It’s been five years now since the alumni collated the efforts of its members towards each other, and towards its alma mater by forming the Santhosha Vidhyalaya Alumni Association. Over the past five years, several ex-students of the school have played various roles in giving back to the place that shaped all of us.
One of the lesser know efforts of the alumni has been the annual Christmas gift for the school staff. The staff includes the kitchen workers, the daily laborers, the house mothers, and other teaching and non-teaching members. There are about/over a hundred and thirty of them in all.
To show their gratitude, a few of the teachers, kitchen workers, caretakers and house mothers, teachers and office workers, wardens and administrators took to pen and writing, and penned down their gratitude. There were 17 letters in total. Many of their notes were not in English. Some of the notes were from the daily workers, and kitchen staff who had dictated their thoughts to be written by others.
“I was able to buy dresses for my family members (last Christmas),” one teacher wrote.
Another of the mess workers wrote, “I told my mother about your gift. She felt very happy”.
The longest letter lasted four pages and it was by a teacher who poured out her heart. She spoke about health issues in the family, and the related expenses. She mentioned about the year when she could not buy her children any clothes for Christmas. “I used to think, “We are serving missionary children, then why are we suffering like this?”, she wrote. She also pointed out that the Christmas amount had helped her greatly during the festive season.
Reading many of these letters invoked a memory of a speech at a retirement party I had attended many days ago. It was the retirement party of a person who had a deaf and – consequently – dumb daughter. The loudest applause that night was reserved for the speech of this deaf and dumb daughter. Very few understood even a word but everyone understood the heart. It is an experience I’ve never forgotten.
These 17 letters reminded me of that speech.
I can see all the eagerness of the staff to thank the alumni. In spite of the fact that many of them had never written a word except their names before this. I can picture the daily workers lacking literacy yet wanting to articulate their gratitude. I can almost hear them fumble for sentences to say in their letters, scratching their heads in shy modesty, not having ever written a letter their entire lives. I can hear them mumbling words of blessing in their letters – their wishes for the alumni. Uttering cliché and phrases they’ve borrowed from other letter writers, perhaps. Once their words had been written down, I can picture them being asked to sign at the corner of their letters, and their attempts at writing their names in a straight line. I can even see them fail, and scratch off their slanted names, and their re-attempts at getting it right.
I might need to wash my eyes, before I continue reading these “Thank you” letters.