Stella Maris College , Madras.

click I reached the gates of the Stella Maris College in Madras, with Enid Blyton’s stories of boarding schools and Mallory Towers in my head. The Hostel was in the same campus as the Sombre buildings of the College. After the admission formalities, the green trunk and I were safely ensconced in a room with three room mates from Malaysia, Mary, Susie and Lily. This was the first time, that we had been away from home and we bonded as room mates, instantly.

go to site Each of us had a table and a bed. We probably had a bedside cupboard for our clothes. I don’t remember, as the details of the movables, have burred with the years. I do remember that our beds placed in parallel lines, faced a blank wall with two doors at either end. Between 2 beds were desks, on which we placed our books to study. Below the desk, lay a fairly wide, single drawer, to hide the Mills and Boons books, that the day scholars sneaked in for us to read. Many of these love stories, with knights in shining armour and happy endings, were confiscated when caught. Where they landed after that, or who read them after us, I could not tell you. .

follow Sister Carla Rosa, the Principal, a beautiful Nun from Europe, was an excellent pianist. When she played the National anthem, she would turn to us and call out in her lilting Italian accent….. Girls, we will now sing the Jenegenemena… Only when she started the music, would we recognise the national anthem.

follow site She did not like boys. Nor did she like brothers visiting their sisters in the college, or hostel. She had a very simple and logical explanation, for a rule she never broke. Your brother is not her brother, she said. pointing randomly at the crowd
Or hers
Or hers. 

site de rencontre adventiste Brothers, as far as she was concerned, conjured up all sorts of ominous possibilities. Cousins were never entertained. They simply did not exist.

site de rencontre amicale pour senior Our letters in and out of the hostel, were opened and resealed . They never said a word about it and we never said a word about it. But we knew, that they knew exactly what we were were up to. The Nuns did not like surprises of any sort. With practice, we learned to write music for their ears.

follow url We were fed and watered in a large dining room, on steel plates with a predictable fare of rice , vegetables and sambhar. On Sundays, we had chicken and a sweet. On the feast days of the Catholic Calendar, the menu varied enough to be noticed.

The Nuns, national and expat, in unflattering white habits and headgear, appeared in all shapes and sizes, to attend to our needs. They glided through the day, doing their duties quietly and efficiently, never seeking praise or appreciation. The only time they let down their hair, was for thirty minutes after dinner, when we heard peals of laughter ring out from the cloister. I am sure ,there was enough to laugh about in the stories they recounted, about the students and their capers.

In the early 60s, the Catholic Nuns, never went out into the community and they never saw their families or homes, once they took their vows. The Convent was their Home for their rest of their lives and they gave the word Sacrifice, a whole new meaning. Their commitment was absolute, with total denial of self, in more ways than one.

When we were at our desks, supposedly studying after dinner , they used to do their inspection rounds on all the floors. We always knew they were coming, as the rosaries that hung from their waists, jingled when they walked. The clever Nuns, held their rosaries in their hands and switched to silent mode, to creep up on those who were absent from their desks. Or sprawled on their beds, during study time. Sometimes, to strike panic, a prankster, would jingle keys from one end of the corridor, sending everyone helter-skelter.

One of the nuns, took turns to sleep every night, in a single room, on every floor. A fake emergency knock, after lights out , would have the anxious nun, appear in minutes, with her habit awry, her veil out of place and tell tale wisps of short hair, peeping out in disarray. It gave us enormous pleasure, to see a dishevelled Nun, rudely woken up from sleep, tumble out of bed. We were a pathetic lot.

At Stella Maris, we were allowed to go out on Saturday afternoons till 6pm. Our favourite jaunts were the Buhari Hotel or the Southern Chinese restaurant, a few meters from each other on Mount Road. The prices were student friendly and affordable, the helpings generous and most importantly, it was not the hostel food that we cribbed about, on principle, every day of our lives.

Sometimes we went to the movies. We were expected to be back by 6 pm. If we got back at 6.01 p.m., we were gated for weeks, with no trial and no appeal. We could not scale the wall, as watchful Nuns dotted the horizon facing the inner side of the wall, doing Perimeter duty. The watchman at the gate, could not be bribed or bullied, as one of the Nuns stood be-garbed, beside him, armed with pencil and notebook in hand. One was never sure, if it was the setting sun or unbridled glee, that glinted from their cherubic faces.

On Sundays, the protestant students, were allowed to attend the 7.30 morning service at the St George’s Cathedral down the road near the Gemini flyover. The visits to Cathedral, were not fuelled by religious ardour or directly proportionate to our religious fervour. We went, because we got an extra outing in the week and we got to breakfast at the Drive-in Woodlands restaurant, opposite the Cathedral, where all the rich and famous, film stars included, used to hang out. With one eye on our plates, we would scan the crowds for a Gemini Ganesan, a Sivaji Ganesan, a Nagesh, a Chandrababu. Anyone to brag about when we staggered back to the hostel, under the sweltering heat, of a scorching Sunday morning, in Madras.

The day started with study time, breakfast and Assembly when we were let loose, with the day scholars. We soon made friends with the day scholars, whose lunch boxes smelt heavenly, to share the extra food their Mums packed for them and for us, pathetic hostellers.

Most of the students from Singapore and Malaya were in PU 7, the pre-University class seven. We wore dresses and skirts that fell to our knees. Filing out after Assembly, we were detained and asked to step aside, if the hem line was even a fraction, above our knee. We would have to stand apart and rip the seam, to let the cloth hang modestly over our knees.  Knees were genetic, orthopaedic appliances, made by God, to connect the Femur to the Tibia and Fibula. Knees were not meant to be seen. The longer the skirt the better.

We were introduced to French as our second language for the exams. Even the girls who had studied Tamil in Malaysia took French as their second language. This was a smart move, as the French we did, was fairly basic and we surprised ourselves, by scoring distinctions in the exams, to push our grades up. After Malay as a second language in Singapore, French was a breeze.

The Nuns had a profound influence in our impressionable lives. When I left Stella Maris, I toyed with joining the Order. I saw a habit clad, Mother Susie with Father Damien-oid features and  a shining halo, working in far and distant Molokai , caring for impoverished leprosy patients and children, playing the harp in my spare time.

Mercifully the feeling passed and I moved on and out.

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