December 2, 2018 when Gaon Connection was celebrating its sixth foundation day. There was a mela organised within the premises of Bharatiya Gramin Vidyalaya, and Nirmala Misra sat in her wooden chair wearing a bright saree, her long grey hair tied in a bun and a big maroon bindi on her forehead.
I learnt how as a young woman from a well-off zamindar family, she married her geologist scientist husband and embraced an extremely difficult and challenging life to fulfil his dream of setting up a school in his village.
The thatched hut of a school that she co-founded with him 51 years ago is today a vibrant space with classes till the 12th, science laboratories, a skill centre, and a virtual classroom where volunteers from across the globe teach students online.
Principal Nirmala Misra taught at the school and also visited villages on foot and trained women in various skills such as stitching and tailoring so that they could start something on their own and earn a living.
In the last few years of her life, she chose to live in a room in the school so that she could be closer to her beloved students and staff.
The last time I met Nirmala Misra was in May this year. She had lost weight and looked frail, but she still spoke with confidence and continued to be involved in the running of the school.
Mealtimes with Nirmala Misra were a treat as she regaled us with stories of the school and its early years. She loved to point out the huge banyan tree and tell visitors how it was planted as a sapling when the school was founded half a century ago.
It was on May 14, that I went to take leave of her before I caught my flight back home to Mumbai. That day happened to be the 51st wedding anniversary of the Misras. As I bent down to touch her feet, she got up and hugged me.
It is hard to believe that Nirmala Misra will never walk the school corridors again or sit in her wooden chair.
At Gaon Connection, we will continue to walk the path shown by her and work towards the promotion of education in rural India. Our Teacher Connection project is aimed at the same.
And The Changemakers Project, which is set to be launched on October 2, on Gandhi Jayanti, will document and celebrate lives of changemakers like Nirmala Misra who have silently transformed hundreds of thousand lives.