Vanita is an engineer-researcher-consultant-artist: a gifted singer-poetess; & writes in English-Hindi-Gujarati on her diverse experiences
My school days are, now, over,
But, to this day, I remember :
First, when I was admitted to the nursery,
I was as frightened as could be.
I looked around and wanted to flee;
Many little unfriendly eyes stared at me,
The stern-looking teacher, wearing a white saree,
With her sunken eyes, thro’ her glasses, glared at me.
I was made to sit in the first row.
Then, with a stick, she began to show
The numbers, on the board, which were written.
She said, “Say with me children, ONE .....”
“ONE,” In unison my obedient classmates cried,
But, I couldn’t, for my throat had dried.
My eyes were on the long, thin stick
Which, to the deepest core, made me feel sick.
Thenafter, the sequence of troubles started.
Next morn, at eight, I was in bed.
Mummy came to awake me,
“You’ll be late to the school”, said she.
“I’ll never go there.” I declared.
I shed tears and screamed, but wasn’t spared.
Everyday, there were long sessions of weeping,
Till late hours, I kept on “sleeping”.
When “woken up”, I would say,
“I will not brush my teeth today
Because if at all I do so,
To the horrible school, I will have to go.”
Our neighbour’s son would be rushed to call the “police”.
Almost everyday, the school-bus I used to miss.
I, thus, was a fortnightly visitor.
Today, like a dream all this appears !
The other day, we met our old neighbour.
Looking at me she exclaimed, “Oh dear !
When you cried while going to the K.G.
I never thought, with distinction, you ‘ld pass higher secondary !”
- Vanita Thakkar (28.07.1989)
This is in response to Billybuc's Writing Challenge: Remembering Your Childhood ....
I had a wonderful, happy childhood.
However, as described in the poem, I never went to the Kindergarten. These incidents of all the discomfort and displeasure of going to the Kindergarten took place in Vadodara, where my mother got me admitted to one of the finest Kindergartens around, to ensure that I get a good start to my education. My father had started a new job in a Tata Group company and was at Bangalore and then transferred to Bongaigaon, Assam. My mother was managing our little family - my elder brother Prashant (two years elder to me) and me - and a big multitude of relatives from our paternal and maternal families. A couple of elder lady relatives from my paternal family were rather demanding and imposing and were a constant source of trouble and torture to her. A very tolerant and loving person, my mother never spoke back, nor did she inform my father about anything. There were no telephones then, in 1977, not to think of cell phones or mobiles and even telegrams took about a week to reach Assam from Gujarat. But her silent suffering became a cause of concern to many a well-wishers, one of whom wrote to my father about it and he decided to call us to Assam. The nick-name of one of my paternal aunts, who troubled my mother a lot, was the same as the name of the teacher at school who terrified me. Perhaps I was reminded of my aunt whenever I saw the teacher and started weeping, as I sensed similarities in the name, tones and expressions of the two ladies. If I was made to sit in the adjoining class, I would peacefully sit and listen to the teacher and recite whatever she taught. This happened a couple of times, but I had to sit in "my class" regularly and why could I not learn there ??!! Nobody bothered to find out what was troubling me .... However, we went to Assam and I got a new school, which I loved going to ....
I got directly admitted to the first standard / grade at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Bongaigaon, Assam. My school life was exemplary, though scattered, because of my father's transferable job. We stayed at different places all over India - from Assam to Andhra Pradesh to our home state, Gujarat, as also for some time, in (then) Bihar (now, Jharkhand) and Tamil Nadu. I was a good student. I was always a topper or among toppers throughout my schooling and a very active participant in all cultural activities - singing and dances (got to learn and sing and dance in more than 15 languages from all over India including Gujarati, Hindi, Sanskrit, English, Bengali, Assamese, Telugu, Kannada, Rajasthani, Pahadi, Punjabi, Maithili, Nepali, Naga, Vrajbhasha and so on), recitals and writings, elocutions, debates, drawing and painting, scout-guide activities and so on. Everywhere, my talent got recognized and my teachers loved and encouraged me with my studies as well as extra-curricular activities. I got opportunities to perform on All India Radio, Vishakhapatnam as a lead singer of my school group when I was ten or eleven years old. We sang songs in Telugu, Hindi and Sanskrit .... There are several very fond memories of those beautiful days.
I hardly found time for sports amidst all cultural activities, in which I represented my zone and my state, apart from my school level events. I had also participated in a couple of international events. Still, I used to be good at Kabaddi and was the captain of the Kabaddi team of my house at my school in Vadodara and we were the school champions. I had also participated sometimes, in a few athletics events. Surprisingly, I had represented my state in Hockey Nationals, when I was in the ninth standard / grade (something most people won't believe - Ha, Ha ....). Truly speaking, I was not at all good at hockey, but so was our team, except a couple of real good players, who made it to the higher levels of performances. When our state level sports meet took place at Ankleshwar (in Bharuch District, South Gujarat), the Hockey team was the weakest. So, most people were of the opinion that our team should not participate at the National level. But, when our State Education Officer came to assess the preparations and progress, he insisted and decided that the Hockey team would also participate, for two reasons - the players who were performing well should get the opportunity to go ahead and losing is better than not at all participating. Those who were not doing well get to learn and improve by participating. We went and lost, but two (or perhaps three) of our players, who were doing very well, got selected for SGFI (School Games Federation of India, which is affiliated to Olympics and other international bodies for training school going girls and boys across India in sports activities).
When my brother was in Higher Secondary School and I was in Secondary School, it was decided that both of us would stay with our mother at Vadodara for studies and Pappa would stay at his place of work. We visited him during vacations and again, there would be travelling, long train journeys - reading, playing and watching the beautiful scenes outside the train windows .... getting to know about places and people ....
Having had a scattered schooling - we went to eight different schools in twelve years - my brother and I had to get accustomed to different atmospheres everywhere - new place, language, school, friends / classmates and teachers .... But, we enjoyed everywhere. I don't ever remember having felt awkward or wishing for things to be other than how they were. We would miss our old friends. As we grew up, we remained in touch with many of them through letters. I was in touch with my best friend Aparna from Vishakhapatnam till both of us were in the final year of our college. She was pursuing research in Botany .... Then, suddenly, I stopped receiving her letters. I wonder where she is. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get reunited with her on social media. Both of us were into singing. We sang whenever there was free time - recesses or activity sessions .... our little group of 4-5 girls sat in the shadow of the trees in our campus and sang songs. I was Lata Mangeshkar and Aparna was Asha Bhosale (Ha, Ha ....)
There are several great memories. Thanks to Bill Holland for inspiring to write about childhood memories. Writing about them was like revisiting and reliving those wonderful days. Sharing some snaps that I could locate and upload ....
© 2020 Vanita Thakkar