This post has drawn its inspiration from here.
For a 7 year old, who shifted to Kerala from Bangalore and knew kurichu kurichu Malayalam, the Catechism classes in Malayalam used to be a night-mare. To add to my woes, I was a KV student, which meant no Malayalam was taught in school.
My parents decided to put me in Class 1 for catechism while I was in class 3 in school.
The teacher, a frail woman, with thick glasses perched on her long nose was teaching “Dhaivam Snehamanu.” (God is love) when I entered the class, hiding behind my dad, tightly clutching his fingers.
MJ,” Hello, I’m MJ. This is my daughter. We want to put her in your class”
Teacher” Oh! No problems. Let her join”
MJ,” She doesn’t know Malayalam properly”
Teacher,” That’s alright”.
MJ says to JJ,” Ok, you sit in the class. I’ll come at 10.30″ and leaves.
Teacher was entering my name into the attendance register. “What’s your baptism name”?
I was clueless. This was the first time I was hearing something like ‘ Baptism name’. Now did I possess another name? I was already disgusted with people not getting my name right.
I spoke for the first time, “I don’t know. I’ll ask my parents”.
The teacher asked me to recite some prayers. I loudly recited Our Father, Hail Mary etc with the same enthusiasm as multiplication tables (Remember, I was not so good in math, saw you might draw your own conclusions about that statement).
End of the day, I was called by the headmistress. A fat, old woman clad in a brown habit looked scary. She was the Mother Superior. (MS)
MS,” Your teacher said, you’re smart enough. I think I’ll directly put you into second standard”.
I nodded my head and got the second standard textbook.
(Apparently, the teacher was apprehensive about teaching me in English, and though she didn’t know or understand a word of the English prayers I recited, I was given a good-feedback. I know she cheated. The teacher just wanted to get-rid of this soul and my spiritual foundation was shaken because of two subsequent promotions, rather double promotions… I never attended first and second standard, and you talk about how a strong foundation makes up a good structure… Guess my spiritual structure is hanging in the air.., coz I never learnt the basics)
I didn’t have to use the second standard textbook for long. Due to the over smartness, I was promoted to class 3 the following Sunday. This time the class was handled by a young man, on whom they rested their last hope, coz he was educated in an English-medium Christian institution.
He was teaching me the 10 commandments. When it came to the one which said, “anyante bhryaye aagrihakkarauthu“, like many other jinxed mallus like me, the version was ,”aniyante bharyaye aagrahikkaruthu“
I had to give my catechism exams in 2 months time. This was supposed to be a written exam in Malayalam. There was no provision to give the exam in English. I had learnt a few letters in Malayalam symbolizing them, like when you joined the upper tails of number 13 you get the letter ‘Dha ‘. Horrified by the forthcoming circumstances, MJ and AJ embarked upon the task of teaching their daughter the script of their mother-tongue.
I wrote the exam.
Two Sundays later, I got the answer-script. The marks read like 6+ 14 =20. 6 for the number of questions attempted, rather questions copied to the answer-script, and 14, grace marks for good conduct. (I guess that would have been the highest grace-marks until date). This entire math was done just to make me pass.
Therefore, JJ’s foundations were laid at the mercy of few kind people who promoted and gave her grace marks.
Gradually I learnt to write in Mangaleesh. The answers read like, “Lazarinte one of the 2 sisters Ishone welcome cheythu.”
“Dinar aarnu annathe currency”
“Dhoorta puthran , avante pithavinte vasanthiyilekku thirchu ponnu“.
The eternal confusion between parishudhathmavinte daanangal and phalangal( was balangal for quite some time).
Every year people would have a good laugh seeing my paper, especially coz, I wrote the answers in a colloquial way. I was totally illiterate in Malayalam grammar. Anyways, the 6:14 ratio now proportioned to 14:6.
Few years and many Sundays passed.
