Miracles at home and at school
I see her, habit hitched up at the waist, calling out and blowing whistles for foul play, but also cheering us. We were unbeatable at hockey. Sister Hyancinth was our coach and greatest fan.
In ‘O’ levels, Second Class Grade was not my domain, She said to me daily. I got a First Class. The feeling of lightness at that time still lives in my memory. I was sixteen.
When I was nine, my parents had no fees for me. All my siblings were going to school. My Mother was our teacher. I did not complain. My Mother is gentle. She consoled me.
Mother suddenly received a full scholarship for me. She was pregnant. Father struggled to shop my personal effects. I was out of our red muddy village paths and in an international school in days. Her prayers had shot through our tin roof, she said. The scholarship honoured Mother, a great pupil in her days.
My sisters practised English with me. I could answer three basic questions with confidence. My Mother knew I feared nuns as a child because of their tent- like clothes that only left their faces visible in those days. She reminded me to respect them.
English girls spoke very fast. Our Indian Geography teacher who used to talk about the Ganges ‘welley’ encouraged me. We walked around the school repeating words like ‘optimist’, ‘happy’, ‘except’ and ‘accept’.
At end of term, I saw my friends smiling at their parents. No one could come from home. Who knew me? I clapped for others’ prizes. Names were called out. I could not surely make it.
“And the prize for best effort, goes to Philo Niejerii!” Sr. Colombiere's voice boomed. My cheeks warmed up. It was as if I was flying. Sister shook my hand. I raised up my trophy. A huge clap followed.
Years later, Mother asked me to forgive her. It was not about fees. Many girls in our school had been getting pregnant. All were scared of naming the suspect teacher. She was considering naming and shaming him in the staff meeting. She feared revenge on me, the most innocent. She prayed for a solution.
She had kept me out of harm’s way. She wept. I thanked her. Now she could tell me how much pain she felt whenever I left home for school. From my first school nobody made it to ‘O’ Levels or University.