Nuns at convent school

Madhu Chawla

Dr. Madhu Chawla, a medical professional, graduated from Institute of Medical Sciences, Benaras Hindu University over 40 years ago. Her husband retired from active service last year, and the two adult sons are settled in the USA. Having satisfactorily executed domestic and professional commitments, Madhu now works, on a charitable basis, with three NGOs. Giving back to society, for Madhu, is a dream come true. She also worked with underprivileged children with Times of India, in their Teach India programme for two years.

My favourite teacher? Having studied in a convent school, St. Joseph’s Convent, Chandannagar, West Bengal, most of my teachers were nuns. I vividly remember three amongst them.

Mother Michael, who taught most subjects, and filled in for those who were unable to take the class on a particular day. Then there were Mother Declan, who taught me English, and Mother Norbert who taught me science and maths.

Madhu Chawla attended St. Joseph’s Convent, Chandannagar, West Bengal.

Mother Michael was ambidextrous. This characteristic fascinated me more than what she taught. I watched her use her right hand to write from left of the blackboard to the right end. Then seamlessly write from the right side to the left with the other hand. A sharp rebuke would bring me to the present. I often wondered how she could make out that I was a victim of a meandering mind! While all the while I was looking at the blackboard!

Mother Declan taught me English. My 'Achilles's heel' was to do parsing of a sentence. She invariably asked me and I failed! Her constant refrain was 'how can you be good at maths, and not be able to parse a sentence'. The connection? I couldn't figure it out! I loved the subject, and I was one of her favourite students. The grades she gave me validated this!

That brings me to Mother Norbert. I loved science and maths. The combination of a dedicated teacher and a receptive pupil was the beginning of a long lasting relationship. It continued. She was a no-nonsense person. She kept us interested in symbols and equations with simple logic. My interest grew and grades got better. Both began a northward trajectory. I felt she gently nudged me, and steered me on the road of science. This led me to making a career in medicine. I am a doctor today. She was my favourite teacher. She suffered from dementia in later years, and passed away two months back. May her soul rest in peace. Amen.


We always have reasons to remember our teachers and mentors, more so on Teacher's day ! They are the ones who consciously or subconsciously inculcated the habits and thoughts which, in our later life, developed our personality . Yes , Dr Madhu , you did it well in a short and precise writeup .

I still don't know why English teachers back then focused so much on parsing sentences. I could do it, but it has not helped me in any way. And we can see that your difficulties with parsing have not held you back. Hope that Indian schools no longer focus on parsing!

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