As I write this, I cannot help but wonder if, several years later, you will remember your first school or your second school or your third school. We sure have left quite a few schools behind us, haven’t we? In the process, we have seen a lot of people and learned some valuable lessons—lessons we are not bound to forget in a hurry.
To tell you the truth, I have a horror of schools. I never wanted to send you to school. I wanted to home school you, but didn’t quite know how to. The education laws in India are not that favourable to homeschoolers. That doesn’t mean people don’t home school in India. They most certainly do! We have large homeschooling communities in places such as Chennai and Bangalore. But we don’t have any such community in Kudla—a city of highly competitive and indifferent people. The most commonly used words here, “saavu” and “sayyad ya,” clearly reflect the indifferent and apathetic nature of Kudlites.
So when you were a sweet two-year-old, I enrolled you in a school. The teacher was the wife of a friend of mine and I hoped she would take good care of you. “He is too small to start learning anything,” I told her. “I will just leave him here for a few hours. I want him to socialize a bit, make friends, and so on. It’s just to prepare him for play school and nursery.” She agreed to babysit you along with a few other toddlers.
The school provided 11:00 a.m. snacks. I just had to drop you there at around 9:00 a.m. and pick you up at 12:00 noon. Since I did not have my own vehicles those days, we had to rely on public transportation. Still, things went well for a couple of weeks. Then I noticed those weird marks on your wrists. We were on the bus at that time, returning home.
“What’s this?” I asked.
You did not answer. You couldn’t possibly. You were a late speaker. I had sent you to school hoping that the company of other toddlers would encourage you to speak.
Throughout the journey, I was worried. What were those damn marks? How did they get there? Those little criss-cross marks on your wrists could mean only one thing and I did not even want to think of it. Those marks remained on your wrists for a few hours. Later, your grandmother dared to say what I had not: “They have tied him up. Those are rope marks.”
I did ask “my friend’s wife” about it. She gave vague responses and pretended to know nothing about it. But she did complain about your extraordinary interest in the snacks placed on the table. I put two and two together and got eight, and I did not like it. No, I did not like it at all. Something snapped in my brain. This “something snapping in my brain” is something that would happen again and again in the next few years, but I did not know it at that time. Needless to say, we did not see your “first school” again. We don’t even have any great regards for your “first school.”
I don’t mean to say that all schools suck. They don’t! Your next school was a peach of a school. It was actually a beautiful house surrounded by a lovely garden. And the teacher was the loveliest girl I had ever seen in my life. Six months after leaving your “first school,” you joined the play group in your second school. I wish I had let you finish your nursery, LKG, and UKG there, but that’s a different story. Suffice it to say that I had to act smart and put you in a different school, your “third school.”
Years long, a few years before my son was born, I was talking to a teacher. She told me: “Busy mothers leave their toddlers at my school. Some of them are as young as a year old. I tie them all up to the legs of a table.” She then noticed the look of horror on my face and said: “Hey, don’t look like that. It keeps them safe. You don’t know how they wander away. It keeps them out of mischief too.”
I suspect that schools do have this dirty habit of tying small children up, just to “keep them safe” or “out of mischief.” I do not know what the general public feels about it, but I just hate the sound of it. If you don’t like the idea of someone tying you up just to “keep you safe” or “out of mischief,” don’t do it to a child. It is as simple as that!