Going Back to School

The month of September always makes me feel nostalgic. It brings back strong memories of my school days. Not only did we celebrate Teacher’s day in September, but our school feast also fell on the 14th of September and that was a huge event for us.

We were proud to be students of “Holy Cross Convent” the only school runs by nuns in Thane at that time and the Sisters of the Cross as the order is called were really strict disciplinarians. Not only were the students mortally scared of the nuns, our parents were too and a summons by the Principal struck terror in the hearts of the bravest of the brave. Nails had to be clipped just so, hair had to be plaited; uniforms properly below the knee and blouses pristine white.

Many were the times when a particular Sister X would despair of our immortal souls as she could see horns growing on our heads and she would shake her head in sorrow as we would shake in our shiny polished shoes in terror. At other times we would be charged with the murder of English and sentenced hours of imprisonment working out clauses in our grammar books.

One would have thought we would have hated school, but strangely enough, we loved it. The perfection that we were expected to live up to seeped right into our blood, without us realising it. Whether it was planning and putting up a flawless performance for teacher’s day or getting out the school magazine, we were encouraged to do it all ourselves. We were given the freedom to make decisions and act on them. We were given opportunities to participate in sports, elocution competitions, drawing, drama, dance and a host of other creative competitions. We learnt to compete and we learnt to co-operate. We learnt to push and to let go. We learnt to critique and to appreciate. We got “educated.”

Our teachers were not just teachers of the subjects that they taught us, but were our mentors and guides as well. This was at a time when there were no “counsellors” in schools. But we didn’t need them. School was our second home.

hcc1A few weeks ago I had the honour of being asked to go back to school to judge an extempore speech competition. I was of course thrilled to be back in the spotless premises after so many years, but what elated me even more was the way the students carried themselves.

They spoke on topics like

“We only live once”

“The healing power of Nature”

“Man is known by the company he keeps”

“The Science of being Nice” and believe it or not those 14 and 15 year old’s speeches put a lot of grown up bloggers to shame.

hcc2Given the limited time they had to prepare their speech, their flow of ideas was amazing. It was thinking on their feet at its best. Their command of the language, had my “Wren and Martin” fed heart weeping tears of joy and when I had to mark them on diction, I actually asked out aloud, “Are you serious?” Except for their surnames, I couldn’t distinguish a Bengali from a South Indian or a Gujarati, or anyone from any other state for that matter. Their diction was flawless!

hcc3The entire programme was hosted by the students themselves; with a dignity that is ingrained in convent educated girls ,while the Principal, Sr. Anita and the senior most teacher, Mrs. Colleen Abreo, were just as much part of the audience as the other students and teachers.

Once again, 36 years later, I still feel proud that I belong to Holy Cross Convent School, Thane.

 

Teaching me to live

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Today is teacher’s day and when I think of teachers, what springs to mind is mom holding me with this big book on her lap reading out poems to me. I used to listen, fascinated as I looked at the page, dark blue sky, silver moon, birds flying home, a pony kicking up his heels and the words flowed like magic making that picture come alive.  A year or two later, but still before I entered school, she gave me my first Enid Blyton book and told me to read it. I was fascinated and lost in the stories and magic about golliwogs and sniggly snoggly snoooks and toys that walk and talk and fairies and elves and gnomes.

Night times meant walks with dad to Talaopali. The lake was much bigger in those days, quieter too as Thane was not so populated. There were no buildings around the lake then, just narrow lanes with shady trees. No autos or cars polluted the place. A stray tonga passed by or someone cycling past waved a hand in greeting. I must have been around three or four at that time. Dad took the time to get some quiet time and steal a smoke. Mom took the opportunity to get me out of her hair while she dealt with winding down the house for the night without my constant questions.

Dad and I sat by the lake, sometimes alone, sometimes joined by some of dad’s friends. My questions were always nonstop. “Why was there light under the water?” “It was the reflection of the lamps around the lake” “But why did the light in the water wobble when the light on land didn’t?” “Because of the ripples” “What causes ripples?” “Do you think fairies live in the water and cause the ripples when they play?”

I really don’t know how they never stopped answering my questions. (They still haven’t. Maybe because I haven’t stopped asking!)

Back home it was Grandpa’s turn. He had this huge wooden chair out in the verandah. He would sit in it, fold one leg and put me on his lap and rock me to sleep singing the most ridiculous songs. Sometimes I would lie on his lap and look at the stars and ask him to tell me stories about them and he would sing me songs about people who had died and become stars. In the midst of all of that I would fall asleep and dream of fairies who caused ripples and then flew upto the moon to sit and swing there for a while and chat with the star people.

These are the lessons that stand me in good stead today,when things go wrong, when there are ripples.My parents and grandparents,they taught me to question, to look for answers and to expect them in the most unexpected places, like fairies under the water. They taught me to look both down and up and never stop wondering. They taught me that life is truly awesome! Full of magic! They are my true teachers!