Thirty-nine-year-old Uma Maheshwari died with many dreams. She hoped to see her daughters study medicine and become doctors one day. She wanted to become a college lecturer. She was about to finish her M.Phil. Only two papers were left.

She might have even wished to see her two daughters one last time. They both stay in a hostel attached to their school in Ambattur. Uma Maheshwari got to see them only on weekends.

“The only children she got to see every day were at the school,” said R.Sadanand, her maternal uncle. “They were like her own children. She wanted all of them to have a bright future,” he added.

“But today, a boy chased her and stabbed her even as she tried to run out of the classroom. Where is this violence coming from? The boy seems too young,” Mr.Sadanand said. Another uncle, Sukumar, said that Uma Maheshwari was a hard-working teacher. “We all thought teaching was a safe job. She got home at a reasonable time as well. But, a student killing his own teacher... shows the direction in which the world is heading. Security has to be provided even in schools from now on.”

On Thursday evening, the faces of visitors to her house in Mandaveli were pale and full of disbelief. “How could this happen in a school?” was a common refrain. Many teachers from the Anglo-Indian school where Uma Maheshwari taught Hindi and physics for the last six years were present. The soft chanting of Hindu prayers and Christian hymns were the only sounds that cut through the silence.

Though the boy who stabbed her seems to have claimed during police interrogation that she was excessively strict, some of Uma Maheshwari's former students are aghast. Back in 2006, Anuj Vignesh was a Class IX student in Bala Vidya Mandir where she taught physics during her previous stint. “She was a really, really nice teacher,” he says. “Never in a million years was she a strict teacher. She was so nice that we used to bully her. She can't be strict even if she tried. I am shocked and surprised.”

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