Memories are Timeless Treasures of the Heart :)
I Found this family picture while going through the albums in my brother's place, and my brother had laminated this photo carefully and preserved it. Looking at this old photo sparked feelings of Nostalgia. There are so many experiences that are attached to this picture. I am standing right in the front of my eldest sister wearing a frock with pretty bough on my head. I must have been just 4 years old as my younger sister is a baby in my mother's arms. This picture is taken at Secunderabad Club near a huge banyan tree.
We lived in two rooms with a small bathroom attached to that, there was 24 hour water supply, there was no electricity inside the house, and we used lanterns, with kerosene to light up the house, we had a small little red lamp near the alter and the lantern was kept in the middle of the table to light up the house. Our side the house was a big place and there was one bulb to brighten up the 5 families, and we could study there.
All of us studied in a convent school and went by the government buses, the school was 3-5 kms approximately, and when there was strikes, we used to walk to school. There was no TV, Cell phone, to have a landline was a luxury. As children we came back from school and used to play outside and used to have early dinner by 7 to 7.30 pm and rise early to go to school.
Mother worked hard, did all the household chores, washed our clothes, cooked for us and even took care of our grandmother, who was a great support to my mom. Dad used to work very hard and come back late night and only Monday was his holiday. He used to shop on Monday's bringing vegetables, meat and also seasonal fruits for us. In the evening hours he used to go to Gunrock to visit his elder brother and I used to run around in my uncles house, talking to the neighbors, while my dad and his brother used to sit and chat for hours.
My uncle used to smoke and also take alcohol in small quantity and dad used to pour for him, but never used to make a drink for himself. I would always wonder what would have been their conversation, sometimes nothing they were just enjoying the company of each other. Now when I recall I feel so happy as they were supportive of each other. The two brothers never fought and eldest was my uncle and youngest was my dad, in between them were children who did not survive , it is said that they all died of black fever which was prevalent at that time.
Those days to work for the Britishers was considered to be an honor, as they were looked after well and the staff who worked their enjoyed some benefits, like good food, weekly off's and they used to regularly get additional income when they worked for extra hours. The place was a secure place with all the amenities. Dad's family lived in Gunrock and it was very far for him to commute to work, and sometimes he will be sent to the sailing annex and other times he was in the main club. Since there was a provision for staying with family, he moved with the family after my birth, and we were there for almost two decades till he retired and by then he constructed the house nearby and we moved out of the quarters to our own house.
11 August, 2022
In those twenty years a lot has happened and changed, all of us completed our schooling and my brothers took up work. my eldest sister joined the convent at a very young age, surprising the whole family as she was full of life and loved to watch movies, she was very stylish and loved to take photographs, helped my mother in the kitchen. She was very strict and disciplined all of us - younger brothers and sisters. She was the second child in the row and was responsible, she used to keep track of all the expenditure in the house.
She had the habit of writing all the expenditure in a small book and would question my father that the expenditure is more than the income and where he got the additional income from, dad was proud of her and would appreciate her questions and would tell her about all the additional money he earned by working extra hours. If any of us her younger siblings disobeyed mom she would just call our name and we would become silent, at other times she would take us to a photograph (those days we had a photograph of heaven and hell which was framed and hung on the wall.) and tell us that if we behaved well we will go to heaven, and if we did not listen to mom and disobeyed then we would go to hell and we will be burnt in the fire.
So when she wanted to join the convent, my dad was surprised and would ask her whether she is serious about her decision. My dad knew she was very fond of watching movies, going out, loved fashion and photography- with all these kind of habits, he wondered whether she would manage a convent life, as the committed life in the convent demanded discipline and the nuns are not allowed to go out and they do not have the freedom to do what they want, in fact those days, they would cut the hair, and she had a long hair and dressed so well. she watched all the latest movies be it Hindi/English. So he was worried for her whether she would be able to practice the vows nuns took to live a life of simplicity and took specific vows to stay away from family and offer their lives for service.
