A write up inspired by my childhood and a recent article I read on Evangelism..
She was my mathematics teacher. Her shining face spoke of her brilliance with numbers and ease with computations.
Studying in a convent has been the biggest experience of my life. We stayed in a small town admist a green valley. My school was situated right near the banks of river Yamuna and a barrage that regulated its flows.
The school campus bloomed all the year round with flowers from all the seasons – Poppy, marigold, wild roses, hibiscus, Morning glory, and an array of pine and Gulmohar trees.
Sister Mary was my favorite teacher – though she taught mathematics a subject that till date gives me a nightmare. She would enter the classroom fresh, the mole near her nose looked like a fly on the moon. Her crisp white/gray uniform smelled of divinity. The little ring on her finger and rosary on her neck she was my picture of mother Mary.
One day as we were expecting her to take our class, an alternate teacher entered the classroom and told us that for a few days she would be taking our Mathematics class. I was left wondering why? I could not concentrate in the class, I hated to not to see my Mother Mary and was left uneasy for all the days while she was away.
After a few weeks, she did return but her face was pale, her smile was gone. She looked in pain, yet making an attempt to concentrate on her classes and students. I had never spoken to her, and had always been a silent admirer.
She was strict, she always entered the class with a long cane and her voice had the shrillness of thunder storms. Children in my class hated her, but I was so smitten by her aura that I could see nothing beyond, feel anything, even when I received cane prints on my soft palms, for not being able to remember a table or score good marks in unit tests. I simply adored her and why I never know.
But it seemed those 3 weeks had changed her, she would not hit us any more; she would not scorn and ridicule if someone scored less marks. She offered for extra classes after school to anyone who wanted to understand and revisit the chapters taught during the class.
I was the one among 5 students who gave their names to attend her extra classes and stretch for an additional one hour after school. As I hurried my steps to reach the Library that Friday for my extra class, my steps froze; we were just two of us that day. Me and my classmate Anna, we were making hurried steps – when we saw Sister Mary crying. She had her back towards us, her voice came choked from inside the staff room.
She was talking to someone, and it was on something that shook us. She was narrating her family’s fate. She had a big family, and many sisters (siblings), 2 of her 6 sisters were also serving the Convent like her.
Her family lived in a small village of Karnataka and had been burnt alive by a mob, accusing them of Evangelism. I did not understood the word Evangelism that time, I even could not remember it correctly, it sounded like Evilism to me – and I was not wrong. They accused her family of influencing sects of people to change their religion to Christianity and hence raped her mother and young sisters, stabbed her father on the chest with axe and then burnt all of them, in their tiny home.
I and Anna looked at each other’s faces. Anna was a Christian and I was a Hindu, I had shame in my eyes, she had disgust. We did not say anything.
Days after days Sister Mary kept losing her shine and went weak. She was seriously ill and we went to see her in the Missionary hospital, she looked bruised and aching.
We saw Father by her side, and a few other Nuns. I don’t know but why I rushed towards her and hugged her crying – “Please don’t die. I am sorry.” is all I said to her.
Everyone in the room was surprised. Sister Mary took my face in her hands and smiled, her pale face, looked even smaller. “Don’t worry, I will be fine soon”. “Why are you sorry my dear?” asked father keeping his warm big hands on my head.
“I am sorry for being a part of a religion that engages in Evilism. I am sorry for holding the same faiths as those people would have when they burnt and tortured my mother Mary’s family”.
I cried inconsolably.
There was silence in the room. As I stood hugging father – a tear rolled down Sister Mary’s cheek.
She called me – “Don’t be sorry my child, as long as I can make my students think the way you do. No more families would be doomed. I won’t die sweetheart, but would love to live and let make a difference in the way people think, act and react.”
That was my last year of association with Sister Mary. She got fine after sometime and even got back to her stricter, less glowing and punishing ways. She was transferred to some other state an year after.
While chatting with my school group on Facebook I came to know – Sister Mary died of a heart attack a few months back.
I was really sad, and this episode suddenly came afresh in my memory and here today I am reading an article on Karnataka Most Dangerous State in India for Christians, posted last Sunday 15 Jan 2012.
That was year 1996, this is year 2012. Lot has changed, including the century. But it seems less has changed in the way we think and act and react to Religion. We are still practicing Evilism!
RIP Sister Mary.