There are some people in your life that you feel were the ones who were necessary to make your life complete. To make your life the way it is right now. To make your life a lot much better than what it was earlier.
One such person has been there for me in my life. Br. Keane, he was my principal when I first met him. An ever smiling face, that heavy ‘chest fallen down’ stomach, those loving eyes hovering around above the spectacles.
He used to sit just next to the stair case when we used to come in to school every day, wishing everyone and poking fun at us. Many of the learning’s that the formal education of school did not impart came from him, at least for me. No mugging of answers was his tip, he encouraged us to write the answers in our own words rather than copy pasting the words in the text books. This, he said makes you understand the subject. Perhaps, this is why when I help my cousin with her school work, I am able to provide a better understanding to her. I am able to remember and recollect what I learned in my school by just reading a few lines and then able to provide a better understanding to my cousin. One way of learning that he imparted was to read what we wrote. He said that it helped in three ways – you read, you write and you hear. This makes the brain to better understand.
He was also the one who inculcated the habit of reading in me. He encouraged us to read as much as possible. Novels, news papers, encyclopedias, magazines…
He was away during our last years of school, imparting the same life learning’s to someone else in another part of India. He told us tales of how he was stuck in a train in West Bengal for over 24 hours at a single spot due to a derailment on the track and how he helped build schools and homes for people who were less fortunate.
I kept in touch with him with regular letters, he used to write to me even though he had a busy schedule and used to complain that I did not write enough. Whenever he was in Vasai, he used to come home and sit on the swing and then we used to talk for hours. Then there was this phase when I did not receive a single reply to my letters.
I was in Dublin when I got the news of his heart attack from Br. Pinto and I was desperately trying to reach him. I called in a few times only to get a message that he was resting. Finally luck smiled on me and I got to talk to him, I cried that day while talking to him, the words were unable to come out of my mouth but he never sounded so calm before. We talked a good 10-15 minutes that day. I wanted to go to either Goa or Bangalore where he was after I was back from Dublin but then I never got to make those trips due to the time factor. We met though, in December, he was in Vasai to attend the final professions of two brothers. We exchanged email addresses and we continued our correspondences via email. One of email in 2008, he mentioned that he faced some difficulties with his eyes as he had cataract in both his eyes and he asked me to remember him in my prayers. I wrote a very emotional mail to him which sadly was not replied
Then I heard something that literally shook the ground beneath my feet. Br. Keane was not keeping well and he was moved to Ireland and then I got this mail:
Br. Keane passed away on the 16th February at 9.30 PM IST at Beaumont
Hospital Baldoyle, Ireland. He was 77 years old. He had a massive heart
attack two days prior to his passing away from which he never
recovered. May God grant his soul eternal rest.
I cried that day. I went ahead and shared the news with all my school mates and I had an inbox full of condolences. And today, even after two years of his death, Br. Keane continues to inspire me and show me the best way to life my life.
He has served in India for 57 years starting from 4th November 1951.
Here is a glimpse of what this man was. I can proudly say that I am what I am because of Br. Keane.
Tony was not one to confine himself to school and classroom where he expended great energy in teaching. He had a very personal interest in the lives of his pupils and was genuinely supportive of them in their problems and difficulties. He spent two terms travelling around India on vocation promotion and gave himself fully to the task. His interest in the new recruits did not cease once they had joined but continued over time through letters and visits.
He was one of the pioneers who moved into the village of Amgi in Surat District. He was very happy to be there and shared the lives of the simple village folk as he struggled to come to terms with the intricacies of Gujarati. He was always ready to face any challenge and did his best pick up some of the local village dialect which unfortunately had no resemblance to Gujarati.
In later life he became involved with some village folk in Tamilnadu who had suffered loss during the tsunami. His priority was to try to provide proper housing for the affected people and in this he was helped in great part by the generosity of his large circle of friends in Ennis and elsewhere. He took great satisfaction in the opening of the first church in the world dedicated to Blessed Edmund Rice in Sivagangi, Madurai.