Mumbai bids adieu to teacher, poet Eunice de Souza
For friends, colleagues, writers and poets, the funeral of 77-year-old Eunice de Souza marked the passing of a woman who cast a formidable shadow over Indian literature.
For former students of St Xavier’s College, it was a reunion for the worst reason. For family members, it was a last goodbye to a beloved Aunty Noni. For friends, colleagues, writers and poets, the funeral of 77-year-old Eunice de Souza marked the passing of a woman who cast a formidable shadow over Indian literature. De Souza, poet, novelist, critic, columnist and anthologist, headed the college’s department of English from 1970 until she retired in 2000, shaping the minds of generations of students – many of whom grew up to become writers and poets.
Drama teacher Shaun Williams, who was in De Souza’s 2000 batch (“Her last batch and her favourite batch,” he believes) says as a professor she had a way of getting even avid readers to look at a text differently. “It resulted a richer experience and opened me up to different kinds of literature and authors,” he says. “Hers was one lecture I never wanted to bunk – I’d feel bad if I missed it. I owe her so much.”
Sharon Irani, the assistant editor of Helter Skelter magazine knew De Souza not as a professor but as a collaborator. The poet helped curate the magazine’s forthcoming volume of new writing. “Eunice’s poems helped me through a difficult patch in my life, a long time ago,” she recalls. We’d been in touch with her since last October for the magazine and had a lot of conversations about her pets [she was fond of birds, dogs and cats], especially since my mother takes care of strays.”
For others it’s wasn’t about the written word at all. Columnist and local historian Meher Marfatia graduated in 1984, when Xavier’s ran Learning For Life, an after-class programme that included film appreciation classes led by De Souza. “She just nudged us and pushed us to open our minds in class and after class,” Marfatia says.
Makeshift the ground on which we stand: Eunice de Souza (1940-2017)