Writer’s Note: The word “gappe” means gossip. A more dignified way of putting it would be “networking” or “social interaction.”
The following is a collection of fond memories. I daresay I have been a bit sarcastic while writing it, but that doesn’t mean that I did not enjoy “gappefying.”
“School Stories: The Gappe Gangs” is dedicated to all the beautiful gappe queens who made life colorful a few years back. You are all great moms and you rock!!
Parent communities have definitely changed over the years. Our parents hardly visited our schools, and most of them will not be able to help an artist sketch their child’s teacher’s face.
But we are different. We love our children’s school. If permitted, we will sit with our children in their classrooms, make sure that they are treated well by their teachers and peers, and see that they eat their snacks on time. We will choose their friends with care. We will show their teachers exactly how they should teach.
In fact, we will poke our noses into every aspect of our children’s student life and call it “good parenting.” Since we are strictly not allowed into the classrooms, we create Whatsapp groups and gappe gangs. You see, we want to be “in the know.” We don’t want to make the mistakes our careless parents made. We want our children to become the great personalities we would have become if only our parents had done the right thing.
Almost every school in Kudla has a gappe gang, little groups of parents hanging around after dropping their children at school. School No. 2 had one, but I was not part of it. The gang members would arrange their scooters in the form of circles and semi-circles and exchange news and views. Fortunately, the road that ran by the school was less traveled by, so these circles and semi-circles of scooters did not cause any traffic snarls.
I realized the true joys of a gappe gang in School No. 3. Interestingly, I had never intended to join any gappe gang. I just wanted to be a good little mom, the type that is neither seen nor heard and is blissfully unaware of what goes on in her child’s school. I am not even aware of how I became one of a group of vehicle-owing parents who used to park their cars and scooters in the school’s parking lot, an uneven bit of land that strongly resembled the lunar surface, and indulged in long gappe sessions.
We would dump our brats in their classrooms and then hang around in the campus and talk about interesting things such as husbands, schools, teachers, books, children, principals, homework, assignments, uniforms, school competitions, winners of school competitions, mothers of the winners of school competitions, teachers of the winners of school competitions, the quality of the certificates and medals given away to the winners of school competitions, and so on. In fact, the list of topics was endless.
So interesting were the gappe sessions that we hardly noticed our surroundings. The stench emanating from the boys’ toilets nearby hardly bothered us. We did not even feel the hot rays of the afternoon sun as they assaulted our heads, shoulders, and backs. The drivers of school vans and auto rickshaws noticed us and talked about us, but we did not give a damn. Needless to say, we were least bothered about any opinion the school’s principal and teaching and non-teaching staff formed about us. All we wanted to do was talk and talk and talk.
I enjoyed being part of a gappe gang because it was all new to me. I had led a “nerdy” existence so far, buried in books, and like Radhika Mehta in Chetan Bhagat’s “One Indian Girl,” I felt I had to “experience real life.” I found that interacting with mothers was easier than waxing my legs and less complicated than finding a date.
I remember our last gappe session at School No. 3. At least, it was one of my last gappe sessions. It is not that I don’t love gappe sessions, but I just feel I must get some work done.
It must have been the last day of school, but I don’t quite remember. There was a quiz competition that day and school broke up earlier than usual, giving us plenty of time to hang around and talk.
A dead rat lay on the concrete floor, roasting in the hot afternoon sun. Having inhaled the stinking air around the boys’ toilets for several months, a little dead rat did not bother us. Our little Outlaws expressed mild interest in the corpse, but we shooed them away to the playground or the sand pit or whatever School No. 3 preferred to call it. Then we gossiped away to glory while they rolled in the dust and sand in the playground. They were sweaty, dusty, and filthy, but we did not care. After all, we were experts in washing their uniforms.
The cleverest boy in the class approached us with his mother, and we all fell silent for some time. The mother of the cleverest boy in the class stopped to exchange pleasantries while the cleverest boy in the class inspected the dead rat with great interest.
“See? A dead rat!” he announced.
“What’s that?” said his mother, noticing the dead rat for the first time. “Hey, don’t touch it!”
She needn’t have been anxious as he had no intention of disobeying her. On the other hand, he was interested in the cause of death.
“How did it die?” he wanted to know.
The mothers were silent, but since I have a big mouth, I felt I must say something. “It got disillusioned with life and decided to commit suicide,” I said politely.
“Huh?” he said while his mother shot a dagger look at me. The cleverest boy in the class then scanned the skies and announced, “I think an eagle killed it and dropped it here.”
His mother beamed with pride, raising the temperature of the surroundings by a few degrees.
The cleverest boy in the class then noticed our outlaws getting filthier by the moment and said: “See them playing!”
“We have to go,” said his mother, terrified that her little one would join them and turn into an outlaw. “We have some work to do.”
We shortly wound up our gappe party. We would soon be leaving School No. 3 and proceeding to School No. 4. And as we went, we would be taking with us certain messages that School No. 3 and its parent and teacher community had conveyed to us.
First, it is not desirable for pre-school children and primary school children to “waste” their time in play. They should spend their time wisely, learning interesting things such as how many teeth they have and how many teeth they will have left if they lose one or two of them. Second, they should continuously impress the adults around them with the knowledge and skills they had gained so that their parents can post about it on Whatsapp and Facebook. Third, they should compete and win, compete and win, compete and win, and compete and win otherwise; they would be “nowhere.” After all, it is a competitive world, not at all the type of playful and friendly world it was when we were children. No, they shouldn’t miss a competition even if they are burning with fever.
Yes, we carried those messages as we marched on to School No. 4. It took me a long time to chuck those messages out of my system. I still feel that my child would have had a less stressful childhood if only I had some sense. As for the gappe sessions, I miss them a lot. They were the best parts of going to School No. 3. I wish I could participate in gappe sessions again, but I simply can’t because my attitude towards schools, parenting, and learning has changed and no parent will ever listen to me. But yes, I still see gappe groups in the campus and envy them a bit.