Every month, the priest used to mention about how parents don’t care about the spiritual development of their kids, and emphasize on materialistic things, indirectly, meant
‘Catechism classes and Tuitions are parallel lines.'(Obviously, both were held at the same
Time). There was even a system of internal assessment, which meant all you needed to do was suck up to the nuns. There was a lot of confusion, partiality, and rivalry in these matters. Spirituality was now being turned into something, which could be attained by gaining marks. Isn’t it ridiculous to judge a person’s faith based on how much he/she scored in catechism. I found it even more ridiculous, when it was the other way round. Your spiritual display fetched you marks. Coming to mass early fetched you marks, attending prayer-meetings fetched you marks, and we were even given some sheets to fill in, to determine how regularly we said the rosary and all that. I’m pretty sure people cheated on that too. In a society obsessed with marks, this too enjoyed its temporary hype. New concepts, new techniques, new methods etc, were devised to make kids interested in spiritual matters.
My First Communion was actually held under iffy circumstances. Since, we KVians had classes in April and the prep classes also happened during the same time, I used to attend the prep classes only once a week. My preps for Holy Communion were done in a crash course mode (read, 2 hours prior to my first confession). I was damn scared as to whether I’ll be given communion after I confess! Sorry, me not interested in divulging the details of my first confession here, though I’m pretty sure the priest would’ve been rolling with laughter after that.
So my holy-communion was also at the mercy of few nice people
I guess the church was faced with threats of inter-caste marriages and its ‘vazhi–thetti pona kunnjaadukal‘. The students were scheduled to have a debate on inter-caste marriages, probably, the church was following suit with the DPEP system of practical and interactive teaching, I guess.
Since, I was over-enthusiastic about this topic, I asked our Parish priest that, on what circumstances does the Church accept such marriages. He gave me small lecture on it and then I saw his serious expression changing into that of suspicion. “Why are you asking all this now”? Poor priest must have thought another kunjaadu had gone astray. Before he broke into another SHORT lecture on how I can cause shame to the family, spoil their reputation, and result in all of them getting, kicked out of the Sabha, I clarified the matter.
” Acho, we have a discussion, atha“. I gave the sweet-innocent smile and escaped.
The discussions happened in full swing, and it was obviously a biased one. Fools like me who opted to support inter-caste marriages realized, we had no scope of presenting our arguments. Moderator uncle was a devout Catholic. Anyways, the limelight of the day was the spontaneous thanksgiving prayer.
“Dhaivame innu njangal padichethallam jeevithathil praavarthikamakkan njangale sahayikkane.( Oh God, help us so that, all that we learnt can be put, to practical use in our lives).
All those 12 pairs of closed eyes, which pretended to pray, were wide open and people burst out laughing.
Most of us girls make this silly mistake of blurting out seriously, at some point of time, in our brainless childhood that we want to become a nuns. The memory of nuns who hear, such ambitions, would never fail them, even if they were in the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
After growing up and when you learn to use your brains, if you are a seemingly meek and sweet girl ( I’m not talking about myself), the nuns in the convent will get ideas as to how to drag you amidst them, giving you visions and versions about the “CALL”, so as to see a ray of hope in their clan, which is facing a threat of extinction. The day you finish your 10th standard exams, they will start recollecting your childhood days, your AMBITIONS and try to literally brainwash you.
Since, ours was a small Parish, and I was among the minority, educated in a non-Christian institution, I was often subject to critical observations. Like, not wearing a chain with a cross pendant, or a rosary, or a rosary finger-ring. Does the number of crosses and rosaries displayed on your body, determine the strength of your faith?
Once I ended up fighting with a Sunday school teacher for some derogatory remarks, she made against another religion. I voiced out, “You can teach us about our faith, but you have no right to pass a judgment on other religions.” This confirmed the doubt of the nuns that, this KV educated kunjaadu was going out of control. From then on, the so-called internal marks never crossed the minimum required. I still do not understand how education in a Central School would deter my faith.
I think even God; decided I must experience what it is like, to study in a convent institution. Honestly, there is a lot to write about it… few more days to step out, and I want to step out in one piece, in the same mental and physical condition that I had entered the portals of this institution. I do not want to take any risk to forfeit the caution deposit that is going to be refunded. (My extra pocket money for this month). As I was writing this post, I got this certificate, which said “JJ of …….. Has been awarded for contribution towards chapel.” Such a thing was unheard of in my existence of 20 years. Anyways on account of the due recognition, I’m not defying the testifiers.
Few posts can wait to be published! 🙂 ‘Draft zindaabad‘
Convents, catechization, complications, confusions and confrontations…on their way!!!!!!!