Loreto’s banner gaily floats
In lands both East and West
Loreto’s name each girl reveres.
And holds it ever blest.
– LC Anthem
On March 19 we go around the lovely hill station of Shillong, where I spent most of my growing up years. I had attended Pine Mount and then later Loreto Convent from where I passed out. On a few earlier visit, I’d just had enough time to give the school a cursory glance while passing by. This time, I made it a point to re-visit Loreto again.
Chit chat, basketball, school plays, yoga, throwball, volleyball, chapel, cathedral church, mrs beena ahmed, mother superior, sister john francis aka sister margaret, shared lunches, the four lovely girls I found to form the famous five (arpita, rhea, preeti, neelam), sports days, playing joseph’s sheep, gray sweaters with red borders, red ties, tagore house, pinafores, potato chaat outside the school gates, gumboots during the rain : a whole lot of memories come back on my walk down memory lane.
A week or so ago, Arpita emails enthusiastically about the official North America mini LC re-union they’re having : four of them are getting together over the April 4/5 weekend in New York City and it promises a time for much fun, catching up, and craziness.
It has been a long time. And yet, it’s amazing how little everyone’s changed.
Outside the main entrance of the school are a few green benches : added much later I think. But nothing much has changed perceptibly.
Walking down the schools dimly lit halls and corridors, I feel like I’ve been transported back in time. A gaggle of girls emerge in the corridor and then quickly step into class as they see the teacher approaching. Another bunch is ready for the playground as they dribble a basketball along the way. Another little one has just finished her kindergarten classes and holds on to mommy for dear life. She looks relieved to be out of class!
Down the corridor, a couple of girls emerge from the chapel : the same one where I’d go and say a small prayer once in a while. A sanctum where the peace and quiet was both reassuring and comforting. I’d just get away during a break and spend a few quiet minutes kneeling down on those familiar wooden benches.
I peek into the hall downstairs, the one where Arpita and I spent many hours learning how to skate. I think we were among the few who mastered balancing on roller skates early on.
I am excited to find a photograph of our batch in the hallway, and point myself out to Ree, Venky and Deepsan who are with me on this trip. It’s difficult to convey one’s sense of excitement and deja vu in moments like these.
While for them it must have been just another school, for me it was where I spent many precious moments of my life, growing up.
I venture inside and try and take a look at the classrooms but since school is in session, I watch from the safety of one of the corridors. A few teachers walk around purposefully. No familiar faces, but everything else is somewhat the same! The same white buildings with the gray rimmed windows, the wooden plank floor. The uniforms look a little different. The house colours : red, green, blue and yellow – reflected in the T-shirts some of the girls are wearing : it must be sports day for them, I gather. But I still glimpse some kids in gray red-rimmed pinafores.
Next to the school is the beautiful Cathedral Church where we went on special occasions. Like Christmas when we had to sing hymns, most of which I’ve forgotten now. I love the stained glass windows and that serene feeling inside the large church. Quite a few school girls enter, say their prayers in front of the burning candles and leave.
The thought of school days always brings back special memories. And I’m so glad that I had the chance to attend Loreto. It’s in these very classrooms and in this very school that I found some amazing women who continue to be friends even today, even though they’re all scattered in different parts of the world.
They often say that the school days are the best and I can’t argue about that one!