By Omilla Mungroo. I was spending the summer holidays at my father’s parents’ home in St Joseph. It was a beautiful, clear morning. The air smelt like the roses my aunt tended to that morning before she plucked about three of the pretty pink ones, to include with two red hibiscus for her morning prayer to the Lord.
I was about eight years old then, and did not realise how solemn this ritual was for my aunt and my grandmother, who sat on the stairs at the front of the house, looking on. My aunt had had her early morning bath already; an important “must do” before her prayer to the Lord at the “jhandi” flags. The jhandi was a spot where Hindus kept their flags planted and their small murtis or cleared out area for placing a lighted deya and other implements or water or flowers used in their worship.
I was raised in the village further up the road — where my mother’s second eldest sister — the only Christian in the family — taught Sunday School. I had no idea that there were other prayers which I didn’t know of, and rituals like those I was witnessing then.
The village I grew up in was a very close-knit community. Everybody knew everybody else, and children from the village were sent by their parents to the Sunday School my aunt taught, along with a Bajan woman who we all called “Mother” simply because she was a mother to all. We sang songs, were told interesting stories, and learnt verses from the Holy Bible — a book I learnt to respect and treasure from a very early age.
Every night my mother’s eldest sister who lived with my other grandmother’s home, would recite the 23rd Psalm and it became the first entire Psalm I knew very well. Psalm 121 and Psalm 1 were memorised right after. I was now turning nine years old then.
However, this aunt, my favorite auntie, my father’s sister, seemed really pleased with me for following her around that morning. I had taken an early morning bath myself, plucked two or three roses from her bounteous colourful flower garden, to pray with her.
She was tall, beautiful, with the most beguiling eyes I ever saw. Everybody said that I resembled her, and so I felt quite smug and pretty myself, since at home I was never called pretty or beautiful or anything of the sort, except for some sparse compliments from my father when my mother was out of earshot.
She wore a white and dark blue floral printed dress that morning and had a piece of lace white cloth to cover her head whilst she knelt in front of the jhandi. I wore a green shorts and a coloured stripe top.
My grandmother had interjected, as I knelt with my hands cupping the flowers I held. “Why you don’t lend her one of your orhnis?” She asked Auntie Rosie. “Oh yes!” Auntie replied. Then turning to me she went on. “You have to cover your head. You want an orhni?” I had no idea what an orhni was and what the fuss was about. It didn’t matter to me but I said yes. And so I was given a white chiffon piece of cloth to place over my head.
As I knelt beside my aunt I watched her face. She held the flowers in her hand so I followed suit. Her eyes were closed and her lips moved, but she whispered her prayer so I bowed my head, with the flowers cupped in my hands as I started to whisper my prayer too. When I was done I opened my eyes to see she had placed the flowers on the ground so I placed mines as well, and raised up from the kneeling position. She looked at me pleased and smiling.
Then I heard my grandmother, “You pray?” Her brows close together as she scrutinised my face. I nodded and then remembered the Bajan woman had always told me to speak and do not shake my head, so I followed with, “Yes, I pray.”
My aunt looked at me with a more solemn stare, then asked, “You pray? What you say?” I was as confident and bold as a lion and I recited the entire 23rd Psalm then, to which my grandmother exclaimed, “Hare bapre!” which means “Oh my goodness!” in Hindi, but at the time I had no clue what it meant.
I was quite puzzled then. What did I do wrong? I thought I would be punished, then my aunt burst out laughing and hugged me, “That’s okay. The Lord will understand.”
I thought to myself with a smile, “He sure will! He always understands. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”
June 2015 – Issue 16 www.sweettntmagazine.com
The Lord is my Shepherd
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