Thus begins the story of Nancie Joyce Margaret
Jones with her arrival in Bombay on an ocean
liner from London one morning in 1946. She
had never travelled abroad until then, but now
she was in love — with Yudister Kumar, a fellow
student from her university days who had to
return home to immerse himself in India’s
freedom struggle, with no prospects of coming
back to England. And so, at the young age of
twenty-three, she decided to follow him to a
strange and faraway country that, she did not
know then, would transform her life forever.
As she got married and took on the name Rajni,
there were exciting developments on the
professional front too. A series of unexpected
circumstances led her to start a kindergarten
in the living room of her Delhi house in 1955.
And thus was born Springdales, which burst
upon the educational scenario with vibrancy,
dovetailing much of the ethos and culture of
the new India into its philosophy.
Now, at the wholesome age of ninety-six —
the school having grown to four in India and
one in Dubai, with several thousand students
on the rolls and an enviable reputation for
education — Rajni Kumar looks back on her
extraordinary life in Against the Wind.
Observant and vivacious, it is a memoir that
is a testament as much to her lifelong work
in education as to the spirit of romance and
daring with which she set foot in a new
country all those decades ago.
RAJNI KUMAR, née Nancie Joyce Margaret Jones, is a British
born educationist, who has worked for more than sixty years
in the field of school education in India.
Now the Chairperson of Springdales Education Society, she
founded Springdales in 1955 and worked as Founder Principal for
thirty-two years, transforming it from a small kindergarten to the
prestigious complex of schools it has become today, with over 8,000
During her tenure as Principal, she served on many educational
bodies. She was Chairperson of the Lady Irwin College for eleven
years, Vice-Chairperson of the National Progressive Schools
Conference and member of the National Children’s Board, CBSE
and NCERT Governing Councils.
After retirement in 1988, she gave her voluntary services to
coordinate the Delhi Schools Literacy Project under the National
Literacy Mission and is at present its Honorary Advisor.
Mrs Kumar is a great lover of children and is deeply committed
to education, especially of the weaker sections of the society and
children with special needs. She works actively for national causes
relating particularly to women and children, for global concerns
relating to education for peace and international understanding,
preservation of the environment and human rights.
In 2004, she was honoured by the President of South Africa
for her work in solidarity with the struggle against apartheid and
invited as India’s representative for the launch of the Freedom Park
In 2005, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Middlesex
University, London, for her lifelong service to education. In the
same year, she was nominated as one of the thousand women of the
world for a unique collective, ‘1000 Women for the Nobel Peace
Prize 2005’, for her contribution to the cause of peace and justice.
In 2006, she was invited to South Africa as India's representative
for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of South African Womens
In 2008, Mrs Kumar was presented with the Tagore Literacy
Award by the Indian Adult Education Association.
In 2011, she was the recipient of the Padma Shri, awarded by
the Government of India for her work in literature and education.
That year she also received the Award of Recognition from the High
Commissioner of South Africa for her support to the liberation
movement, as also a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National
Progressive Schools’ Conference for her service to education.
In October 2012, she was conferred with the National Order of
the Companions of O.R. Tambo by the President of South Africa in
Pretoria for her selfless contribution to the anti-apartheid solidarity
movement in India.
NINETY-SIX IS not exactly the right age to write one’s
memoirs Memory fades, and it is difficult to record one’s
life with accuracy over such a long period of time. In fact, I wonder
whether there is any right age to write them, and whether they
should be written at all!
Frankly, I did start penning down my thoughts a few years
back, but then I stopped as I felt that I am neither a celebrity with
the ability to excite thousands of fans with all kinds of wonder-
packed stories about a starlit life, nor a spiritual being who can give
inspiration to people on how to live their lives! I am just a humble
But I am getting more and more pressured by those who know
me, especially my students, that having lived through nine decades
of life in this eventful world of ours — two in England and seven
in India - I should pen down my life-story before I reach the
end of Shakespeare’s seventh age of man — sans teeth, eyes, taste,
So, in deference to their wishes I am presenting my memoirs,
with apologies for any errors accruing on account of age and
confusion of mind.
No doubt the greatest event in my life was leaving England, the
country of my birth, to follow the stirrings of my heart and to make
my home in this wondrous and fascinating country — India - with
the man I loved. So this is where I shall begin my story.
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