Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Behind the wall

The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (the Sisters of the Good Shepherd) was founded in 1835 by St. Mary Euphrasia, (born Rose Virginie Pelletier) who believed that education should bring out the best in every aspect of humans. In the 33 years between her founding the Congregation and her death, St. Mary managed to also establish 110 convents in 35 countries, which has now expanded to 72 countries.

The Sisters set up their schools in many places. One such was in Madras, almost 100 years ago. Given that the Nungambakkam area was not a crowded space, it is possible that the school continues to operate from the same space it was founded in. For some time, it must have been a co-educational school; in the 1920s, there would not have been enough girls going to school to make it viable. By the 1960s/70s, however, Good Shepherd had become a girls-only school. We used to go past the school's walls on the way to our school, quite a distance away. Those days, the walls seemed to be 100-foot high, but I guess they'd have at best been 20-foot tall. At that height, it was impossible to find out what was going on behind those high walls. On the few occasions when we were allowed permission to enter Good Shepherd, it seemed to be the same as our school. But we were sure there was more hidden.

Not any longer, I guess. Going past the Good Shepherd a couple of months ago (the walls are considerable shorter than they then were), I found I could look right through to the grounds of the school. That relentless Chennai Metro has taken over a portion of the school grounds; the Sterling Road station on the proposed Purple Line (Madhavaram to SIPCOT) is to be built underground here. Thankfully for the children of the Good Shepherd school, their playground has been spared; one of the smaller buildings on the edge has been brought down. The girls can continue to enjoy their playtime - I'm sure the walls will come up again, soon!

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