<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 132 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 5, 2003

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Getting Ready For School

Richa Jha

My tiny son attends a big school these days. A big school with a big library, big playgrounds, a big reception, a big canteen, big classrooms, and a really big swimming pool. A world by itself, it's like being on a foreign terrain, yet not quite so. Thanks to the school, my tiny son has already learnt the big things in life, things which his parents spent a lifetime learning. Things like what all he wants from his class, how he wishes to go about acquiring this knowledge, and so on. As I said, it's a big school with big ideas.

Naturally, children who attend this school, or similar other schools, come from big houses in big cars. School buses, though passé, are available all the same for students who don't have big cars. My tiny son has, but a small house to return to in a small car (he's indeed too tiny to be sent in the school bus). It is good that he isn't big enough to notice his smallness. (I know what's on your mind, but how he got into this school is not something I will share with you!).

I have had my share of experiences too, in the process. My learning methodology falls under the 'observe and learn' category. But it didn't happen in a day. Nor can it be explained in a sentence. Therefore, I take the liberty of using this space for it.

Mums go to school every morning to drop their kids off. Dads also go to school to drop their kids off, and to look at these mums. On the first day of his school, I put on my best suit, best shoe, and combed my hair twice. I felt happy dressing up like that. It felt almost like getting ready for a wedding reception. I noticed that the other mothers too had got ready for wedding parties. But since they came in bigger cars, they had bigger parties to attend. Which meant that besides having combed their hair four times, they had also worn lipstick, lipliner, eyeliner, eye shadow, foundation, and other items, which I don't know the names of. “But that's alright”, I thought, “after all, it's a momentous day in our lives, and it happens only once”. That day, while the kids were away, we mothers sat at the reception for three hours for that unfortunate exigency of any of the brats deciding to holler and bring the big school roof down. Kids may decide to act difficult at times, you'd never know.

The next day was pretty much like the first day. Since we had to spend our time at the swanky reception of the school, I combed my hair twice again (a personal record of sorts) and I wore the same best dress and shoe. Naturally, the other mums had decided to do the same. We mothers do tend to think alike.

That is when I noticed. That though their make-up remained the same, they wore a different set of best-suit and best-shoe that day, and came in a different big car. Now that felt odd. What did they have two set of bests for? Maybe, just maybe, they knew very many people in new and old Dhaka, and one set was for all the parties in new Dhaka, the other one was for parties in old Dhaka. Yeah, it made sense.

The next day, my bafflement was even more acute because I spied a third set of bests (yes, including the car), while I was still in my only best set. I'll not lie before you, but for the first time in my life, I felt inadequate. So that evening I went ahead and bought myself a new best dazzling suit. Something that could well pass off for my own wedding dress. The fourth day, a more confident me walked into the school, but to my utter dismay, my brand new dress still paled before their fourth set of (old) bests. I was distraught.

Later, once the children had settled in their classes, we mothers had to go to school twice everyday -- albeit for very brief intervals to drop them off and to pick them up. It became even more intolerable for me, because now I could see a new best-set for the morning, another one for the afternoon!

I will not bore you with any more details of my trauma. It suffices to say that soon The Hubby saw me go on a new-best-suit buying binge that troubled him. After several days of observing me, he walked up to me, showed me his empty wallet and said shaking his head, “no wifey, won't do. This won't do. You have to decide now. You can either buy yourself new clothes or live in this house. Because soon, if you don't stop, we may have to move into a smaller house. I can't afford both”.

So I stopped. Anything smaller would be disastrous. My latest possessions wouldn't have fitted in there! But now that I had moved beyond my personal threshold of four best-suits, I think I too had acquired a new way of thinking. I could no longer be seen wearing the same clothes twice. Trouble was, how would I manage without any more shopping. This was a messy circumstantial cul-de-sac I had landed myself in.

The solution, and relief, came in the form of The Hubby volunteering to do the school duty every day. He is only too happy to do it, and I need not explain why. Now that I no longer go to the school, I no longer need so many best-suits. So they've all been packed and put away. Perhaps, I may soon have a garage sale. The entry will be by invitation only, because I don't want those moms coming in. Oh, how embarrassing it will be for us all, just think!



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