Sesquicentennial celebrations: Honour and glory for 150 women on St Joseph’s Convent Feast Day

Published: March 20, 2012

'We are all, forever, 17' PHOTO: EXPRESS/AYESHA MIR

'We are all, forever, 17' PHOTO: EXPRESS/AYESHA MIR Alumni feted as teachers and staff honoured for years of service
. DESIGN: ESSA MALIK. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS
KARACHI: 

Some of them were 68 years old, graying in the bun and propped up by walking canes. Others were in haute couture with even higher heels to match. But no matter what their age, they were giggling like “giddy goats” as Nina Sethna used* to put it. These were the alumni of St Joseph’s Convent High School who greeted each other with whoops of laughter, cries of glee and kisses that left striking shades of rouge on each other’s cheeks.

“Girls!” cried Principal Naseema Kapadia, unaware perhaps of the irony in her command. “Come on, please move to the hall!” It was time to get this party started.

The 150-year school in Saddar that was started by five Daughters of the Cross from Belgium in 1862 has grown from a mere 10 students to 2,000 today. But as Archbishop Joseph Coutts put it in the morning mass for the school’s Feast Day, if you totalled it up, thousands of thousands of young women have passed through its portals in the 15 decades.

Thus, Monday’s gathering spent a great deal of time remembering those who have passed on, including Shafiqa Fikree, the headmistress of the Cambridge section, who was a pillar for half a century. Happily, though, present was Aileen Soares who has taught Math at the school for one-third of its existence. After her speech, detailing some of the accomplishments of the institution, Kapadia announced that one ex-Josephine had donated 150 trees to be planted and three special Neem trees would be in the names of Shafiqa Fikree, long-time principal and once Mother Superior Sr Zinia Pinto and Urdu teacher Sabra Siddiqi. Shahnaz Wazir Ali donated her 1952 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica of which only 800 copies exist in the world.

A plaque was unveiled, there was a fashion show of the uniform through the ages and the school choir put on a rousing performance of songs, some modern and some old, after practicing with Mr William and Sr Margaret. There was even some impromptu dancing that broke out at the front of the hall by the steps when they launched into Abba’s  Dancing Queen.

Mementos were handed out to the women present of the list of 150 including, Nafisa Shah, Durriya Kazi, Shehnaz Ismail, Nasreen Haque, Parveen Kassim, Seemi Kamal, Maheen Khan, Sadia Rasheed, Batool Kazmi, Dr Hamida Khuhro, Shireen Gaya, Dr Saadiah Ahsan Pal, Tayyaba Habib, Lynette Viccaji, Dolores Almeida, Rehana Hakim, Shanaz Ramzi, Dr Ghazala Aziz, Niilofer Farrukh, Bella Vellozo.

“We all got our Oscars today,” remarked Shahnaz Wazir Ali, who was the chief guest. She recalled her farewell in 1959, pausing to remark, “You can gauge how old I am” to which someone in the audience cried out, “17!”

“We are all, forever, 17,” she responded with a smile. But no matter what the age, the memories flowed thick and fast for everyone. For Ali, it was the tram that went from Somerset Street to Preedy for four annas. For Nafisa Shah, who dashed off to Mrs Velloz’s canteen to buy some at the first chance, it was “milk toffee, imli, and candy”. “I have it in a potla back there,” she declared with a mixture of mischief and glee later on.

For Zubeida Mustafa, it was the memory of one teacher, when she was perhaps in IX Matric, who put up one of her essays on the notice board in the hall for everyone to admire and learn from. That is what made her realise that perhaps she could actually write. Imagine, she told The Express Tribune, what if that teacher had not done that small thing. Perhaps she would not have been given that little extra push.

And Sr Zinia Pinto was still inspirational, bringing tears to many eyes, as she addressed the women to ask them, “How many new ideas will you have by next year?”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2012.

*NOTE:  Dear readers, just to clarify, in this piece, I was forced to write Nina Sethna “used” to say because she used to say it when I was in school in 1990-1993. I could not quote her as currently saying it because I could not vouch for that. The use of the past tense in no way was meant to signify that she was ‘past’ tense herself. She was very much at the event and looked beautiful. Mahim Maher, city editor

Reader Comments (16)

  • Yasir
    Mar 20, 2012 - 4:16AM

    Thanks you, the self styled liberal elite, for doing nothing for the betterment of this poor country. :(

    Recommend

  • JustAnotherPakistani
    Mar 20, 2012 - 6:24AM

    This is the Pakistan we love and remember. It bought tears to the eyes of this cynic.

    Recommend

  • feared
    Mar 20, 2012 - 7:27AM

    convert them to the religion of peace.

    Recommend

  • saeed
    Mar 20, 2012 - 8:09AM

    thank you all good Muslims ,at least doing something for this poor country ,like spreading hate

    Recommend

  • Moderate
    Mar 20, 2012 - 10:35AM

    A fine example of how representatives of all religions, specially christians and parsis have made outstanding contributions to Pakistan. They have devoted their life time for benefitting generations of Pakistanis without even a fleeting thought of religion or race.

