If some hoodlums had bashed up my grandma, I would have felt the same hurt and outrage as I feel now at the desecration of my beloved alma mater, Loreto. Any smidgen of dignity or decorum that is a part of my being, I owe to my school and those dear nuns. Mostly Irish at that time, the nuns had bid adieu to their native shores and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to the education of women in our country. Spoilt little brats who were lucky enough to enter the hallowed portals of the institute were soon transformed into dignified young ladies of integrity and grace, ‘fit to dine with the Queen!’
The metamorphosis was not merely cosmetic; the marks of character — consideration, compassion, fairness and thrift — were sown early. These would hold us in good stead later, our armour against ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’.
No doubt all this sounds quaint and antiquated, if not entirely ridiculous, for our grab-a-bite, hipster and tank-top generation. But the fundamental attributes of character are never dated. Like the pole star, constant and eternal, they are the anchors that hold us firm in the quicksand of our lives. No amount of preaching can match the efficacy of a living role model, as most of those missionaries were.
The bizarre incident in Lucknow of a man claiming he was possessed by the spirit of Christ during morning assembly is at best a puerile eccentricity. A morning assembly at Loreto is a most inspiring experience. Sometimes months of preparation go into one day’s assembly and it is ensured that even the most timid child gets a chance to speak before the whole school on the mike. Often it is a student’s first exposure to public speaking. Moral values, which are universal, form the topic. Every festival of every faith in our secular country is celebrated and the tenets of that faith, and the lives and teachings of their gurus, discussed. The message is incontrovertible and all-inclusive, never at conflict with any religion. Indeed, a good citizen is just a decent human being, whose religious persuasion is irrelevant. Beautiful hymns, relevant to all are sung, often after weeks of practice. Indeed, the morning assembly is Loreto’s finest hour.
Missionary schools have given yeoman’s service to our nation in the fields of education and medicine. Their alumni have made sterling contributions to society in every sphere. Loreto, particularly, is synonymous with excellence and integrity. The vandalisation of this magnificent institution is a blot on our times. A pity.