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The friendship of girls can be a beautiful force during one’s growing up years. Here is a memorable account from an all-girls school.
The friend I went to an all-girls school and it was not until my engineering that I entered the world of co-education. The ragging (which was very tame on hindsight) and the high levels of testosterone did not make a good impression on me. After having read philosophy to get through the stressful pre-University days, I was a tad disappointed with the male species.
“What happened to all those heroes, those dashing complex men that you wanted to swoon over?” were the questions running through my mind. A senior student looking at my comely countenance decided to shock me out of my existence by asking, “Don’t you think hormones are the reason why rapes happen?”I stood there stupefied and saucer-eyed, scaring the living daylights out of him. Rumour has it that he stopped ragging girls that very day.
However, I do not intend to champion or critique co-education; instead my focus is on those wonderful pre-teen and teen years that were spent in an all-girls school. The beautiful friendships that were formed as you navigated the dreaded pubescent years together, where both minds and bodies were transformed and you developed ideas and passions that went on to stay with you throughout your life. Indeed, a time when there was no Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp groups or any other platform for girls to get competitive or bitchy on. We had other avenues for segregation – class distinction being the primary, and closed groups where the leader was either the straight A student or a star athlete or a pretty princess with a bunch of her followers.
Fortunately for me, I was in a group which had no leader or agenda; we were just a couple of kids who enjoyed each other’s company immensely. A mixed bag of intelligent, goofy, sweet, wicked and crazy girls who transitioned from being silly kids to even sillier adolescents.
For some unfathomable reason, teachers always asked the new girls to sit next to me and due to this I was fortunate to make some wonderful friends – inter- state and international as well. The new girls were so lost that they clung to me for a week or so and post that it was too late as I grew on them like a bad habit. One particularly sweet girl taught me a lesson that has stayed with me. Blessed with a wonderful voice, she was the nightingale of our class which was embarrassing for me as I could not hold a note to save my life.
I remember falling sick and staying away from school for a week or so. The following week was a nightmare as I realised that my friend’s talent had been discovered and she had become the most popular girl in class – teacher’s pet, the class darling et al. I looked on forlornly as praises were being heaped on her and were I a chameleon I would have changed from brown to green in a second. My jealous 10-year-old heart told me to distance myself from ‘the girl with the wonderful voice’. But this silly girl would not take a hint; the more I tried to distance myself the friendlier she got and stuck to me like glue.
Finally, over summer vacation I wrote her a confession letter where I blubbered about my insanely jealous feelings and tried to explain why I had been acting like a prize idiot. I did get a reply from her but there was no mention of my idiocy, just an affirmation of our friendship and how much she was missing me. She could have held that confession over me and made a production about forgiving my envious, silly self. But no, this girl had the maturity to realize that being in a relationship is not about holding power or making the other party seem small. Her quiet generosity made a bigger impression on me than any words of forgiveness would have had.
I could write reams about those ‘wonder’ years but suffice to say that the friendships I formed in an all-girls school turned out to be the most enduring.
Below is an ode to the enduring friendship of girls from ‘Ulysses’, that I remember chanting repeatedly with my friends…
‘We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’
Top image is a still from the movie Bend It Like Beckam