Monday, April 21, 2008

Out of fashion childhood Stuff

Walking to school and back:
School was 20 minutes of a stroll from home and my folks like everyone else's were not worried about cars running us over. They would only be reasonably worried if we did not turn up home after the street lights came on in the evening ! I used to walk to school for a few years till Dad got a bicycle for me. I usually carried an umbrella along, since it would get very Sunny in the afternoon. The way back was lined with housing blocks, each with a small green lawn in the front and rows of hedges with colorful butterfly bush flowers. I would pluck all the flowers I could and disseminate them into tiny 'flowerlets' to fill my umbrella. Close home, I would open the umbrella over my silly head and stand looking up with glee at a burst of tiny flowers raining on me.

6.7.08 : Ruhi and I found those flowers yesterday in one bylane near Nallagarh Fort in Solan where went for a small holiday !

Making a neighborhood Group to save the world.
As 8 - 9 year old girls, we used to read Enid Blytons like they were going out of fashion. Inspired by Enid Blyton's 'Secret Seven' ( a children's secret society who held regular meetings to solve mysteries that have baffled local police) we started our own secret seven society. In the book series the Seven had a secret password, a badge, and secret headquarters in a garden shed - in our own version we were seven girls though I only remember four names - Gauri, Pallavi, Sujata, Me, ??, ??, ??. We had weekly afternoon meetings at each other's houses by rotation and some mothers (unlike my own ) would actively participate by sending us biscuits and lemonade !

Running amok in school during the recess, like wild animals set free.
The whole school had the recess together - everyone ran out on to the grounds with their tiffins and made their own lunch groups and sat on benches, on the grass, under the tree and wherever else to have their lunch alfresco ! It was one huge informal party in the school grounds. The boys would steal guavas from the trees behind the convent. I remember someone once sneaked to the verandah of the Sister's hostel where washed underclothes were put out to dry. He put guavas under a bra cup and lay it out for display, before running away to safety ! The next day all children were banished from anywhere near the hostel.

Sleeping on the terrace :
For a few years we lived in a flat with a small terrace and in the Summers it was usual to put out the folding charpoys and sleep in the open. I remember learning about the constellations lying wide eyed under the starry blue night. And waking up to a misty pink sky and the cacophony of birds.

Making Janamashtami 'Jhanki' (Lord Krishna's birth story mock up) down to every detail and inviting the neighborhood kids to look at the baby krishna in his basket !

Making chalk Rangoli outside the house on every Diwali 

Playing the games of our times, which lasted till the nineties but are now extinct, at least in Delhi : 

Oonch Neech : The den would announce "oonch" ( high) and all the kids would go scurrying around looking for any surface higher than on which the Den was standing. If the Den said "neech) ( lower).....

Langdi Taang : The 'Den" hopped along on one leg trying to catch the next less abled den

Shivaji cutting the cake : The den chases the kids and while he pursues someone, you dart across the chaser & his prey shouting a war cray ' Shivaji cut the cake' and then the Den chases the one who cut across ! Why Shivaji ? Dunno ! I want to know.

Posham Pa bhai Posham Pa: Two kids would join hands after stretching arms over their heads to make a gate through which the other kids would pass singing 'posham pa..' not sure what's the climax but I think you grab the last kids in your trap as soon as you finish the song 1 

I wrote a letter to my father and on the way I dropped it : Bunch of Kids sit in a circle and the Den goes around dropping the letter ( hanky) behind any one of them. The one who gets the hanky behind them chases the den and if he fails, he circles around with the hanky as everyone sings ' I wrote a letter..."

Vish Amrit : The den runs after the others and curses " Vish" ( poison) and you have to sit down while the others try and pat your head back saying " Amrit: ( nectar) to revive you. But if you get too close to the den, you may be 'vish'ed too !

Chain - chain : The Den ;catches' you and you hold hands till you've got everyone else on the chain chasing those who are left.

Mendhak Choo: The den impersonates a frog by sitting down and hopping along to catch others by extending his leg ! 

Chidiya Ud

Chupan Chupai : hide and seek till much after dark running around apartment blocks and playgrounds

Saan Seedi, Patte-pe-patta, Ludo, Carom Board, Teen-do- Paanch, Rummy...

Lots more to add ! Will do so as it comes to me....

Monday, April 14, 2008

God of all 'News'

6:00 PM this evening, Ruhi lights a couple my favorite aurobindo sandalwood incense sticks, keeps the tiny Ganpati incense holder on the dressing table, solemnly folds her hands and shuts eyes tightly after checking her pose in the mirror. I fondly tap her on the head and ask : What are you doing ?

