Mary’s story

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Ermelinda Makkimane from Divar has self-published her debut book ‘Her Story’, which gives a woman’s perspective on Mother Mary. She shares more with NT BUZZ

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

Q. ‘Her Story’ tells Mother Mary’s story in her own words. What prompted you to tackle this theme?

This theme came to me during one of my afternoon ruminations in breeze-filled Naroa, a remote hamlet on the island of Divar. So you could say the theme chose itself.

Q. When did you begin writing this book?

It started as a poem sometime in late March this year, so definitely a lockdown poem, in that respect. I thought it would be short, like maybe two pages. But the words kept flowing and it expanded. I shared part of it on the Goa Writers’ group that I am part of and those who responded, encouraged me to go on.

Q. What was the kind of research that you had to do while working on this book?

Actually, I have done a two-year Bible study programme for lay persons in the Archdiocese of Bombay. By some quirk of circumstance, I did the course twice. So, reinforced knowledge helped me locate the scriptural references. Even I was surprised at the ease with which I was writing.

Q. Writing on religious themes requires tact. How did you go about tackling this challenge?

The Ministry of the Word course is an in-depth course that trains its participants to be teachers. And being a teacher, one is always careful, tactful. But I did not find myself being ‘mindful’ or ‘deliberate’ while writing.

Q. What made you choose to write the book in a poetic style?

Poetry comes more easily to me because, maybe, I have less time on hand, and so I try to compress into poetry what would take longer with prose. Also reading out aloud and making changes in poetry is more organic, say, than in prose.

Q. In your story you write of the presence of two women helping Mary during her delivery. Was this something that came about through your research or is it how you imagine the scene to be?

I had read a children’s story long ago about the inn-keeper’s wife being the one to help Mary in her labour. So that was at the back of my mind. However, while writing, one woman became two. There’s also the need to bust the myth that there was divine intervention at the time of Jesus’ birth. It was a straightforward, painful delivery. Period. It is important to understand this. One more factor that could have contributed to my description is that, India was seeing migrants walking homeward around the time this poem was being written. Migrant women were delivering babies, getting up and continuing their walk. How different was their journey from Mary’s? Still there will be people who can’t stomach that – that Mary was not divine, just flesh and blood.

Q. What are your thoughts on the perspectives of women characters in the Bible?

I’d say a lot of what the Biblical women characters thought and felt was suppressed by the patriarchal male authors. They were just indifferent. Two stories that stand out are the woman suffering from haemorrhage and a tiny story lurking in Luke’s gospel where he heals a woman with a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath. These characters are of women suffering from diseases that the Jews in those times found abominable. Such persons could not be touched. Nor could they touch others. What bitterness must have been stored up inside their hearts and minds?

Q. This is the first book in a series of first-person reflections. Which other Bible women interest you and why?

The ones sidelined. Lot’s wife interests me, so does Mary Magdalene, the woman haemorrhaging; the Syro-Phoenician woman who dialogues or rather has an exchange of words which Jesus. Lot’s wife, I felt, after Eve, is much maligned. I am going to write about her point of view.

Q. Through this book, you also want to emphasise on what the female biblical characters can offer today’s readers. Could you elaborate?

Living in a post-modern world does not mean that men and women have sorted out their issues, especially of a power struggle within the framework of the family, the workplace, etc. Reading about the biblical women’s perspectives may create an awareness and initiate a conversation. Maybe that will bring a change. Someone who read ‘Her Story’ told me it didn’t work for him. He could not stomach Mary suffering like some migrant. But that is just the point I’m trying to make. She did suffer like that. There’s no taking away from that. This is something we have to understand. Mary is on a pedestal in the Church for partaking in God’s plan. And, as my book states, Mary keeps wondering how, how can such-and-such event be part of God’s plan?

Q. Was writing books something you always wanted to do? What do you do besides writing?

I’ve nurtured a secret desire to write for several years but only found an outlet in the past year, especially after doing two creative writing courses organised by the Joao Roque Literary Journal. As per job profile, I was an editor. I am also mother to four kids. They keep me busy.

Q. What made you decide to release this book during the pandemic, especially given that this is your first book?

What better time than now? More people are reading these days, isn’t it?