    It is sad that instead of recognising their community’s contributions, today, they are persecuted in the name of religion, becuase somehow, we, being Muslims have a stronger claim at being Pakistani than the non- Muslims.

    Recommend

  • Omar
    Mar 20, 2012 - 11:01AM

    Wow! Congrats to a brilliant institution! 150 years – absolutely amazing! This is what we need for Pakistan – more women leadership, more women empowerment, and more women who can change the course of Pakistan’s politics/ economy and all other aspects. We need more awareness, and more tolerance towards women. This is simply beautiful and brings tears to my eyes – Go SJC women! You are inspirational!

    Recommend

  • Dr. Doolittle
    Mar 20, 2012 - 11:54AM

    Sad to hear the scathing comments. So much negativity has permeated into our society. Sad…

    Recommend

  • Mariam Quraishi
    Mar 20, 2012 - 1:44PM

    ‘We will always have a special thought for Our Dear Convent Home

    Indeed one the best Schools of Karachi, providing exceptional quality education to young women.

    SJC has given a lot to our society in the form of producing finest women in Pakistan economy, we
    Owe a lot to this great Institution and to the people who are still holding it the same way even after 150 years.

    ‘Honor and Glory to Our School though Out the Years to Come’

    Recommend

  • Truth From Pakistan
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:20PM

    I am not an alumnus of this convent but I felt happy for them. Its so irritating to see negative comments here. We just cannot find happiness in anything now. Every sweet and happy moment is criticised by religious fanaticism and negativity. Go girls…enjoy your time and ignore the criticism….Cheers !

    Recommend

  • Areeba
    Mar 20, 2012 - 5:40PM

    Sjc Forever!

    Recommend

  • Amina Adil
    Mar 21, 2012 - 3:07AM

    i miss st.joseph’s so much, may god give them all health. ms. soares u were my favourite, may god give u a long life, bless u all

    Recommend

  • Hina Faisal Khan
    Mar 21, 2012 - 2:58PM

    Criticism stemming from ignorance reflects the mind set that is based on intolerance and delusions of religious grandeur. It has permeated our every day existence like a lethal poison which is corroding the very fabric of the Pakistani society. St joseph,s like many others of its ilk has been a nurturing ground for the enlightened, moderate and progressive women who are playing a vital role in every field to serve their nation. Bravo Ladies!

    Recommend

  • FARIDA(AYUB) TALAT
    Mar 22, 2012 - 2:05AM

    Wonderful to feel young again!!!!Memories still there ..With Time , some faded ..others still as if it was yesterday ..
    Ours was the Graduating Senior Cambridge Class of 1959….Then we wre taught by Sisters ..mostly from Europe ..and Australia..later on the Local Nuns took over as most of the foreign nuns left…
    The Principal was Sr. LONGIANA MARIA ..a German..I can still picture her in her “habit” ! ..then, we, often wonder “what did they wear under the habit????..did they have short hair ..or no hair???????????”!!!!!!!!!!!! ..our trips to the next door St. Patricks Church ..which we tried to bunk as much as we could !!!!!!!!some adventureous girls stealing a “puff ” behind the stair case!!!!…MEMORIES..SO MANY….
    The MIND is always young…….SO IS THE HEART

    ft

    Recommend

  • Sana
    Mar 28, 2012 - 2:30AM

    Thank you for this article! It was great to renew the love, gratitude and affection I have for St Joseph’s Convent School :) So, so blessed are all her alums for having amazing teachers, truly selfless guides and role models, and a beautiful campus to enjoy their education in. Thank you, Mahim, for giving tribute to the achievements and legacies of St Josephines. May St Joseph’s continue to be a beacon of goodness and caring in our society.

    Recommend

  • Sara
    Mar 29, 2012 - 3:47PM

    Brilliant school! Amazing times!! The perfect example of Muslims, Christians etc studying together! All as equals! Everyone joining in Christmas and Eid celebrations! Painting Easter eggs and singing in the choir! This is the Pakistan which we know and love! St Joseph’s Convent, may you have many, many, mannnnyy more celebrations like this one!.. Honour and Glory to our school, throughout the years to come…… ! :) (On another note, why can’t BBC, CNN etc give news stories like this about Pakistan, when it comes to different religions here?)Recommend

  • Faiza Chhapra
    May 4, 2012 - 5:56PM

    A matchless institution SJC;
    I have such sweet memories of all my. Amazing teachers
    Miss soares, miss Siddiqui, miss fikree and all the rest;may Allah bless
    Them all..Ameen
    Will always remember the milk toffees from mrs vellos’ canteen
    Love u my dearest school:D
    Long live
    Faiza Chhapra(1975)

    Recommend

More in Pakistan