Ruhi looks very pleased with herself and is trying to better her 'namaste' pose in the mirror. She says : Praying to God.

I am curious to know who she prays to. I recall my praying to Jesus Christ in the Gurudwara as a 6 year old. The after effect of attending a Catholic school ! But here is a child with an array of religious messages and choices ! I chose not to ask. I know she is managing well and seems to naturally understand the concept of one supreme power and many ways to communicate with it. In her simple 6 year old way, she talks about it often. So I ask instead " What did you pray for ?"

She says : "I asked God to finish all the News ! "

" ...Because News is bad. People do bad things and die in the News. I don't like the News at all".

I hadn't thought about what a horrible world it would seem to a child who hears messages about accidents, murder, car snatching, kidnapping and the like. Even while we think she is playing boo boo with her baby brother and not listening to us discussing the newspaper. Even when I think I am careful about blocking sordid messages on TV or the real world. Sometimes there is no escape.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I proposed, God disposed : As usual.

Thats Ruhi on her first day to 'big' school. Class 1-A.
I had eagerly waited 3 years for Ruhi to start proper school. These three years have been a journey which made me wiser or so I think, even more cynical in case that is possible and less hyper about situations I have no control over. 
I don't know if it was my good or bad luck that M quit her  job with the most sought after school in the city to take the top job at the most sought after Play school instead, before my kids were born. Good luck perhaps because my kids sailed into the Play school without the agony others faced, bad luck because : only if she had still been at 'that' school I so wanted !! 

Sounds funny now but over these years I have realised that if you are ambitious about your children's primary education environment, you must be careful about the choices you make in your own life - choosing your own school to begin ( better go to that same school you want your Kid to go to LOL), the person you marry, his bank balance and the residential address he inherits ( within 8 Kms of the school you want for your kids), the cars you drive, the foreign degree you pay for, the career that you opt for etc etc etc. 

If you have lived the life of a Maverick and worn it on your sleeve then you better be prepared to reap what you have sown when the time comes! Like I did.

When Ruhi turned three I enthusiastically started the rounds of the schools for her pre nursery admission with a firm belief that it wasn't as difficult as other neurotic mothers made it sound to be. By the end of that year and another, I was another neurotic mother myself after we were rejected yet again for pre Nursery and Nursery ! By the third year I had given up mentally but did not stop going through the motions. I must also mention that for Ruhi's admission I have done what I always thought was the unthinkable for me ! I made a list of ALL the people I knew and I asked them for that elusive 'Pull" the strangely nonsensical loaded thing that one needs to have along with everything else to survive this city !

This post is an epitaph for all those who pushed me harder than the rest on the dizzy school admission merry go round ( I do love this word ! )

One among many others was husband's cousin who for years had been the guy with connections. Someone who always talked about dinner meetings with Ministers and seemed to know everyone important enough in 'The' community. At his own initiative he assured me that because of his fondness for us he had a seat pre-reserved for Ruhi in 'that' school in which lesser mortals may need to pay up upto Rs 5 Lacs for a Nursery seat. I gratefully accepted and told him to hold on to that seat till I've tried and failed on my own merit. After the inevitable had happened,  I gave him an SOS call 2 years ago and said I was taking his rain check. 
As I realised very quickly afterwards, there had been no seat, no connections, no intentions. It was just one of the things that people with big egos and bigger insecurities say to sound important ! I was amused to find out that he was giving the same assurances to another gullible aspirant mother this year! 

Then there was this 'agent' who was introduced to me through a close friend of mine. My friend would have done just anything to help and Mr agent was a government employee and friend's aunt was his boss. As a favour and obligation to my friend's aunt he regularly took me for a ride upto the school reception ( same school as above@ Rs 5 Lacs per seat) and after an hour of waiting would come back and say 'madam ji aaj busy hain".

Then, another well connected brother in law of a close friend, who said he would have helped if only he knew the details about the kid. I must have given him the details on phone, fax, e mail over and over again but after each lapse of time and memory he would ask the details again. 

And many, many others, each different in their quirk but the with the same cliched result ! I must also mention here for posterity that our old driver who now works for a VIP ex politician got so disturbed by the situation that he threatened to quit unless his perplexed 'madam' gave him a recommendation letter for school admission for Ruhi.  There was also an estranged brother in law who I havn't spoken to for years, but who, for some reason went out of the way to help. But no thanks I didn't need it.  Though perhaps if it was really the school I wanted, I would have compromised on ethics ? Thank God I didn't get to finding out.