My parents named her Philomena and she was called Philo in short by loved ones. Despite my dad being concerned about her decision to join the convent. She was strong and was very firm about her decision and she used to tell my dad that she is interested and committed to join the convent and it was a well thought out decision. She joined the convent at a very early age immediately after her high school. My parents missed her and it took time for them to accept the reality that she was serious about the decision she made for herself.
Thanks to the Sisters of Charity who were warm and kind and took care of her well. She was prayerful and they sent her to the Novitiate in Dharwar where the young girls are trained to become nuns. They were allowed to write letters to their respective families, and she used to write long letters to mom and dad, those days inland letters were common, she used to use the whole page and write enquiringly about every one in the family, even the extended family. She used to write in Tamil as well as in English, mom preserved her letters for many years in her trunk and kept it carefully, even after her death.
I found all the above photographs of her which my mom had kept carefully in her trunk and after her death, everything was misplaced in the process of shifting her things from one house to another. Thankfully I happened to get these pictures which are precious to me and I ensure that this does not get lost and the best way to keep it safe is to safe in here. She loved to take photographs and posed with the scooter, then with our neighbor, another with my cousin who was a nurse, she wanted to try out wearing her friends dress as a nurse and clicked photograph, then with another cousin from my mother's side and my sister and the single photo I luckily found as its part of another photo, once I find that then this photo will be complete.
This above picture she sent when she was in the formation house at Dharwar and my mom preserved it, she is standing in the first row on my left side in the centre two other sisters.
18th October, 2022
Philomena completed her training in the Novitiate and came back to St Francis school and she and continued to live her calling as as a Nun. She was renamed as Sr Bartholomew when she was professed as a nun. Those days their congregation was very rigid and she would never come home, nor did we go often to the convent to meet her. We could only meet her during the festival of Christmas, New Year, Easter and some occasions celebrated by the congregation. We missed her as she would look into our studies and now we gradually learnt to manage by our own. She continued education for she was interested in teaching, so she was sent for Montessori Training wherein she had to travel long distance by bus, infact change buses and by the time she reached the convent it would be dark. I do not know much about how she handled coming late and managing herself.
She was in the hospital for long periods, and there was no recovery as such. Some days she stayed with my aunt who lived in the same city, she was constantly in and out of hospital and I have only one last memory of her in the hospital, wherein the doctors gave up and all of us siblings were called to meet her one by one. So each of us met her personally, as her time was nearing and she asked different things to each one of us. when it was my turn she asked me to sing - I sang a Telugu worship song and she was so impressed, I could see tears rolling down her cheeks and she was telling my mother, Janet sings so well and she has such a lovely voice, she asked me where did I learn to sing and I told her from a friend in the school who taught me that particular song. That was my last meeting with her and the song and her expressions lying on the cot stayed in my memory for many years.
I found that I could not sing that song again, for when I sang I would choke and tears started rolling down my eyes.. I realized I was unable to accept and see her leave the earth. This beautiful song brought me so much pain that I never dared to sing - but it still rings in my ears and and I can never forget the tune .... lyrics have faded but the song still remains. Death is never easy and for me to see my sister cry and the very next day to know that she was no more hurt me deeply.
My grandmother (mom's mother) was alive and she cried bitterly that she had to see her grand daughter die and she was upset and cursing herself, saying that she is very old and why death did not visit her but took away a young 26 year old nun who committed herself to service. My parents were so shocked that they found it difficult to accept her loss. They started visiting her graveyard frequently and grieved, that was way they tried to cope with sadness and whenever they saw a nun tears would just flow from their eyes. My dad would stop the nuns, greet them and start a conversation enquiring about them - he tried to see her in every nun that crossed his path, my mom would entertain nuns and bring them home from church or wherever she met for she felt my sister was alive in them. I could understand and relate to my mother's feelings and unconsciously developed similar habit; my sister's batch mates and her juniors always connected with our family.
I can never forget Sr Loretta who was her batch mate and very close to my sister, she was very kind and generous with her time; I recall the times wherein she encouraged me to study and continue my education, she was very inspiring and motivating - she would encourage me to trust God and taught me to spend time in the chapel whenever I felt lost of confused with myself and I follow her advice even now sometimes it works for me, to just sit quietly in silence and everything gets resolved on its own.