A school in Lucknow was recently the scene of a Jesus controversy. Loretto Convent had what has come to be called an ‘occult session’ where a man claimed to be Christ and some students reportedly fainted. Right-wing Hindutva groups broke into the school, throwing things and damaging property.
The behaviour of the goons is condemnable; the protests were essentially against subjecting students to such things.
I believe an institution that is run by missionaries has every right to choose how it conducts itself. When the parents admit their kids they are well aware of who runs the show and what it might entail.
Being a product of a convent school, I regularly went into a swoon during morning assembly…the reason being I suffer from claustrophobia (yes, I hate being crowded by anything and anyone!). So, there I would be weak-kneed and in a sweat, often seeing stars before my eyes. I believe people use these descriptions for love too.
We would sing hymns and Father Francis from the neighbouring boy’s school would visit us on Saturdays and give us a lecture. It was not about Christianity. There were nice moral lessons delivered with humour and a gleam in the eye. Of course, his being male contributed a great deal to take away the tedium of being surrounded by females for seven hours five times a week. Except when we were in the playground. And that too when we were in the volleyball court.
A small wall separated us from a Chinese restaurant. The chef, cooks, waiters would be in their vests watching us. Their eyes would get smaller and smaller as we lunged higher and higher with our hands poised up in the air. On sports and physical training days it is no wonder we were made to wear bloomers over our undies.
Like most impressionable young people, I too was fascinated by the nuns. As one grew older and began inching towards womanhood, fascination gave place to curiosity. I learnt for the first time that nuns menstruated when I had to go to their quarters to get a sanitary napkin for myself.
I still recall the door being opened and a Sister I did not know went in and brought me one ST and said before handing it to me, “Get it back tomorrow”! Of course, she meant I had to get a fresh one…
Then I began wanting to know if they waxed their legs and arms and several other things.
Once the school decided to have a sex education lecture. The seniors were in the hall as an ‘expert’ drew all kinds of vague things on the blackboard. This sounded like work when we had already begun to realise that our bodies were giving out entirely different and pleasant signals. There was a good deal of giggling and a few nuns who were around tried to shut them up.
I decided to pay no attention to the goings-on and concentrated on day-dreaming, as I did in almost every class.
This paid rich dividends later in life.
So, how would I have reacted to someone saying he was Jesus? It would depend on how he looked. If he came anywhere close to the images we see, I might have believed it for the time he was around. Swooning, as I said earlier, would have happened anyway. And the family? How would they react? I suppose in today’s times where the fissures are deep, there might have been some tut-tuting. In those days, I remember only one occasion when an uncle asked me about morning prayers and whether I took part in them. When I said yes, he told me I didn’t have to. It was not part of our religion.
I recall my mother telling him, “Drinking alcohol is also not a part of our religion, so you stop that too…” Of course, everyone had a good laugh.
Towards the end of my school years we started having secular prayers and morning assembly had stopped, so no more swooning. Over the intercom a few girls would sing, “Hum ko man ki shakti dena”, “Allah tero naam…” or some such.
We were given extra marks if we attended flag hoisting on Independence Day; I decided not to fall prey to such bribery. To prove that my country was free I would spend the morning making boats with the paper flags and releasing them in the small pool of water that would invariably be there in some part of the building.
Next day the good girls and the bad girls were demarcated. We would be given a small lecture about how we should participate and be good citizens. Most of the rambling would not register. I was busy dreaming about the time when I would be prime minister of India.
With all this information, I do not think any of you can fault my convent education. Though I do believe some people think it would have been a huge relief had I chosen to become a nun.