This is the first time in 32 years of my life that I have read something that my mum has written, out of choice. Emotional, easy and simple, this is an account of her experiences at Loreto College, an institution she has revered all her life and is proud to be associated with. While it’s a simple first person experience, it gives me an insight into a her professional life and the part its played in making her who she is today. For me, this is like going back to her hey days and seeing life through her lenses. For me, this is connecting with a woman who is so much more than just my mother. For me, this is a piece of herself that defines who she really is.
My Days in Loreto College
1st June 1968 was a special day of my life. I joined Loreto College.
I can vividly recall the day I appeared for my job-interview on 16th of May, 1968 at Loreto College Library. Mrs Laxmi Banerjee (whom I was going to substitute for the next three months) presented my application to Mother Loreto, the then Librarian. I was ushered to the empty staff room, two elderly nuns entered and sat beside me. I was an unnecessary third at the interview. A glimpse of my first interview:
Mother Loreto : What is your name?
Me : ……………………
Sister Stella : Rama Chaudhuri, right?
Mother Loreto : Your qualification?
Me : ……………
Sister Stella : Done your Library Science degree. Right?
Mother Loreto was asking me the questions and since she had in her hand my job application Sister Stella was obligingly giving the replies. All I got the chance to say was ‘Thank you’ only at the end. But I got the job.
At the beginning, I was very nervous of my new job, specially because there was no one to tell me how to handle the 2nd year and 3rd year hostelites who were quite eager to bully me on the very first day. But John Bag, who was the library helper that time, came on my rescue. He was a wonderful person and helped me in every odd situation I had to face. So did Jeanne, our office-in- charge that time.
After three months, I became a permanent librarian and that started an unforgettable learning process for me from Mother Loreto. Mother Loreto took me under her wings. She was my mentor, guide and teacher. She taught us how to love books and make the users aware of the golden mine we have in our library. I think, till date, with its rich collection, open access system, beautiful reading room and ambience, this is the best college library I have ever seen in Calcutta.
During that period of time, so far I can remember, our college library was one of the very few colleges which used to import books straight from the publishers overseas. From the day of the arrival of the books from the book sellers, it used to take about a week for the users to get the book in their hands. In addition to a huge collection of books on all subjects, we have an enviable collection of Bengali books, though on those years, there were very few girls had Bengali as an optional subject. The collection of books has always been ever-increasing. We had a unique system of issuing-system. Books used to be given out to the student on an over night basis, after 2 pm everyday and were to be returned the next morning before 10.30. The main reason behind this was to ensure that, instead of the books sitting idle on their reading table at home while the students were in the college, the books could be used by others. Now, of course, with time our library has been modernized and computerized and some of the old rules have been changed. The present librarian Mrs. Papia Mukherjee, Bonny,Pranati and others are doing a wonderful job.
Mrs. Maya Das, my co-worker for thirty years and I had wonderful time together. I can not resist myself without telling two of our experiences which involved Mother Loreto also. Sometime in June 1971, on one rainy day both Maya and I were sopping wet when we arrived at college. We were quite happy in anticipation that on seeing us, Mother would ask us to go back home. Mother Loreto was shocked to see our state and hurriedly went inside, brought two nuns’ habit. We were dressed thus the whole day at the end of which she brought back our dried clothes. We never got that God-sent rainy day holiday, but got the chance to have a dress-rehearsal as nuns. On another occasion, we two decided to treat Mother Loreto to a Chinese lunch. Since she was not allowed to go out for lunch, we took the initiative to go out and get the packed lunch from Waldrof. On her advice, we left Mother locked within the library and took the key with us. On returning we found her happily deep asleep on papers spread on the floor and after laying the food on the table when we made her wake, she gave her typical child-like smile of delight. When ever I think of my library days she is always present in front of me with her motherly smile.
I have worked under five principals and remember all of them fondly. I have learnt new things from each of them.
We were like a family here at Loreto College. At times we had difference of opinions, but that never stood on the ways of our bonding. We still have very good relationships amongst us and I miss them all. In my thirty-nine years service I received much more from all of them than I have given. I feel myself blessed and grateful to all.