Tuesday, January 19, 2021

From Wild Weeds to Roses

Monalisa Changkija
(Class of 1977)

Ten years ago, on Sister Ivy’s 50th anniversary in 2010, it was a privilege and an honour for me to speak on behalf of the LFS past pupils of the Northeast, at Kohima. That event was a huge one, with her friends and family from all over the country and abroad, besides past and present LFS students, attending it. Today ten years later, it is even a greater privilege and honour to be present here and once again say a few words because the Lord has preserved us to celebrate this momentous day. The decades have rolled by since Sister Ivy was our most feared but most loved and revered teacher and Headmistress and we were incorrigible, impossible, ignorant, foolish, over-smart and unruly bunch of school girls trying to outwit her, but the very fact that we are gathered here today speaks of the Lord’s Mercy and Grace, especially in these fearsome days of the Coronavirus pandemic. So yes, today we thank the Lord for this day and for Sister Ivy.

Monalisa with Sister Ivy
Monalisa Changkija with Sister Ivy

I, and surely most of her students, cannot imagine what life would have been for us if not for the presence of Sister Ivy in our lives. And, if you think that her presence in our lives ended the day we graduated from school, it would be a great mistake for even now Sister Ivy looms large in our personal and professional lives. I cannot articulate well why and how this is so but it is so. Sister Ivy continues to make such indelible marks in our lives that probably besides our biological parents she is the most constant in our lives. And, that makes her the moral compass and moral anchor of our lives. If and when I do something wrong in my personal and/or professional life, I just don’t want Sister Ivy to know it ~ and to think that I am 60 years old. Besides the fear of the Lord, I still live with the fear of Sister Ivy. That has made me do my best to walk the straight and narrow ~ not that I haven’t strayed countless times, regretted and paid the price.
I have often wondered why so many of us have been blessed with Sister Ivy’s presence in our lives and every day I discover the reasons. Sometimes, I thank the Lord; sometimes I bemoan ~ living with a conscience in the shape of Sister Ivy is not easy. But this is our shared experience, isn’t it, which has led us to see this day and be blessed to celebrate Sister Ivy’s 60th year of being a Nun? Then I have also wondered why the Lord had placed us in Sister Ivy’s life. Is it possible that the Lord has decided that she needed some thorns in her life? Obviously, we were her thorns ~ and indubitably, Lithrongla and I the most at a certain period of her life. I confess today that I absolutely have no regrets about making Sister Ivy walk all the way to Jakhama with us from Kohima in 1976. We were then in Class 10 and bored with the excruciating regime of preparations for our Board exams. She was merciless and we needed a diversion. But all of us, including Sister Ivy, had such fun. I also have absolutely no regrets for being the cross she had to carry in so many ways and on so many occasions. But together we made enduring memories, which we will take to our grave. Thank you, Sister Ivy for not only the memories but also the present.
I have a feeling that when the Lord made us, He decided that we deserve each other ~ although we come from different parts of the world. So, He placed us exactly where we needed to be so that we could needle each other and give meaning to each other’s lives. I am, perhaps, getting sentimental here when I planned not to be so. But, Sister Ivy, you don’t know what you have meant to me and in my life and I am sure each of your past pupils has our own stories to tell about how you changed our lives and how you transformed us from wild weeds to Roses. Alas, the Lord decided that you should be the thorn and I thank the Lord for that because can there be Roses without thorns? If there are such Roses, they are fake. Sister Ivy was also our roots, stems, leaves and sepals. And you taught and trained us never to be fakes ~ because you are 100% genuine so you gave you gave your best, and your all, to make us genuine too. If we are not as genuine as you are, none can lay the blame at your doorstep ~ the blame is ours because we have failed to learn; we were bad students. You have never failed to teach. You are a teacher par excellence ~ the very epitome of what a teacher ought to be.
Sister Ivy, there is so much more I would like to say about you, for you and to you but I remember you would always sternly tell us “Quiet, girls” in class, especially to me. If not then, at least on your 60the anniversary, it’s time for me to obey you. I will now be quiet, go to my chair and pray we will celebrate your 70th anniversary ~ with me being very quiet.
God bless you, Sister Ivy, even more abundantly. May you always be that firm voice that speaks to us to remain true to God and to ourselves.
(On the occasion of Sister Ivy’s Diamond Jubilee of her Religious Profession at Mazzarello Study Home, Kuda-A, Nagarjan, Dimapur, on December 20, 2020)