Mrs Niloufer Manzur (Niloufer Aunty) came into my life as a teacher in 1973 when I was a student of the third grade in Geeran's Tutorial (which later became Maple Leaf). I vaguely remember my mother telling me that Mrs Manzur was leaving Geeran's to start her own school and that we would be joining Sunbeams from January 1974. I studied in Sunbeams from January1974 to June1975 before leaving for England.
Aunty had a big influence in my life from my early years till my father passed away this year.
I remember doing very poorly in my half-yearly exams. The exam results were announced on the last day before summer vacation and we were all asked to "dress as we like". For reasons unbeknownst to me now, I had dressed up as a queen.
Devastated by my results, I went to see Mrs Manzur, in tears, cursing myself for dressing up. What she said to me then resonates till today: "If you dressed like a queen you must feel like a queen. Don't ever give up. Queens never do".
Needless to say, she not only inspired me to do well but also made me smile when she gave me a big hug. I will never forget that day. I remember sharing this with her when I had gone to judge science fair projects in Sunbeams a year back. She gave me another hug which had the same warmth as the one from 40 years ago.
Her last message sent to me on March 6 this year read: "I cannot take away the pain in your hearts but if it comforts know that you can always lean on me for love and support. As always, Niloufer auntie".
As I write this tribute I cannot hold back my tears. She was a legend most people know today, but I was fortunate to witness the legend in making. A magnanimous soul, larger than life, Aunty will be missed a lot but her life is one to celebrate not mourn.