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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Amen - The Autobiography of a Nun - Book review

She comes across as any other girl who loves literature, poetry, arranging cultural activities and watching movies. Yes she is a movie buff. Like you and me she too works and faces office politics. She too gets angry when met with injustice at her place of work. The only difference between her and us is that she is a nun. Amen autobiography of Sister Jesme is a thrilling read. Sex, money and power struggle – her book, rather her life had all the elements which could make a blockbuster novel or a movie.

Organized religion is an organized crime, where the weaker sections are exploited. Sister Jesme opens the doors of the church and the convent to show the dirty picture behind the curtains which speak hollow words of chastity, charity, honesty and justness.

So this young girl decides to become a nun at the age of seventeen after a Retreat at her college. Gets married to the Lord. Yes, cards are printed for her marriage and even a tea party is hosted. Though Lord is her only husband, she is compelled to have sexual relations with another nun in the convent. She exposes her naked body to a priest and sees his too.

Nuns generally carry an impression of being benign, loving and serving the society self-lessly. But the book reveals that they too are ordinary humans like us. They too have greed for money, urge for power and lust for bodily pleasures. They too have class system amongst themselves, where poor, uneducated sisters are forced to do all the menial tasks and are looked down upon by the higher class sisters. The system has its genesis in the divide between the white and the wog sisters. All sisters in general are given substandard treatment on account of their gender. So they can't hear the confessions and conduct many other rites like the priests who are males and who even enjoy the luxury of drinking liquor.

Nuns are at the helm of the Christian educational institutions and make huge monies inter alia by capitation fees for seat allocations. Amen also exposes the corrupt system of marking and allotting conduct certificates in the Christian institutions. Not all is bad about the life of a nun. The age old sisters are looked after with great love and affection by the younger ones. The poor priests do not have such a good fortune in their old age as they are entrusted to lethargic male servants.

Sanyasa is not for everyone. The same is evident from the facts revealed in the book that out of every 10 nuns one is mentally disturbed. The book also quotes the finding of Father Joy Kalliath that 25 percent of the nuns in Kerala are discontented with their consecrated lives. Thanks to the vow of obedience, the nuns are not emancipated women. They are often kept under submission by the fear of revenge by the priests.

Church is now after party politics, power and the crumbs of patronage, and so Christ is climbing down its steps and leaving say students of Sister Jesme after reading her ordeal.

In Amen sister Jesme comes across as an ordinary woman who has many grudges against many people. Many years spent in praying and reading bible seem to be vain as she does not come across as a forgiving person. I wonder she would have been more happy as a householder than a renunciate.

That apart as a book Amen is an interesting read. It is a gripping story indeed. There are many people who get sucked in, but there are very few who finally find their way out. Sister Jesme must be congratulated that finally she found her own way. Her writing style is simple yet spellbinding. The book must be read for many reasons. First of all it will show the ugly picture of the holy men and women. Secondly by reading the book you will support Sister Jesme who had the guts to challenge the mighty institution. We require whistle-blowers like her in every organization. The book reveals that like any drug, religion too is insidious. So pray from your home, don't fall prey to the middlemen, no matter to which religion you belong. Amen.

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