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A Tribute to Suniti Deshpande


20 December, 2015

1977 - A Girl with Big Black Eyes and a Smile in Kolhapur
I first met Suniti on the 5th of November 1977. I had just come to India to teach the Russian language at Shivaji University. It was my first time when I was away from my home, my family, fist time abroad. It was Diwali-time and the university was empty. I felt very lonely. Suddenly, a girl with large eyes stood in front of my door. She started speaking in Russian and told me that she was my future student. Since that day we were together nearly all the time, she went home only for a couple of hours to sleep and showed up early in the morning again. Saying that she was a diligent student would be a huge understatement. The compulsory Russian language program was not enough for her, she absorbed every expression and saying, she wanted to know more. She mentioned that she wished she could study more and sleep less.

Unquenchable Thirst for Knowledge
I was happy that she was so curious, had such unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Any teacher could only dream of such a student. Nearly every week we spoke publicly on different subjects connected with the culture, literature, everyday life

From Tatyana Pogrebnaya-Schein

in Russia - the former USSR. She loved this activity very much, translated everything into Marathi or English. I was also happy because I saw her growth, her ever-growing interest in the language and also in the process of teaching. When the head of the department was about to leave for Moscow for his postgraduate studies, it so happened that I was asked to start a Sunday Russian course in Sangli. After the departure of the head of the department I remained the only teacher and I used this opportunity to ask the administration of Shivaji University to appoint Suniti as my assistant. At that time she was already studying in Dharwar, doing her M.A. As a colleague Suniti was as good as a student. In Sangli we had 250 students, and in spite of the fact that the classes were on Sundays, that we had to come there with the bus, that lessons lasted four hours, it was the happiest time for us. I saw how inspired Suniti was, how she was respected and loved by her students. We divided the group: Suniti taught girls and I was teaching men. At the end of our course we presented our best students postcards, dictionaries, even Matrjoshkas. As long as Suniti worked in Sangli, this tradition was alive. She could combine a very friendly attitude to students and at the same time be demanding and strict.

An Obedient Daughter
Suniti introduced me to her mother who allowed Suniti to travel with me, other students to some conferences or to my colleagues. Such journeys made Suniti very happy.

1979 – I Returned to Moscow
In June 1979, I returned home and there started the time of numerous letters. In her letters she often recollected the time when we were together as her golden time. She did whatever possible to master the Russian language. In one of her letters she wrote: "These days I am writing my paper. I must...