Last weekend saw the feast of Mount Carmel on 16 July. ‘Did you call Sr. Alvina to wish her?’ dad had asked when I made him a courtesy call on a Friday afternoon. We later called Sr. over tea and she was her irreprisable self – so full of joy and goodness. What follows below - ‘ A Drummer Boy’s Story’ - is an article I had written at her request.
According to the traditions of the Carmelite order, on 16 July, 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite and revealed to him the scapular of Mount Carmel – also known as the brown scapular. The Carmelites had long claimed that their order extended back to ancient times - indeed, that it was founded on Mount Carmel in Palestine by the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
A DRUMMER-BOY'S STORY
How can one forget school days? And going to school at Mount Carmel's High School, Gandhidham was a unique experience. Swathed in the tender care of the Sisters, childhood passed by like a dream to be re-encountered only in memory . . . I remember the morning assembly and the rousing beats of the march tunes that were played, the dust of the playground that soiled our white shirts, and the tiffin of bread butter and sugar which my mother used to carefully pack for me (but I used to insist on samosas!)
Mount Carmel school gave me an enduring sense of values in life. What principles to live by and how to grow up in faith and diligence. I used to like cream biscuits (I still do!) which my class teacher Sr Alvina used to carefully preserve for me. I used to be the drummer boy on the annual float at Christmas time when we went a-carolling. We could barely clamber up the back of the truck in our costumes. And I used to sing the song of the drummer boy 'Come they told me - pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.' Sr Adelaide's violin played in the back rows for Mass, and the robust Sr Michael, with her hearty laugh always chased away the blues!
I left Carmel's after Class 6 in 1977 but I returned to its portals last year during Navratri, after more than 25 years, to breathe in the ambience of Gandhidham. And of Gujarat. After the earthquake of 2001. The Surajbari bridge beckoned me to a silent land. The strains of the garba from Oslo still wafted through the night air.
The drummer boy is now in Delhi editing books for school children. He refuses to leave school! A defining moment in his life was on Easter Sunday, 9 April 2006 in Vasco, Goa, when Sr Alvina spoke so eloquently of the Carmel experience at the release of his debut volume of poems Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa.
Over these decades my family and I have been in touch with my school in Gandhidham through my class teacher of life - St Alvina. Through her own example she taught me how to persevere, no matter what, through the trials of life. And I know that though I have grown now from boy to a man, I am still in that classroom of Carmels . . . Still learning.
If I could, I would return to Carmel's for a second education. Within the socio-political context of Gujarat today I salute the Apostolic Carmel Sisters in their tireless efforts in the field of education. In the matrix of history, education for all is a noble endeavour. And the sterling contribution of Mount Carmel school needs to be recognized as such.
(Published in anniversary souvenir of Mount Carmel High School, Gandhidham, Kutch, Gujarat in December 2007)
History of Carmelite order sourced from catholicism(dot)about(dot) com