I was in slumber at 5:45am on the 16th of January 2006 when I woke up to the noise of a toothbrush falling on the floor of the bathroom, which was next to my bedroom. My FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL was supposed to be a BIG acid test for me, but for some reason I do not know why it cost my parents sleep the previous night. With the usual cuddles and fiddles I was bought into the world of reality that morning. Brushing with my favourite “Pusy Cat” toothbrush and gurgling and spitting the water with a big thrust always excited my Dad more than my Mother. Little did I know about the surprise, which was waiting for me at that time. Out of my normal routine, my parents decided to give me an incentive to have shower with my Dad (sparing the bubble bath), which was only a happening in the weekends.
Both my Mom and Dad created a lot of excitement in me about the good things of going to the school. In principle I was also enthusiastic and jubilant about going to the play school with my fancy little snack box with glittery stickers and my cute little teddy(stickers) adorning the sides of the boxes. My water bottle was transformed into a little aquarium with some colourful fishes all around. Believe me, I was also given a little lunch box with only very little noodles and ofcourse a lot of optimism from my parents that I would come back with an empty lunch box. This made me think that I was a BIG girl and put a lot of burden on my little shoulders.
I had hand picked my own dresses for the week to wear for the school. But I presume like most parents do, I was a little disappointed with a slight change in my selection for MONDAY (the very FIRST DAY OF MY SCHOOL). I took it in my stride and happily got myself into their choice of costume. The other big challenge my Dad felt was the fact that I opted not to wear the nappy (I imagined myself going to the real SCHOOL where big girls and boys go). Would I keep up or exceed the expectations of my Dad, Mom and Grandma was ofcourse the biggest question of the day?
Traditional and ofcourse the branded colour for girls kept to its name again when I was all dressed up in pink when I was looking for my black shoes to match my Dad’s office wear. We both sat in the lounge and I made him proud by saying that “both Dad and Ramya are wearing black shoes and white socks today“. I could not wait anymore as soon as the shoes were in my feet and therefore quickly grabbed my water bottle and my little “BJ” bag to say “Bye Bye” to my grandma. I was asked to keep up our Indian culture and make grandma and the gods happy by asking them for their blessings. Blessings were what I was told to expect, but instead I ended up with a few kisses all over my face from my grandma. Not a new thing for me, so I did not cherish it much. Well, I only pondered why our Indian culture did not encourage any TOYS as a gift for the kids for the “FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL”
I was parading inside the house with my school outfit and briefly went outside to see if anyone would compliment me on my attire. There I saw in a wink, our housemaid “Ruth” who was just coming into the compound. I shouted “Ruth, look at me, I am going to the school today”. Yes, you guessed it right. The prompt actually came from my Dad who was just behind me feeling proud of my enthusiasm in going to the school. Honestly, none of them at home could neither believe nor were optimistic on my FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL. We took off from home after a few more kisses from and to my grandma and a lots of “BYE BYE” to the security guards and Ruth. When we were driving out of the compound, my Dad gently whispered to my Mom in the car saying “this grandma is really cheeky and cunning in getting so many of these precious kisses from Ramya.” Well, only I knew the ultimatums, which my grandma gives to me if I don’t. (She seems to capitalise too much on her recent visit to Sydney and often threatens me that she would pack off and go back, or the other most common thing is she would say “she will only play with other kids and not me”)
We reached the school before my parents could finish giving me all the advices during that short drive. Now here comes the reality with a BIG BANG for me. Yes, we were really in front of a big building with a few cars parked in the sides and a big board with a cartoon character presumably the “Peter Pan”. I ascertained my thoughts by asking my Dad, “Dad is this the school?”. “Yes darling” replied my Dad with a smile blended with a bit of fear . I got off happily and took a brief walk through the beautiful rain forest kind of a place, only to show my first sign of reluctance and unhappiness at the slightly clogged and marshy water in the first step of the school which was the courtesy of a heavy rain the previous night. My first words were that “Mom, this place is dirty and wet. We shall go back to our home”. This landed as an atom bomb for my parents who was all geared up to give me a totally new experience.
