Kids Corner


Have You Put Your Eyes in Them Eyes?





It’s four in the morning. I wake up with a vivid dream. One of those dreams when you are so intently in the moment that nothing else matters. When the moment lingers even after you are wide awake. The moment that makes you write about it even when you have not picked your pen in a while.

The moment - when you have ‘put your eyes in them eyes’ and they have met. The moment that gifts you a gaze that is etched upon your soul - forever.

Liv, my little girl, and I are in a buffet line. First, I see a pair of shining  eyes and a smiling face of the chef, ready to carve a piece of his master creation for us, delighting in joy of giving and sharing his craft.

The very next moment, naturally, I gleam over the table to return his glance by admiring his creativity. Unexpectedly, on the table is a live frog; huge and stuffed as a delicacy - looking straight into my eyes. Our eyes meet. I scream with pain: his helpless pain, his hopeless plea … his quiet submission. Liv screams, I see her turning her face away in horror. I wake up all sweaty. My heart is still beating hard and fast.

My awake thoughts take me back thirty-five or so years ago.

I have to write about it. It is a moment I must not forget. It is the moment I met myself.

“Animals do not have a soul; only human beings do.” Sister Mary Leonie, our school principal and the ‘Moral Science’ teacher read from the text book as she paused both in her reading and her pacing back and forth, that she usually did while reading to us. She looked at us to discuss this concept more.

Dressed in her crisp steel blue robe, white head covering and cape, the Italian born Catholic nun was the person I feared the most in school.

I had many reasons to.

First, my admission to the English medium convent school was conditional, contingent on my proving myself to be a ‘first class’ student by the end of the semester. Else, I would have to go back to the school, where I came from.

Second, my English sucked big time. My elementary school did not have that quality of education, especially in English. My parents knew not a word of that language. I had never seen an English language newspaper or book (outside of the text books) in my life, never heard anyone in the neighborhood speak in English.

Moving to a school with higher standards of education in the sixth grade when one didn’t have good basics in the elementary was tough. Especially tough was putting up with the English language as the only mode of communication allowed. Middle school was hard as is, and my late and provisional admission had caused even more stress for me.

To top it all was a school full of unkind girls of the elitist class, they were ready to laugh at me at every move I made. I was a simple girl with two long braids unfashionably curled up in ribbons, a daughter of unlettered trucker-transporter Sikh parents, lost amongst stylish looking, fluently English-speaking, confident and snobbish offsprings of wealthy and educated people, most of them from non Punjabi or non-Sikh background. I was clearly out of place.

The little English I knew, coming from my lovely Little Flower School, cringed and ducked when I had to speak to any one in the new and intimidating St. Raphaels’ High School. I can still feel the red hot flushes of embarrassment from just being me flashing across my face, when I think of those days. Those flushes had become my best friends in the sixth grade.

“Animals have no soul”, she repeated looking straight into our faces, putting the text book upside down, resting it for a while, for she meant to have a discussion on this topic.

“Any questions?”

The room went silent with uneasiness but a quiet acceptance.

One shaking hand rises up in the air.

“Yes, you! You, the new student”. She gestures me to stand up.

“Have you ever put your eyes in them eyes and seen? They have soul. I have seen,” I said in a trembling voice. 

In my mind’s eye, I could clearly see the gleaming, hopeful, and loving eyes of my then recently lost pet rabbit who was the first true love of my life. His gaze etched on my soul - for eternity.

The whole class burst out laughing.

It was only in the Hindi language class that I ever dared to ask or answer a question because I could express myself speaking in Hindi. This was my first voluntary statement in the English language that I can recall.

I had taken my Punjabi thought, “Tusaa(n) kadey onha diaa akhhaa(n) ch’ akkhaa(n) paa ke takiaa je? Onhaa di rooh hundi e. Mai(n) vekhi e,” and had translated it literally.

As far as I was concerned, it was not an impulsive but a very well translated statement, put together in the few seconds that I had had before she moved on.

It was daring to challenge Sister Leonie and I had done that. No one challenged the ‘Authority’ in that school. Girls worshipped her in the sort of way one worships an angry god. They said they loved her. I still wonder about that kind of love.

“Sit down, you fool!” she exclaimed, with her face stern as ever and hushed the girls into a quick compliance while continuing to make her point.

I sat down flushing red.


But, not regretful.

In fact, slightly proud.

I and only I had the courage to stand up for the entire speechless animal kind. Surely of those girls, many others who were not indoctrinated by that Christian belief would have thought the same as I did. Why didn’t they say a word?

In their complacence, laughter and derision, though, I had found, what they were made up of.

I had found what I was made up of.

I had also found that Sister Mary Leonie surely had not put her eyes in them eyes, or any one else’s eyes for that matter. She had proved it by refusing to see a vulnerable girl, already unsure of her being, and insulting her for mustering up all the courage she had in her.

I had also found that eyes are a window into someone’s soul.

And this morning, in my dream, a soul peeking through a pair of eyes took me to a journey into that moment in my childhood, when I discovered myself.

December 28, 2017


Conversation about this article

1: Tony Singh (Canada), December 28, 2017, 3:04 PM.

Sending our kids to Christian schools is religious and cultural suicide on our community's part.

2: Tejinder Singh Hansra (Sydney, Australia), December 31, 2017, 1:56 AM.

Thank you, Gurmeet Kaur ji, for a lesson in self discovery. Schools need to be more about human values rather than kow-towing the religious indoctrinations of their pay masters. Khalsa schools or Islamic schools or Christian schools or Hindu schools or Jewish schools. These schools narrow the visions and hopes and dreams of inquisitive and clean minds and create boxes around them for all life so they cannot see God in All and thus have created intolerance and differences.

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