This is my final write-up for Robinage. I wrote it sometime in January when the world was unaware of the virus. Life used to be normal. When rushing to work, hovering over kids and securing good grades for that coveted University in the UK or USA was the goal of life. So sit back, relax and reminisce what normal meant. Or this normal better?

I attended a regular SSC board school with a pigeon hole campus. Yet, the atmosphere within my alma mater was intoxicating. The diversity of free ranging students from outright shy to audacious go-getters of pranks and punishments, every class was a unique blend representing the future of the country. Our teachers were no different. From the young and kind that were universal favourites to those who unabashedly took it as their duty to spank you in the middle of a busy street shaking daylights out of you, our teachers made sure we had a colourful childhood. And the cherry on the cake, no gadgets, no internet; none at all. Even Doordarshan aired programmes for limited hours only. Little wonder then, the sole responsibility of entertainment rested on school.

But come 2020, entertainment overload from television, streaming Amazon Prime or Netflix and the thriving business of enrichment classes have reduced schools to a mere compulsion. Branded bags and stationery have robbed children of curiosity for learning. Full forms like ‘SCHOOL = Six Cruel Hours Of Our Lives’ form the new norm.

Like most siblings, my girls are polar opposites. While the older one is up on time, neatly dressed and always in school even before the floors get mopped, the younger one hates going to school at all. I feel drained by this daily drudgery of convincing her about school being the Mecca of new friendships. 

She voices out, “How can I make friends when we are always expected to zip up? And the kids I like sit so far away, I cannot talk to them unless I yell. When do I make friends?”

“Recess of course..”

“Most kids don’t eat. They run to the monkey bars. I can’t go hungry to make friends.”

“Valid point”.

Before I can make any more impractical suggestions, she opens her Pandora’s Box of troubles that makes school less attractive. She wants to go late on Thursdays when the morning begins with Math. Reason – The teacher has a temper that flares up even before the class can greet her.

During the first week of school she declares a state of emergency. Reason – “They drill the same information year on year. It is about consequences. And every kid except the Primary 1s already knows!” 

Then there are days when Art and PE teachers take a day off, clearly upsetting her highness. Reason – Who’s interested in English and Math? Other reasons include not being chosen as Sports Lead; not allowed to answer in class despite raising her hand every single time; not selected to speak on stage; didn’t get spellings right. I am tired rolling my eyes at every excuse. But I see a silver lining. I am just glad she is truthful. On the hindsight, being a teacher ain’t easy.

So on most evenings, I use formula number 555 – distraction. We engage in some pretend play until she forgets her qualms and end with a bedtime story. As I read a favourite Dr.Seuss title one night and ask her to take it easy, she kisses me goodnight. And just when I am about to leave her bedside, her little croaky voice blurts, “I forgot we must carry a canvas tomorrow.”

It is my turn to think, “Damn, what excuse shall I make for holding her back tomorrow?”

P.S. Every child is sensitive to different issues. While my older one couldn’t be bothered by scolding, her little sister frowns even at raised eyebrows. A single parenting style doesn’t work with two kids even from the same womb. Unable to handle predicament, I consult the expert – my mother. She simply puts – “A little scolding, reprimanding and disappointment are like salt in the food. Without it, food is tasteless”. Maybe, it is time to teach the spoilt brat to take everything with a pinch of salt.