Right at this moment my parents felt that their ACID TEST has just begun. We stepped into the school, which was very colourful with so many good toys and play stuff and ofcourse a few neatly dressed cordial staff. My Dad was probably expecting to see some clowns and some funny people / characters like him to attract and accustom the play school students. But he was definitely wrong. All three of us were wandering the place when we were met by the Managing Director of the school. Dad and Mom started displaying their typical parental responsibilities by asking the MD a lot of questions to ensure the safety and welfare of me. I was becoming absolutely restless at this stage and felt that I was missing my Dotsun, Candy, Barney, Angela, Sisi, Pinky, Blue bear and ofcourse Mickey. Not having a clue about my intentions of going back, my Dad was finalising my enrolment in the school and was briefly explaining my routines and other characteristic things about me. In the background I saw Tarun coming into the school with his parents. Tarun did not even show any sign of him being at an alien place. Another familiar face after a while was Aditi who seemingly came on her own.
While my Dad was involving in some fellowship, my Mom and myself briefly played with some great toys there and interestingly in a very short time I could make the big teddy bear at the school go to sleep. Even before I could proudly proclaim that I made the teddy bear to sleep, I was asked to cook something for my Mom with the wonderful kitchen sets. I had a lot of utensils to do my assignment and it was always a piece of cake for me. I was pretty swift to make her some fruit salad and ice cream. I even ironed my Dad’s shirt and gave it to him after looking for him in the toy world. I meantime arranged my little chairs and organised the dishes neatly which gained the attention of the MD of the school who complimented me by saying “Well, this little girl has got good organisational and management skills”. For wrong reasons my Dad happened to hear that comment and started to build castles in the air about me. He would have repeated that comment atleast five times at home the last time being just before going to bed.
Obviously my Dad was getting impressed with the place gradually and I could sense that he was gaining more confidence every second he was talking to Mrs.Riri who I did not know was going to be my best friend for the whole day. For the first time I was beginning to fear that I might loose the fight against my “will to go home”. My Dad thought he was smart in making some gestures and talking in English to my Mom about slowly sneaking out of the school. But I was proving my smartness that I was his daughter and pre-empted his intention and got ready to leave with them. Guess who won??????
I still assume that with heavy heart my Dad and Mom left me while we were still playing hide and seek together. I kept looking for them in the vast place in every nook and corner only to realise that they have won and proved again that Adults know more tricks than the kids. Now it was my turn to exhibit my true colour by achieving the peak of my voice in crying. But it was Mrs.Riri’s turn to become the clown, the funny character, the care taker and all the things which my Dad assumed to be in a Play school. I gradually settled down after loosing my energy and expressing my sincere feeling of being away from both my Mom and Dad. Yes, indeed I literally settled DOWN in the bed laid out in the floor and slept for few minutes.
When I woke up I thought there would be some miracle and I would be in the comfort of my home with my cute Blue bear and Mickey lying beside me and that I would be gazing at the dangling stars and planets setup by my Dad. But I was disappointed again and therefore I cried and drew the attention of Mrs.Riri. My cry co-incidentally was an alarm for the Music / Song time at the school. They played some songs and everyone danced and so did we. I was still not comfortable with the place and therefore was clinging onto Mrs.Riri. The language and the rhythm of the song was in total contrast to the songs which I have heard while my Mom used to dance. But for sure I picked up the tune and the steps not knowing the philosophy that “music did not have any barriers”.
The clock was slowly approaching 12 noon. All the kids assembled in the dining table and so did I (ofcourse with Mrs.Riri). They taught us a little grace to say before we had our food. I missed the usual way of having lunch with my Mom and Grandma and therefore did not have any interest in eating. I was having a bit of peeled grapes, when my Parents had slowly sneaked in and was standing and observing my activities and interactions. Though they disappointed me, I did not reciprocate the same but instead made them feel elated by talking a few words in English while interacting with Mrs.Riri. Having seen a sample or two from me, they were very contended and revealed themselves to me. Involuntarily I gave a big smile to them and slowly I was in the arms of my Mother who was obviously in tears. But it was a bit “too ambitious” for my Dad to look at the snack box and the lunch box, which was definitely untouched.
My Dad was already planning for the SECOND DAY while I was contemplating on my next move. We went home happily and I did not know that there would be a grand reception for me at home from my grandma. She asked me more questions than my parents did while I was at the back of my mind still furious about the whole episode. All of them at home treated me as if I have made a big achievement. Finally they managed to instil that pride in me accepting the fact that “Yes I have achieved something”
I could not stop humming the song and tap my feet for the song, which was sung in the school that day, which was still reverberating in my ears. Grandma and my Mom were ecstatic about this and called my Dad at office to share the moment. With so much of interrogations, I also had to confess the other thing, which I had learnt in the school the first day. It was the grace or the prayer, which was taught before having the food. My parents simply felt that I have already been graduated.
Pretty momentous FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL.