Friday, August 21, 2009

Sr. Jesme's Amen: How 'unputdownable' is it?

I try not to buy books that are purposefully written to cash in on the controversy it is expected to create as they usually end up as disappointing reads, written in a boring language, peppered with soft or hard porn and some people bashing. That is the reason why I never bought Amen, when it was first published in Malayalam and later published in English. Because I know reading the reviews of such books are enough to get an idea about what the book is about. But it is written somewhere that I should read the book. A friend of mine gave it to me a few days back and pagedIN made me read it.

As I finished reading the book, the word 'unputdownable' caught my attention. Is "Amen -the Autobiography of a Nun" by Sr. Jesme 'so well written and entertaining as to be difficult to put down' as she claims in her book? She wrote in the afterword to the 178 Page English Version of her Autobiography, first published in Malayalam:

"People found the book unputdownable, as one incident flowed into another. My sincerity and courage in sharing all my experiences, unmindful of the consequences, was commended."

Critics see it as a 'shocking account of life within the enclosure' Well, I don't think the book had anything to shock me. The sexual frustrations of nuns and priests, which is condemned in the book, is not very shocking because after all we are human beings and when celibacy is forced upon someone frustrations are the assured outcomes. The corruption and class distinction Sr. Jesme tries to bring out is not shocking either as I see organizations as a reflection of the society in which they operate and the Indian Social System is reeking with both. We are so used to these that it is not shocking any more. And I don't see 'Amen' as a plea for the reformation of the church. I see it more as the obviously plain account of a woman's gradual disillusionment about a system she believed in so much initially.

Of all the book, the only thing that shocked me is how the senior nuns reacted to Sr. Jesme's innocent answer to a trivial [serious] question, during her interview. When the Mother Superior asked Sr. Jesme, why she wanted to join convent in such a hurry, she replied as excited as she was: "I want to run to Him, leaving the water pot here itself, like how the Samaritan Woman in the Bible did, the moment she recognized Jesus to be her saviour." A loud laughter follows from the nuns. Had it not been for this 'loud laughter', the whole book would have sounded like something written by a woman who has a 'holier than thou attitude'. The 'loud laughter' triggered the disillusionment!

But is the book "unputdownable"? Is it well written and so entertaining that you will not put it down till you reach the last page? The fact that she is a nun and the hope that she is going to reveal the sexual escapades of the nuns and priests are the selling points of the book. Apart from that, the book is the plain narration of the boring life of an average Kerala [Indian] College Teacher, whose life is UGC, FIP and NAAC, and the petty office politics in which the narrator is always the victim.

But this does not play down Sr. Jesme's courage. Considering the cloistered Socio-cultural Mind-set of Malayalis, it is a wonder that this woman had the guts to stand up and say there is something wrong with the system, however unshocking it might be. It is great that this woman had the guts to get out of the system she did not like. It is also encouraging to know that, in spite of her disillusionment, she is trying to hold on to her belief system like dear life, the very same belief system that made her give this innocent answer during her interview: "I want to run to Him, leaving the water pot here itself, like how the Samaritan Woman in the Bible did, the moment she recognized Jesus to be her saviour."

Images from Outlook India, and Penguin. Click on the book title to buy the book online from Penguin.


  1. Dr.Kant Clement GaikwadDecember 27, 2010 at 12:13 AM

    The 'tragedy' that looms larger than life on the Mother of all Churches - the "Roman" Catholic Church, is a matter of grave concern which should compel the conscience of each Catholic to assess and review the ongoing 'MORAL POLLUTION' in the 'IMPREGNABLE FORTIFIED FORTRESSES OF RELIGIOUS CORRIDORS', and then think and pray to take the 'necessary remedial actions',JUST AS CHRIST JESUS has taught us, to 'hunt' out the 'CORRUPT' perverts and send them to the Law enforcement authorities and later to jail. The GREAT DIVIDING LINE between the RELIGIOUS and the LAITY is the major cause of moral corruption. The HOLY FATHER should take stringent action to punish the erring religious . Then also if, the moral turpitudes continue in the clandestine way, as it is flourishing , families should abstain from sending their children to nunneries and seminaries only to become gullible and vulnerable victims of .. abuse at the hands of 'HOUNDS' in 'SHEEP SKIN'. If the ORDINATION OF PRIESTESSES does not become a reality, then it is time , the SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION from a MALE PRIEST should be totally BANNED. Conversion to non-Catholic Churches,OR any other religion, should be kept OPEN as there ARE STRICT GUIDELINES TO DEAL WITH PERVERT activities. MOTHER MARY IS THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE 'ROMAN' CATHOLIC CHURCH. IF ANY OTHER CHURCH EMBRACES MARIAN ADORATION , THE CURTAINS WILL BE DOWN FOR THE CORRUPT WESTERNIZED ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS INCORPORATED WITHIN ITS HOLY PRECINCTS , CORPORATE CULTURE AND ITS SPOILS, UNABATED AND UNCHECKED. I AM ASHAMED OF BEING A ROMAN CATHOLIC and a Christian AND STRONGLY ADVOCATE FOR a NEW "VISHWA CATHOLIC CHURCH of INDIA" which will have SR. JESME AND ALL LIKEMINDED FAITHFUL TO HAVE AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY FOR CLEANSING OF THE CHURCH. JESUS CHRIST's image of humility has been grossly tarnished by the so called 'CUSTODIANS OF FAITH' not only of the Catholic Church but also Churches of all denominations. POVERTY and 'RELIGIOUS' VOWS OF CELIBACY & OBEDIENCE HAVE LARGELY CONTRIBUTED TO THE HORRORS AND TRAUMAS of 'RELIGIOUS victims ' who remain SILENT even if they are victimized. The GOVERNMENT of INDIA should take note of the transgressions of every 'RELIGIOUS' house and 'SAVE' THE VICTIMS WITH ADEQUATE COMPENSATION AND PUNISHMENT of the guilty. Will the Christians be like Christ Jesus, St. Stephen, St.Paul, St. Helena, Maria Goretti, Joan of Arc, the Staines Father and Sons, Mother Teresa, or simply perish in anonymity in the 'CITADELS OF FAITH'? Sr. Jessmes are not born, they are made to be what they are. My hereoines are Sr. Anupama Mary, Sr.Abhaya, Sr. Josephine, Sr. Serena Jacob, Sr.JESME,and all who have perished in the 'Roman' Catholic Church. Those who are bearing the brunts just because they have a very humble background, are Christlike, are true to the doctrines of Faith, are mute in sufferings, are expected to be 'empowered' by the Holy Spirit, and bring to light the 'DARKNESS' that looms larger than life in their 'concealed' fortresses from the 'outside world'. They must leave the corridors of Religious Life and 'EXPOSE' the '... perverts' being ready to face 'MARTYRDOM' . THIS IS THE CLARION CALL WHICH JESUS' DONKEY, DR. K. C. GAIKWAD gives to every 'Religious' who 'suffers' unheard, uncared, and in fear. I AM WITH YOU - A ONE MAN ARMY AGAINST SATAN and his HARDENED ACCOMPLICES.A new chapter has been scripted by Sr. JESME and only pages have to be added for its objective of moral cleansing and survival of the Catholic Church. Contact me on Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2011 - A NEW ERA dawns.....

  2. To me it seems as if 'sequels' of 'moral corruption' in 'Religious robes' is rapidly progressing as a way of life , as Sr. Mary Chandy’s and Sr Florence Mary’s names are also added in the list of 'Victims' or 'Predators'... God only knows many more are yet to emerge from the darkest dungeons of Hell on earth. The poor nuns and gullible victims' voices will never be heard. I HATE THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH FOR 'THE INQUISITION' CRIMES AND ALL THAT CONTINUES UNABATED IN INDIA AND THE WORLD. AFTER ALL WEALTH, WINE AND WOMEN, ARE THE HALLMARKS OF THE MOTHER OF CHURCHES – The "ROMAN" C A T H O L I C CHURCH , THE MOST SCANDALOUS, WICKED, MISOGYNISTIC AND CORRUPT DOMAIN OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE WORLD. 'VATILEAKS' IS NOTHING BUT THE ‘TIP OF THE ICEBERG’. DR. SR. JESME IS A ‘REAL LIFE HEROINE’ TO ME ALONGWITH SR MARY CHANDY, SR FLORENCE MARY , SR ABHAYA, SR ANUPAMA MARY AND ‘ALL GULLIBLE AND VULNERABLE VICTIMS’ OF THE PREDATORS OF EVERY CHURCH ON THIS EARTH. DR.K.C.GAIKWAD 14.6.2012.INDIA