(The kid(s) in the pic isn’t me – it’s Noyna, Jeriya or Miriam, I had bobbed hair until at least 5th standard)
“First line – ‘My-name-is-Parvathy Sarat (Roll No. 28),’” I read out from my English Composition note’s ‘Myself’ page laid out open under my desk. “You’ll have to write your name,” I added in a hushed tone.
“Be soft, Sunitha teacher is making her rounds,” Noyna (Roll No. 26) hissed, almost giggling.
Seated between the two of us, the ever-compliant and innocent Parvathy (Roll No. 27) was hunched on our request, almost lying on top of her answer sheet now, scribbling Myself away with formidable acumen. Noyna and I exchanged messages (literally) behind her back.
“How does she know Myself?”
“She studied for the Unit Test like we were supposed to,” we nervously giggled some more. “Ayyo Paru teacher!”
“Okay next line ‘I – am- 6 -years –old.’”
“Edo shhhhhh she’s looking.”
Being equally weak at English or being new to Class I-C at Holy Angels’ ISC, or more probably because we came by the same blue Ananthapuri travels, Noyna and I were best friends.
Hers was the first stop in the morning, mine the second. We took turns to sit by the window. Unless we’d had a fight – then the person in the mood to ‘Edo sorry’ first would sacrifice their seat as a token of reignited bestfriendship.
We ate Noyna’s jamcakes in the evenings that her Ammachi bought her, blush pink and white with a coating of snowy coconut sprinkles. We’d watch sunlight sifting through gaps in clouds and declare ‘God’ was peeking down at us (I was a staunch believer of God when I was with her). For no particular reason, another bestfriend duo like ourselves was our enemy– we decided we were smarter and cooler, and made fun of everything they did (and not very unloudly) between ourselves.
We were innocent and cruel, like kids are.
Life Crisis No. 1 (English Composition No. 2) :
“Copy down My Family from the blackboard.”
Teacher reads it out for us:
I – have – a – small – family. There – are – dash – members – in – my – family. Fill in the dash with number of members in your family – How many of you have a brother or a sister? Goooood, you write 4 okay?? How many of you are an only child? Goooood, you write 3.
I waited for the Goooood for the 5-member family specimen I represented – it never came. Was it still a small family if there were 5 members? Could I write 5? Mine had never struck me as particularly small anyway.
As the other kids proceeded to copy down the lines, I looked from left to right and front and behind to see if there was anyone clueless as me, making a mental note to confront my parents and my brothers. Jeriya had only one sister. So did Roshni, Parvathy, Meera pretty much everyone I knew.
Then I found Amina with two sisters 😀 We skipped to the teacher, she laughed and said Yes as we waited with abated breaths.
Class II : My Family haunted me again. This time I knew I had a small family.
Class III : Gowri’s adventures with the 10m long python on the road.“Really?” “Yes, you can ask my sister, she was there too!” Of course we believed her, that’s what we did – share our own stories and believe each others’. Kids don’t lie, kids are just creative.
She brought to class the whole kitchen machinery (toy set) – gas stove, cylinder, vessel, and the tiny Sachin/Sehwag figure you got with Horlicks. Under our desk, the whole story played out – as Noyna, Jeriya and I filled the steel vessel with water, Gowri delivered the narration – she was the best. (“It’s getting late for Sehwag’s bath. Let’s put water on the stove” – see, like I said it doesn’t sound as good when I say it :P). Laughter riot and a shouting riot from Deepa teacher ensued.
Class IV :
Group Song for School Day. A flock of frilled frocks. You girls look like angels! (I looked like shit). But surely Angels, with ungrimed and polished black Bata buckle shoes and new white socks pulled up right upto where the fat calves wouldn’t let them climb up.
Caroline teacher taught us Little Women – in her crisply pressed sarees with stiff pleats. I knew her finger rings and earrings and what sarees she wore them with. On days she didn’t, I wondered if she’d misplaced them the last time and couldn’t find them in the morning rush as her own father called behind her Paalu kudichitt pooo, like mine did in the mornings.
You just had to sit and look into your books, while she read in her great reading voice. It was a story with Christmas presents and bedtime prayers and pudding and drawing pensuls. My life was He-Man on Doordarshan and cricket with neighbours and monsoon mangoes so the new world charm was way too much.
In the afternoon English-II class, we sat in our blue checked pinafores and ties and shirts as the sun threw light onto the open red corridor outside, bent over our tiny texts – some shared, others on their own. And Little Women by Louisa May Alcott would play out. It was about 4 girls whose father was away at some war and her mother kept reminding them over dinner and over prayer how they had to be good girls and how they were looking forward to playing out The Pilgrims’ Progress when their father returned. I thought of myself as Amy because of my stupid nose, though I knew I’d be Jo when I grew up – everyone adored Jo. Though I knew Jo was actually Caroline teacher, especially when Jo cut her beautiful long hair towards the end to save money for her family (I’m sorry for the spoiler) – Caroline teacher was brimming with pride, giving away her little secret. But Jo was the best, so I wasn’t going to out her.
At the year end, Roshni, Akhila and I were class toppers, and we were asked to pick ‘any book’ we liked from the school library. We returned to class, they had Class VI texts with them (headstart or whatever makes sense to 10 year olds). My logic was parents would buy us those anyway, so I picked what looked like a puzzle/games book for kids. As our class teacher skimmed through it and closed it with a grin, I noticed it said Class Zero.
Yes, I think that confirms I had a disturbing childhood.
Sorry for the abrupt ending though, this should’ve been posted long ago. And a Happy New Year!