As a 5-year-old just starting kindergarten at a new school, I was more than excited. I took out my hair clips and frilly socks a night before my first day at school. As I entered wearing all my fancy accessories, an old nun called out after me:
"Child! What is the need to wear these fancy articles to school? Please take those clips off and keep them in your bag. Ask your parents to buy you a proper pair of white socks. Tell your mother to make a plait from tomorrow. You can't come in with a pony tail. This won't work in a convent school."
I couldn't understand the magnitude of the term 'convent school' back then but today, I carry it like a badge of honour. Of course, the rules were draconian and a little too many. Everything from our appearance to conduct was monitored and corrected but it really shaped us into the ladies we are today. Hopefully, we're keeping the honour bright.
However, there are a few quirks that are worth mentioning because let's be honest, being a convent school girl was different ride altogether. Hefty fines, regular calls to parents and any rebellion, especially in the form of a shabby uniform, was perpetually suppressed.
Remember the moral science classes which just couldn't be taken casually?
These were the classes where we were taught everything under the sun. From honesty to avoiding drugs and sex, these once-in-a-week classes are the ones that have shaped our understanding of right and wrong. The stories in the moral science or value education books were like a written format of Savdhan India, each ending with a life lesson.
While we attended moral science classes, what happened during catechism was the mystery we wanted to solve.
Our Catholic friends were taken away for catechism classes while we would be stuck in moral science. No matter how many times we asked them what they did, they would never let it out. As a Catholic friend put it, what happens during catechism class, stays in the catechism class.
The hymn book was just as sacred as our text books to us.
When kids our age learnt lyrics to fancy English songs, we memorized hymns. I think I still remember most of them. From showers of blessings to this little light of mine, we've sang them all, every single morning for 13 years straight.
'Our Father' is a prayer we can never forget, no matter how much time goes by.
Beginning and ending each day with this prayer, it made a special spot in our hearts. Our religious affiliations didn't matter because this prayer was with us during unit tests, exams, before competitions started and when we were going for any school-related event.
No matter how hard you tried, you would always be 'shabbily' dressed.
Let's be honest, we've all whitened our canvas shoes with chalk and our moms have washed our school uniform with Ujala but none of it was ever enough for the school captains doing a uniform check. There was something 'shabby' with every student. We tried our best and failed regularly.
This was probably because the uniform rules were too strict.
No long nails, no open hair, no double piercing, no mehendi and basically, no scope of bringing out the fashion diva in you. People would be fined and worse still, given notes in the diary for not being dressed according to school standards. And well, some of it really was an exaggeration from the teachers.
However, it was once the chhuti time bell went off that we really got down to rebelling.
Girls would convert the pony tails to plaits and pull up their skirts. Looking physically attractive wasn't allowed during school hours but a minute after school hours, our inner fashionistas would really shine out. Until, of course, a teacher caught us and gave us a good lecture about how we're supposed to keep up the school spirit when we're in our uniform.
Christmas was a month-long festival for us and we waited for it all year long.
The classes would have board decoration competitions, there was Secret Santa and a whole lot of free periods because of the Christmas play that would be put up. A day before Christmas break would begin, we would have a class party. There would be carol singing, dancing and the most awaited bit, the gift exchange.
You could absolutely not talk in any other language but English.
Because 'all those found to be talking in any other language other than English will be fined.' Some of us managed to save ourselves from this fine, but many failed. Nonetheless, it instilled a fear in us that still partly exists when we go to visit school.
Unlike what most people think, convent girls are not always fighting with each other.
Of course, we have our bunch of group fights and differences but then which school doesn't? People often ask me how I 'survived' in a convent school but the thing is that I had a fantastic time that taught me how strong your bond with your girlfriends can be. The fights and friendships turned me into the person I am today.
We cribbed about all of it and often tried to rebel. So many of us have sat in our convent school classes and wished that our school was just a little cooler with the length of the skirt or the amount of notes we got in the diary.
The times were tough but now that it's all over, I really wouldn't have it any other way.
Feature Image via Carmel Convent School