Bi-centenary celebration at the Cluny School
For most people, life’s happiest moments are spent at school. Memories of playing on the school ground, the last minute rush to finish projects, taking part in a play or group dance…fill your mind as you walk into the school building years later. For the alumni of St Joseph of Cluny School in Lawspet, the recent bi-centenary celebration of the Cluny Congregation brought back such memories. Though it was a celebration of the Congregation, students, teachers, parents, inmates of the hospice took part with gusto.
A heavy downpour did not dampen the spirits of the 5000-strong audience, who sat through the dance drama “Viduthalayin Pathayil”, staged by the students of the school. Former students, Bhavana, Ramapriya, Ashwini, Anitha, Austin, Madhumita, Padmavathi, Ponkhothai and Suganya, who like to call themselves BRAMPS (formed with the first letter of their names) literally walked down memory lane by going around the school premises. “We just love this school, the teachers, the Sisters… everything about it,” said Ashwini. “The statue of Jesus, the library, the auditorium, the counselling room and the chapel (where students would gather before the board exams) are permanently etched in our minds.” Sixty-five-year-old Dr. SS Valentine Berty, who passed out of the school in 1959, recalled how Mother Peter Claver, the first headmistress taught them music. “She worked hard to develop the school to what it is today. Also, she introduced the blue and white uniform. All the teachers then were from Kerala. There were just three students in the first batch. In my batch there were seven.” According to MLA K. Lakshminarayanan, whose daughters Deepika and Dharanisri study in the school, the school grooms the children into fine individuals. “After you admit them in LKG, you need not worry about their education till they complete Standard XII. The teachers don’t harass the children even if they score low marks. The students study out of passion and not out of fear. The Sisters and teachers treat the children with affection.”
The dance drama staged as part of the celebration was based on the life of Anne Marie. Composed by Emelda Marcel, a retired teacher, it was perfected and recorded by Stella Elias and Vittoben. A total of 1,100 students and about 100 parents and former students were involved in the mammoth production, which was presented at three different venues on the school premises — under the banyan tree, the dais and the smaller stage on the side of the dais.
The production had an African flavour since Anne Marie had worked in Africa to free the slaves. There was a French rhythm too, since she founded the congregation in 1807 at Cluny in France (hence the name of the order St Joseph of Cluny). Folk dances of Tamil Nadu, including Korathi, Mayilattam, Puliattam, Kummi, Kolaattam and Bharatanatyam were used to depict how the three Sisters arrived in French-occupied-Pondicherry in January 1827 to start the Pensionnat Des Jeunes Filles. “The method of education was direct and simple. The present Cluny school was started in 1946. The school has a strength of 4,068 students, 105 teachers, seven Sisters, besides non-teaching staff. Every year we get about 1,500 applications and we take around 300 students,” said Sister Emiliana, the Principal.
Apart from the school, the Cluny Sisters run a hospice, an AIDS centre, Sneha Illam for street children, a hospital, a home for the mentally and physically challenged, a needle work centre for school dropouts and a music school.DEEPA H RAMAKRISHNAN