Thursday, July 25, 2019

How a one-armed boy brought cricket to St Teresa's

The old, old Holy Family Church, one of the first Catholic churches built in Nairobi. I don't think the school has been built at this stage, although one of the buildings might have been adapted.

St Teresa’s School, Eastleigh

By Kersi Rustomji

After a week of idling about in Nairobidad took us to the Catholic Parochial School on the eastern edge of the capital Nairobi, at the rear of the main post office. A rather severe-looking nun Mother Gertrude, who did turn out to be very kali, strict, interviewed us. At the end of it she asked dad, ‘And will the boys be learning scriptures too Mr Rustomji.’ ‘Oh, indeed Mother indeed. They are to know all about good Lord Jesus and all, but you are not to convert them into Christians,’ he replied.

Mother Gertrude and Mother Stanislaw, together with lay teachers, all ladies, ran the school. Once more I made new friends and enjoyed school, except for one reason. Whenever during scripture lessons I asked the question to which the teacher had no convincing answer, I contested the matter. Invariably I was sent off to the resident priest, whose solution to the problem was to crack my hand with a thick round ebony stick. This went on for a long time and in fact, I had an injury to the bone below my thumb.

Finally, when I was once more shunted to the priest's office, I stood at his desk stuck out my hand and said to him, ‘Father, you know that this is not going to stop me asking the questions.’ He looked at me for a few moments, rose from his chair and replied, ‘Oh, begone from here, Kersi. I too am tired of hitting you.’ There was no more punishment after this and I too ceased asking too many questions, for I came to realize that there would never be really satisfying answers.
Not much has changed from the first time Kersi and I saw the gleaming St Teresa's Girls School in the early 1950s

Later the school moved from the city centre to St. Teresa's School in Eastleigh, which had a very large vacant playing field. It was not long before I got the boys to dig out and make a cricket pitch in the black cotton soil. I then went to a local Punjabi contractor and got him to drop us a truckload of marram. We filled the dug-out pitch with it then compacted it with a large hand roller he had also loaned. 

We now needed all the playing gear and if possible, a mat and I worked out a plan. I obtained a letter from Mother Stanislaw, which stated that we the kids were keen on cricket and had already dug and made a pitch and that we now needed rest of the gear. Making copies, we approached sports stores and clubs. As I knew Jehangir Jabbar the well known Nairobi Gymkhana cricketer and manager of the club I first approached him. 

To my greatest surprise, he gi\ave us several old but usable bats, balls, stumps, gloves, a few pads but also an old but good mat. And the mat proved to be the problem. We had to find a truck to carry the huge full-length mat to the school and my Punjabi contractor friend was not able to help, as his truck was very busy. We were stumped, as we did not have funds to hire a truck. Then one morning a solution appeared. 

Every morning a Goan parent came in an army truck to drop his kids to school. We talked about approaching him and one morning I went up to him and explained our problem to him. He said that he had seen us work on the pitch and he would let us know the next morning. In the morning, we formed a cluster near the gate to meet him. He called us over and said that he could get the truck at three in the afternoon and bring the mat over. We cheered and ran off to tell Mother Stanislaw and she said that we could store the mat in the boys drinking room.

 A month from the day we had started we played our first game between two teams picked from the school. From it we later picked a school XI and played other schools in the area; yes I was elected the skipper.

Kwaheri bwana...

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