Goodbye Mrs Sheila Cherian

On my birthday, as I was replying to all the birthdays wishes from friends, the news of passing away of Ms Sheila Cherian – Ms Sheila Murphy – came not as a surprise as she was in a coma.  Anyone from our vintage reading this eulogy will acknowledge with a nod and a smile that Ms Sheila was the best educator we had ever been blessed with, was an absolute timeless icon.

Ms Sheila Murphy, an Anglo-Indian lady, was among the first group of teachers to join Sainik School, Amaravathinagar, Thamzh Nadu in 1962 at the time of inception.  Mr PT Cherian joined our school a year later in 1963.  After a few years, fell in love and got married, while we were in our eighth grade.  On the evening of their wedding, we were treated to a never ever seen sumptuous dinner at the Cadets’ Mess.  Thus, Ms Sheila Murphy became Mrs Sheila Cherian.

Mrs Sheila Cherian is the first teacher anyone who joined Sainik School, Amaravathinagar encountered. Most of us were from Malayalam or Thamizh medium schools having very little knowledge of English.  The way she taught us English, especially how to write (her handwriting was exceptional.) She tried her best to improve my handwriting, but the success rate was minimal.  She taught us table manners, how to sit at a table, use of cutlery and crockery, how to spread butter and jam with the knife, how to drink soup, how to eat boiled egg and most importantly, how to eat with our mouth closed.

I still remember her first class in July 1971.  She was our English teacher and the Class-teacher.  She first took us to the washroom and taught us how to use the urinal and the commode, how to flush and how important it is to wash our hands there after. Next, she took us to the library.  She introduced us to the books in the junior section and explained to us the need to read – read more – as we grew. Then commenced her English class.

Many of the lessons she taught, I will take them to my grave – so will most of her students.

When I heard the news of her passing, there were so many thoughts and memories that raced through my head. Just like many of you who might have been blessed to be her student. I thought about the last time I met her.

In 1994, we went to Sainik School Amaravathinagar, to attend the Old Boys Association (OBA) meeting. By then Cherians had retired and had settled in the farm they purchased, adjacent to the school. We decided to call on the Cherians in the evening and reached the farmhouse. The house had about 50 old students, some with their families already there. The Cherians, known for their love for their students, whom they adored as children, as God had been unkind to the couple and had forgotten to bless them with any kids. They were playing excellent hosts to each and everyone, including little children.

We paid our respects to the couple, and by about nine in the evening, most guests had left and I was sitting with Mr Cherian enjoying a drink in the coconut grove.  Mr Cherian said “Do you know why I did not come to your home to accept the Guru Dakshina?  It is not that I did not love you or adore you, but because my marriage has not been complete as the God has not blessed us with any children and that was the reason why Sheila had declined to come for the marriage.”

I just could not speak and our eyes became wet.  We both remained silent for the next five minutes and completed the drink.

Mr Cherian fetched another set of drinks and continued “I Married Sheila very well knowing that she would not bear any children for me, due to her gynecological condition. I wanted to set an example for my students by marrying the person I loved.  I never wanted my students to tell me that I ditched their teacher.” Tears rolled down my cheeks….

Although decades have passed since we all sat in her class, that feeling we had when she greeted us back then has not faded a bit from our collective memories. We humans tend to hold on to the best memories of our childhood and Mrs Sheila Cherian was most certainly a big part of our best memories. She was indeed . . . and will always be . . . a timeless icon in our lives.

The words I write – I owe it to Mrs Sheila Cherian as she laid the foundation for all my English language abilities – to read and to write.  She made our life brighter with her charming smile, motherly affection, knowledge and wisdom.

Rest in Peace Mrs Sheila Chearian.  To the world you may just be a teacher, but to us,your students, you were the world.

9 thoughts on “Goodbye Mrs Sheila Cherian

    • Our condolences Reji. Although, we don’t know her but through your article it Clearly shows that she was great teacher. There are very few teachers who take pride in their profession.
      Another one of your very well written article.
      May God bless her soul.


  1. Thank You for the brilliant tribute for one of the best human beings who had walked this earth.

    I have no hesitation in putting on record that you are one of her best legacies. She shall continue to grace and bless us through your writings.

    Love and Regards as always

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very sad news. When I arrived at SSA in August 1969 I was accommodated in a row of four little houses. Reading from right to left as you looked at them were Cherian, Mrs Mathai and her children, me and then who? I was told that the last house was that of Sheila who was visiting family in the USA. She soon returned to the school and we got to know each other and I spent many happy evenings eating meals with my neighbours. They were all Christians of course so there were fewer cultural observances for me to negotiate.
    She was a lovely lady although she did shock me on one occasion when she told me that she was frightened of vaccinations and in order to get her bill of health to visit the US she had bribed the doctor to give her a certificate for a vaccination she never had. Oh well, we all have our sins to confess.
    From comments on your previous posts she was clearly loved by all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Reji
    I really loved what you had penned down. Kudos to you.
    I joined school in Jan 1966. Miss Shiela Murphy was my English teacher while Mr Cherian was my housemaster till I left school in 1972, besides being my Physics teacher from 8th onwards.
    I was fortunate to be associated with them. May their noble soul rest in eternal peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A lovely tribute to a lovely person – Ms Murphy (and later Mrs Cherian). A sad loss indeed. Her memories will forever remain etched in our hearts.. God bless her soul…

    Liked by 1 person

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