Yesterday, the PEN Society and other institutions and individuals observed the tenth death anniversary of Madame Sophia Wadia. She was India’s best known theosophist, and, through one of those strange coincidences, as a child I cam in contact with her.
I remember her distinctly. She was French, very fair, grey eyes, silver hair, knotted Indian style, a neat red tikka on the forehead, crisp cotton saris, she recited Sanskrit slokas with a French accent. My aunt, the eldest member of my father’s family of seven brothers and sisters, a spinster, vegetartian, also in crisp cotton saris, lived with her.
Madame Wadia was married to Professor Wadia, author of the Indian history book prescribed for out matriculation exams. They lived in a large bungalow on the present Narayan Dabholkar Road, next to the Agra Khan’s bungalow. I used to visit my aunt there, once a month. I would look from her window ar the sea dashing against the compound wall, have tea and Huntley-Palmer biscuits, and at the end of each visit be taken to Madame Wadia to pay my respects to her.
At the West End Watch Company building at Flora Fountain, where the Davar’s classes are, they had their theosophical society hall, where daily meetings were held. Saturday’s were children’s days, and I was made to join the classes. There were three sessions and the middle one was the best. This was when the children, who could not participate in the intellectual discussions, sat in a circle with a teacher and put crayon paints in drawings that were given to them.
The meeting that followed was addressed by Madame Wadia and, among other things, she read from the Dhamapada. I can, at this moment, close my eyes and hear her saying the ‘Dhamapada’ in her heavy French accent. I shall never forget that.
My aunt did not address the meetings. She was more like her housekeeper, but she was a theosophist all right. And she lived like one. She was kind and gentle and very independent, and till she died, at the age of 93, she travelled by BEST buses. When Madame Wadia moved to the Theosophical Soicety’s new building on Queen’s Road, opposite the USIS, she moved in with her there.
She was active all her life, loked after her brothers and sister through their ailments, and when they passed away, one by one, organised their final ceremonies. Then, her work done, she fell ill, was in hospital for two days, and gently passed away, bequeathing the nurse her tranisistor radio and me her bank balance. It was a small sum, I paid her hospital bills with it, and gave the rest to the hospital.
Her funeral cost little. Though a Parsi, she wished to be cremated. A Shiv Sena hearse took her body to Chandanwadi. Madame Sophia Wadia came there to pay her last respects and made a small speech. That was the last time I heard her quote from the Dhamapada.