I first met Dr Nirmala Prasad when she was at Apex. She came across as a person with who you could easily vibe.
From there, Dr Prasad went to M O P Vaishnav College and trust me, she re-engineered it. From being another college, she transformed it into the first choice for Chennai girls. That’s remarkable, considering you had Ethiraj, Stella, and W C C to compete with. She brought a new range of co-curricular activities, making learning experiential. The MOP Bazaar, the in-house radio station, internship, entrepreneurship cell; these were all her ideas. She once told me that her mandate in her college was to ensure that students had fun while they learned and became socially responsible citizens.
When we released my book Nightingales: how 11 women overcame obstacles on the road of life, she was at the launch function. When copies were given to a select people, she asked, “what about me; I have produced a few of these Nightingales.” Just then, the compere announced her name and Dr Prasad was elated at the sheer timing. We had a hearty laugh. That was the last time I met her.
Early the next morning, I received a text: “This is Nirmala Prasad. I just now completed reading your book. My goodness! What style! The lucidity and the language with which the book is written is amazing.” She had been at it all of the night. Was I flattered? I sent her a thanks message. That was the last time I texted her.
Nirmala Prasad is no more
At 69, she had a massive heart attack.
A young teacher in Holland who works as an English guide at the Casa Bilingual Montessori School wrote to me: “I am an alumnus of MOP. In 2012, I had a face-to-face interview with Nirmala madam for the post of Student Prime Minister. My interaction with her lasted 45 minutes. She did not ask any questions but judged the applicants based on the conversation we had. That was an inspiring way to select a student leader.”
I wondered how it was like working with Prasad. The lady put my thought to rest. “I worked closely with her. She asked me to be a student-teacher, where I taught 1st-year students who were pursuing the cost accounting programme. Soon, I qualified as a C.W.A. (now C.M.A.) and wore a professional hat. That was when she offered me lectureship at MOP Her trust in me helped me realise my teaching skills.”
Archanha Jayaraman continued: “I must say that I am one of the luckiest persons to be under her tutelage as our relationship continued even after her principal-days. She spoke to me about revamping the education system and insisted that we open a school with a new vision of education, while I took up my Montessori teacher’s training.
Guru will find the student
“I am wholeheartedly thankful for the learning from madam. She taps the good in a person. In Indian scriptures, there is a saying that ‘Guru will find the student when the student is ready.’ My association with her was like that.”
Priya Bhansali, partner Kumbhat & Co. says: “the happiest moment in my life was in 2014, when Dr Nirmala Prasad, remembered me by name a good 30 years after I had left college.” Anusha Sreenivasan, another CA., told me that it was the principal who helped her decide where to do her CA internship: auditors Fraser & Ross, or at her dad’s firm.
“Trusting Dr Prasad’s advice was a no-brainer. Madam was always a lovely friend and guide to all her students.”
In all, Dr Nirmala Prasad dedicated 40 years of her life to the cause of education. She also served as a member of the Syndicate, University of Madras, for three terms. I am sure with her skills at execution, she would have been a great success in corporate India, and would have earned tons of money for the effort, but being a teacher earned her full respect.