A baby girl was born in Nice, France under the royal patronage of the late His Highness Yeshwant Rao, the then Maharaja of Holkar State. His Highness was on a world tour with his retinue to which the girl’s father belonged as A.D.C. to the Maharaja. Her French nurse called her Poupe’e (doll) which name stuck to her till she was nine years old.
When the family was in Indore the girl was in and out of the Maharaja’s Palace on occasions like Fancy Dress, X-Mas parties for children and other functions by which time her father had become the Revenue Minister of the Holkar State. She learnt the manners of the court and the “Namaskar” as well, which was prevalent then in court.
Meanwhile she also learnt to speak, read and write Hindi apart from English which was the medium of instruction in the local school.
At nine years of age her parents decided to send her to a boarding school for a better start. When she came to know about it she refused to go until she got an Indian name. Her parents could not decide on a name for her so she decided to name herself.
They were on a picnic to Naulakha Gardens where there was a lake with fish to feed and beautiful trees around.
While there she looked up at the “blue” of the sky and then “blue” of the waters. She thought of “blue” in Rama and Krishna.
That evening when they returned home, she told her parents, “My name will be Neela and so it is to this day, Mrs. Neela Suri (her married name).
After finishing her schooling, for her graduation she was sent to Isabella Thoburn college, a prestigious institution in Lucknow. She passed with glowing colours and received a gold medal for standing first among girl students. She then joined the Central Institute of Education, Delhi for her B.Ed. Here too she stood second in the university.
She married the same year an Air Force Officer and got the name Suri. She had two children in fairly quick succession. A very joyous phase.
After five years of marriage she started her educational career in Pune, at the Convent of Jesus and Mary. Her very first lesson was on “Ocean Waves & Currents” in Std XI.
As her husband went from pillar to post in his transfers, she too moved from school to school wherever he was posted.
She was still a fledgling but her feathers had started to grow.
Finally she joined Cathedral & John Connon School in Bombay. Here she became a full-fledged Geography teacher in the senior school, teaching standards 8, 9 and 10. She had taken flight:
It was here that she saw a gap in all the prescribed geography books for standards 9 & 10. There was no exclusive chapter on ICSE. Survey Maps which was a compulsory question carrying 22 marks in the geography paper. And so it was here that, a little booklet on ICSE. Survey Maps was born. Felicitations to Cathedral and John Connon School.
In her seventh year at Cathedral and John Connon School a fateful meeting took place between her and the newly appointed Vice Principal. Lightning struck them on an intellectual plane.
They joined together as a team two years later in Cochin and then in Bangalore where they began to give tuitions for ICSE students, he in Physics, Maths and she in Hindi as Hindi was the bugbear of South Indian students. It was a very successful beginning. They also wrote study books mainly on Shakespeare’s plays. Meanwhile the booklet on ICSE Survey Maps took shape and was presented to Macmillan and was accepted immediately. It was the first of its kind and broke new ground. It circulated for almost 25 years.
As the tuitions proved successful another fateful meeting took place. A young adolescent boy named Rajeev Kishen came to her for Hindi lessons in Std 10. He had failed in his midterm Hindi tests securing just fifteen percent. He was a brilliant boy so Mrs. Suri decided to give him a crash course in Hindi. He passed his tenth hindi exam with 60%.
Congratulations Rajeev Kishen.
While studying with Mrs Suri a unique student – teacher relationship was established. It was in her flat that the vision of opening a school took place in Rajeev’s mind. The vision became a reality in 2000 AD and was named New Millennium School.
Gradually the tuitions palled and her spirit yearned for something higher. She took refuge in Ramanashram Thiruvannamalai. It was here, by the Maharishi’s Grace her spiritual life began. She studied the Bhagvad Gita, works of Shri Shankaracharya and the 10 main Upanishads from Pujya Swami Parmarthananda to whom she was introduced by one of the Maharishi’s devotees.
Her entire internal vision changed and in two years of study, she became a hermit. As she moved in and out of Bangalore to Thiruvannamalai, her student, now Dr. Rajeev Kishen kept in touch with her. He requested her to join the Management in his school which she did, despite being a hermit. Her biggest contribution to the school was the build-up of a geography room with photographs and relevant exhibits which delighted the children.
Dr. Rajeev Kishen is still closely in touch with her and she understood after her study of the scriptures “the Law of Karma”. It was not the first connection with Rajeev in this life. He had been connected with her in an earlier birth.
Today she still studies her scriptures, does meditation and lives an austere life and is in touch with Dr. Rajeev Kishen and her Guru Swami Parmarthananda – And of course the bottom line is the immense Grace of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi.