“An illustrious era has come to an end”, were the words with which the news of Professor Albert Lobo’s death, at the age of 90, was greeted by those who had known him over the years. He was the last among his generation of great teachers, who had devoted their lives to the service of St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirapalli.
Albert Lobo, son of Sinnasamy Lobo and Christina Poobalrayee, was born in Kilakarai, in Ramnad district, on 5th March, 1913. He lost his father at the age of 4 and his mother at 9 and was brought up by his paternal grandmother. He did his early schooling in Kilakarai and came under the benign Jesuit influence and training at St. Mary’s High School, Madurai, in 1924. He entered the portals of St. Joseph’s College in 1930 for his Intermediate Course. He used to recall many of his Jesuit mentors with love, as his surrogate Fathers. Professor Lobo was immensely proud of being a Jesuit product, moulded and shaped by stalwarts like Fr. Saldanha, Fr. Carty, Fr. Mahe, Fr. Amalorpavanathar, Fr.Steinkist and Fr. Ehrhart, about whom he used to narrate interesting anecdotes to anyone, who liked to listen to the stories of a retired old man! He took his B.A. Honours degree in History, Economics and Politics in 1935 and would always say that he was qualified to teach all the three subjects up to the Post graduate level. He was a brilliant teacher of History, wrote 3 books on Politics and headed the Department of Economics in St. Joseph’s College.
Professor Lobo had a great respect and affection for his gurus like Fr. Carty, Professor Thomas Srinivasan, M.P., Professor Arokiasamy Reddiar and Professor Hirudayasamy Reddiar. He therefore felt overwhelmed when he was chosen by Fr. Carty to join the Department as a Lecturer in 1942.
Meanwhile, after his Honours degree in 1935, he completed his Degree in Law and worked for about a year, as an apprentice lawyer, under Advocate Antony Lobo, in Madras. In later years, when he was asked why he quit Law, he used to say that he didn’t relish working on Divorce cases and also that he found that he had to compromise on Truth, in building up a case. But the strongest reason he gave was that he was drawn towards Teaching, because of its potential for “making men”, for moulding Youth into men of integrity, who aspired for excellence. Once he decided to be a teacher, he took a degree in Education, and became a Licentiate in Teaching, L.T., the earlier equivalent of the present B.Ed. After a brief stint as a teacher in St. Joseph’s High School for about two years, he joined the Department of History, Economics and Politics in 1942, under the stewardship of Fr. Carty. A photo of Fr. P. Carty adorned his study room till the end.
As a teacher, Professor Albert Lobo was known for his deep and wide knowledge of the subject, thorough preparation for class, spell-binding lectures, punctuality and maintenance of strict discipline in the class-room. As recalled by Professor Thiagarajan, in his funeral oration after the Requiem Mass, Professor Lobo could transport his students to the streets of Paris and Kremlin or the British Parliament, when he lectured on the French Revolution, Communism, or Churchill. Till the year of his retirement, he spent hours preparing meticulously for his classes. His mastery over the subject urged him to write three text books, specifically tailored to the syllabus of the University of Madras and yet of absorbing interest to the general reader. They were ‘The Growth of the Modern State’, ‘Modern Governments’ and ‘The Constitution of India’. Professor Lobo had a vast personal library of books on History, Economics and Politics, which he gave away in his eighties, to former students and colleagues and also to the Library of his Alma Mater.
As the Head of the Department of Economics, Professor Lobo steered the Department, upholding the highest traditions of his illustrious predecessors. He was strict and at the same time humane and sympathetic, a Father-figure to his students and younger colleagues, as pointed out by Professor Mariaraj, in his tribute at the St. Mary’s Cemetery. At his prime, professor Lobo was a gifted speaker, with an excellent command of English and could give prepared scholarly lectures as well as brilliant impromptu talks. He enjoyed participating in lively debates and also informal discussions in the common staff room. Endowed with a razor-sharp intellect, witty repartee was his forte. Once in his bachelor days, he was standing near the Holy Cross College Parlour, waiting to see the Principal. A young lecturer passed by and told him to take a seat and wait. He replied, “They also serve who only stand and wait”. That English Lecturer was amazed at the appropriate quotation from Milton’s ‘Sonnet on his Blindness’. That young lady was none other than Miss Therese Costa, who became his wife later, in 1946. And that’s another story!
Professor Lobo could speak with authority on a variety of subjects – politics, current affairs, economics, history, religion, Papal Encyclicals and Biblical spirituality. He contributed a regular column commenting on current affairs, in the New Leader, in the 1950s, under the pseudonym of ‘Ploughman’. He also composed poems occasionally, in English and Tamil. His favourite topic of Conversation was “The Golden Mean”. He waxed eloquent on this concept of Moderation, based on the Aristotelian maxim of the desirable middle, between the two extremes of excess and deficiency, which is also found in the Chinese philosophy of Confucius(the Doctrine of the Mean) and the Buddhist philosophical concept of ‘the Middle Way’ and in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. According to Professor Lobo almost all human problems could be solved by the practical application of the Golden Mean principle. If he had lived in the age of Ph.D.s, I’m sure he would have done his Doctoral thesis on the Golden Mean!
Professor Lobo’s interest in and commitment to the Integral development of Youth was seen in his volunteering to handle Moral science / Ethics classes and also in his close association with Fr. Ceyrac and the Catholic Students’ Union (later the All India Catholic University Federation) which aimed at Leadership Training and Service among university students.
Even after retirement, Professor Lobo felt that he was still a part of St. Joseph’s College. He began his day, as before, with daily mass at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the college premises, took his morning and evening walks at the Mahe grounds, visited his Jesuit friends and confessors at the Fathers’ House and attended all the important functions in Lawley Hall, including the College Annual Day.
After retirement, Professor Lobo joined the Charismatic Renewal within the Catholic Church and was a lay leader in the early years and convened the First Regional Charismatic Conference in the late 1970s. He made his first charismatic retreat in Holy Cross College, with the permission of the Principal, Sr. Emily, who organized 3 retreats of 5 days’ duration each, one after another in July 1976, for the staff and students of Holy Cross College. Subsequently, Professor Lobo started Bible Study groups in St. Mary’s Thope, Joseph Colony and Chinthamani, under the name of Fellowship In The Word, or FIT Word. Many families and young people developed a love for the Bible, thanks to the FIT Word meetings. He also brought out a cassette of devotional songs, for which he wrote the lyrics, produced by Kalai Kaveri, through the kindness of its founder, Fr. George, who was impressed by the zeal of the elderly lay leader.
In his family life, Professor Lobo was a responsible and loving husband and father, who took his duty of providing and caring for the family very seriously. He happily spent much of his time and energy in carrying out the umpteen outdoor chores connected with running a home. In personal life, he was a man of scrupulous honesty and integrity, a man who had the courage of his convictions. Truth was a value he stood for and he always prided himself on speaking the truth, even when it was not pleasant. However that does not mean that he rode rough shod over the feelings of others. Once he realized that someone was hurt by his words or actions, he would take the first opportunity to beg pardon, whoever that person might be, even a child or a domestic worker in his home. His humility and simplicity were indeed touching.
“What can I do for You?” was the query with which he met everyone who approached him. He was always willing to walk the extra mile to help another. He has quietly helped many people, down the years, both monetarily and otherwise. He has played a part in family reconciliations and has helped people to find jobs, houses, spouses, business premises, capital for starting small enterprises and so on. After his death, for many years, his family kept hearing from some of the grateful beneficiaries. He truly followed the Biblical precept that the left hand should not know the good done by the right hand.
Professor Lobo is best remembered for his cheerful smile, hearty laugh and heart-warming loud greeting ‘Praise the Lord!’ and his positive attitude to life. Even when people smiled at some of his eccentricities, he would just say, “I thank God that I contribute to the amusement and joy of the world!” In his last days, when he was in pain, bedridden for two months, after a stroke, the question, “How are you?” always got the answer, “I feel better today, thank you.” During those last days, he came out with many memorable sayings, usually when he woke up fresh from sleep. One of them was “The purpose of our life is to praise God, do His will and give glory to Him.” A week before his death he said, on waking up, “The door of God’s house is open for me. The Lord said, Thattungal, thirakkap padum”.
The secret of Professor Lobo’s joy in life was that he really believed in Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing.”
Strongly believing in Providence and in God’s loving plan for each person’s life, nothing perturbed him. So when the Lord’s call came on 6th December 2003 at 6 a.m., he was ready and passed quietly from Time into Eternity. May his soul rest in Peace and Joy.
(by Dr. Mrs. Christine Gomez, M.A., Ph.D. – daughter of Professor Albert Lobo –formerly Professor in English , HOD ,Holy Cross college , Trichirappalli.)
(While reading through this piece on Prof . Albert Lobo, the familiar sight of the long strides with which the Professor, —accompanied by his wife and daughter— wrapping a woolen muffler as cummerbund around his waist as a sash to ward off cold of the mornings used to rush for early morning mass, in the college church, DAILY, gets flashed in the editors mind. Also rushes to his mind , the spectacle of professor sitting at the fringe of his chair in the classroom unconsciously symbolizing there by, the alertness with which he handled his classes.. — ED )