I also used to wonder what the future had in store for Ruhi -  she seemed to have been born on a particularly unlucky schooling star ! To beat the stress I used to listen a lot to my favourite Art of Living music those days - now, even if I accidentally hear that music again, it stresses me out for no reason at all, just by bringing back unconscious associations ! LOL

I mention those days here because memories of the misery and the anger are slowly losing their edge.  I always want to remember that no matter what happens, there is a way and that is the only right way  for us.  Also to record for the future that I did try everything under the sun to get her in that list of a handful schools that everyone sends their Kids to. Nothing worked. 

It was as if she had her own course charted out for her - I used to spend sleepless nights wondering if she was going to stay at home after her nursery class which was the very last class at her Play School. Just before her session ended, the school announced they were starting a proper school ! If I step back and look, she's grown up playing and learning with a bunch of friends since they were all 2 years old ! They are going to spend the next 12 years together in the same school that has made her incredibly happy and secure in the play group atleast.  Even as her mother tore hair over worrying what comes next !

The new school is straight out of my imagination - like I had dreamt it should be except that its far from home and expensive. But I am wearing rose tinted glasses yet and I think I am more excited about her starting new school than she is about it, though for the last 2 days she has refused to take off her new found school uniform ! Lets see how long this lasts.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Growing up with Rayyan !

Little Rayyan attended the first day in his new class today. All through last year he made no pals though I ended up befriending a majority of the mothers thanks to the amount of time I spent trying to make him 'settle' in school and also thanks to the string of never ending birthday parties that Rayyan & Ruhi attended with a vengeance !!

His new class teacher, Ira had taught Ruhi two years ago and is a friend of a close friend of mine. The other senior teacher Geita, I am told is the best at making the worst of them 'settle' in school ! Rayyan is lucky to be in their class and I really hope and wish that he blossoms under them.

We reached just in time but the class was already full of mummys and a few daddys with a handful of boisterous, noisy kids. I could see familiar faces and got that happy feeling of being 'at home'. I realize that after 4 years of attending this 'society' kind of play school I have nicely settled here in my own skin with the discovery that my hang ups about the snob set were mostly my imagination. And that 75 % of everyone is the same under whatever clothes and pretenses they wear ! I have Rayyan and his Class to thank for that.

There were a few new children including a Korean kid with a really long name ! His mother tried to make him shake hands with Rayyan but both ended thrusting their chins to their chests so she gave up. Ira madam made a lot of friendly advances which were met with the same chin into the chest reaction ! For the longest time he sat hugging me tight, sobbing in between and taking reassuring peeks at my face that it was indeed his mother holding him. The other kids were running around, rubbing crayons on paper, painting, snatching toys and I looked around trying to find any others like my poor little scared boy. There was one other who was standing clutching the maid's hand and looking as if he was going to burst into tears any moment. His parents could not make it to school it seems, so his expression was understandable. There was also a pretty, dark eyed girl who looked grumpy but she is the Principal's granddaughter and I figured it wasn't anxiety but plain boredom to be attending class ! So that singled out Rayyan as the only one with real anxiety...I clutched him tighter. After all its only me who will ever understand !

A bit later he suddenly jumped out of my lap as Man Singh, the pottery teacher walked in. He rushed up to him to beg for some play dough and started rolling it into a ball. That was the first sign of excitement he showed and though he sings and dances endlessly to the TV at home, he climbed back into my lap again as soon as the singing dancing routine began. 

As the other kids got more and more excited by the music he slipped out of my lap again and quietly picked up a brush and started painting on the small easel in the corner. He didn't stop till all the dancing and music was over. Then he quietly walked out of the classroom and came back with his hands clean, dripping water. He had walked up to the washroom a few yards away from class and come back on his own. I could not believe myself ! I'd like to believe that its not so much about self confidence, he is just not comfortable among strangers...

After class he had a nasty fight with a little girl over his favorite swing and finally got his way with her. Then he told me I could go and fetch Ruhi (from her old KG classroom where she sat staring nostalgically at her old teachers as new Kids attended their first day). When I came back, he was walking around the play area immersed in a pool of tears. A bunch of kids had occupied his favorite swing !

Another year at the Nursery school ! Another year of growing up for the both of us to do !