The first time I met Mrs. Manzur was sometime in late 2002.
My parents and I were seated across her for my Sunbeams interview. I had applied for admissions for Class I, and after doing well in the written test, I'd been selected for an interview.
I've never done well with new people, that's how I've always been. Then too, at barely just 7, I really did completely sabotage myself in that interview.
I remember Mrs. Manzur asking me what books I like to read, or how we had got to the schools — simple questions I definitely knew the answer to. But then and there, with my parents by my side, for some reason I barely said a word.
I think it speaks volumes to Mrs. Manzur's character that despite a strange ritual in our country that requires little kids to face big interviews, she still managed to see the potential in them.
I was admitted to Sunbeams despite completely tanking/bombing/blowing up my chance at letting the school know more about my personality. Because she saw something in me.
I didn't know a lot then, but I did realize that I had to prove that her faith in me right. I've tried my hardest since then to always do well in my classes because I'd been trusted with a coveted spot at the school she had worked hard to build.
It's not like we saw Mrs. Manzur every day. Our days were more focused on what our friends had brought for tiffin, or what we had scored in the latest test, or how we could sneak in gadgets on the school bus. Despite all that, her omnipresence always filled the school.
Mrs. Manzur would be present at almost every assembly, and inform us of the important things, whether it was whatever was going on in the news, or simple reminders of how to be as people.
The seven beams of the sun represent values that she wanted to instill in us — knowledge, leadership, patriotism, integrity, humility, confidence, and commitment. To this day (maybe after racking my brain for a few minutes), I can name what they are. And I try my best to practice them.
Since the first day we met, Mrs. Manzur has always remembered who I was. Not because I had a particularly memorable interview (I think my parents and I — and Mrs. Manzur, probably would agree that it was quite forgettable), but because I was a Sunbeams student hereafter.
Mrs. Manzur took the time to take in each member of the Sunbeams family — as part of her family, as part of her heart. Any time she saw me — or my parents — she would ask how we are, she would somehow know about everything I was up to, and she would take the time to make sure I was doing okay. I've seen photos of her attending the wedding of every student who has ever invited her. I've seen her supporting the students at every event they've hosted. Even when COVID-19 started, she sent messages to her students making sure that they stayed safe. And that when it ends, they would come back stronger.
We live in a cruel world because the very pandemic she warned her students against is what came around to take her life. But her life is not one we should only mourn. Mrs. Manzur's is a life that should be celebrated for decades.
They say, "once a beamer, always a beamer." It's been almost 8 years since I last stepped into Sunbeams. But there doesn't go by a day that I've kept in touch with an old friend, or come across a photo of my time at the school in the grey and white uniform, or even tried my hardest to maintain one of the beams of the sun, whether it's honesty, or patriotism. Mrs. Manzur loved us. But more importantly, she wanted us to embody the values that she had built Sunbeams on, so that we could go on to not only do the school proud, but the whole nation.
We take the lives of our loved ones for granted. Ever since I heard the news of her passing, I've said to my friends that Mrs. Manzur feels like one of those people you never imagine would die. That is because she is, in many ways, immortal.
Students who walk the halls of Sunbeams in the post-Niloufer Manzur era will hear the stories of a legend. They will grow up picking up the traits and values she taught us to prioritize. I'm so grateful to have known such a strong woman, inspiring leader, and educator of the ages.
Thank you, Mrs. Manzur. You'll be missed, but never, ever forgotten.