Anecdotes From The Life Leena Sarabhai

Leena Sarabhai is the sister of Vikram Sarabhai and no less an illustrious person herself, co-founder (along with Madame Maria Montessori herself) of the finest school for children of the age group 2.5 to 5.5 years. It was called Shreyas. Madame Maria Montessori stayed here for a year.

J. Krishnamurthy once spent a month in the home of the Sarabhais when Leenaben was 14 years old. Later she wrote a booklet recollecting that month. She gave me a copy to read. I read it and went back to her wanting to ask her a question. I had folded the top-of-the-page which was related to my question. As I asked her my question she took the book and lovingly unfolded that fold and with a lot of pain in her voice asked me – “You do this to books do you?”

‘Yes’ I replied. (It did not hit me then). “It must be hurting the paper, isn’t it?” she said. I just gaped at her!

Hundreds of times she has asked me, “Sunil Bhai, how can a teacher shout at her students asking them to keep quiet?” And I have seen this happening in hundreds of schools and hundreds of classrooms! And everytime I remember Leenaben!

Once I was visiting Shreyas with her and saw a wooden-board about 2 ft x 3 ft in a corner. On the board were written numbers vertically from 1 to 10 and then 11 to 20 and so on upto 91 to 100. The board was dusty since out of use. I asked her – ‘Why don’t you use it?’

“Don’t you see? It is not a square, it is a rectangle”, said Leenaben.

I did not quite realize until lightning struck! When you are teaching 1 to 10 and 11 to 20 and so on the board needs to be a square matrix. Or else you are telling the students that 1 to 10 horizontally is different from that vertically or vice versa.