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A mother writes about the anxiety she faced on her first parent teacher meeting. However, what she finally found out was a pleasant surprise.
It should not have been our first, which is, well, the first blow I was expecting.
…Yes, we missed the PTM last time when you called us, because, well, .. (Honestly I didn’t exactly remember why we missed it, but indeed there was one sometime back.)
Not to mention, we were forty minutes late for this one as well. Traffic jam (had to be, no?).
We were in waiting. Watching with the corner of our eyes the previous pair of parents, faced with the sturdy, matter-of-fact, I-say-you-hear kind of Headmistress and beside her the friendly and compassionate looking class-teacher. Well, we watched them with the corner of one eye; the other, (that is, the corner of the other eye, of course) had to move in swift motion to follow the whereabouts of my darling daughter as she toed, raced and crawled around in the room, changing posture, pace, destination and intention every next minute.
The venue was, as she pointed out to us with a toes-above-ground-level proud look, her classroom.
The venue was, as she pointed out to us with a toes-above-ground-level proud look, her classroom. A space, a sole space on earth, where to her boundless pleasure the rules were just reverse from the rest of the world; so that she could step in everyday as she pleased while her parents were “not allowed”!
Our ears, unlike the eyes, were undividedly and eagerly directed towards the audible bits of the conversation the previous set of parents were having, as we tried to gauge in our minds what all we would have in our share.
I had every reason to be apprehensive. Let me give you some background, and you’d deduce the reasons.
First, for the last six months that Roopkatha has been going to school, I usually get an overlap of less than an hour’s time each day. This is because, given my habit and her genetics, both of us would sleep until we absolutely cannot, leaving just a quick fifteen minutes of active time between leaving the bed and the school bus blowing its horn to announce its arrival. This is all the time we see each other in the mornings, that too if you generously count in the time we spent on our individual morning tasks at the bathroom. The nights, well, are all about another barely thirty minutes long stretch that we get after I return home at ten; This time is typically characterized by a rushed dinner, both of us cross-legged in front of the television set, fighting over Dadagiri versus Doraemon, followed by both of us getting drowsy and taking turns to ask each other to bed. Long story short, I hardly know how her school has been, what she ate for lunch, what the notes in her calendar look like (until school bus arrives, which is of course when it’s a li’l too late), and what dress/ food/ theme the school asked me to get for her and I missed. Often, the notes in her calendar even look as nasty as “Ma’am, please trim her nails!” (I know, I deserve to die. I will.)
My only way around this absolutely unpardonable system that has somehow emerged is to not send her to school. Which, I must admit, I do quite, quite often. (I know, I deserve to die a painful death. Trust me, I will.)
I must also admit, now that I am in the mood for it, that I did once upon a time teach her letters.
I must also admit, now that I am in the mood for it, that I did once upon a time teach her letters, numbers, counting, shapes, colours, stories, rhymes, and what not, but really, they were long, long back in the past. I frankly cannot remember when was the last time I ever sat with her and her books ever since she started school. As a result of that, all she learnt as far as I was concerned were few stray lines from poetries by Joy Goswami, Tagore and Sunil Ganguly, which she overheard me recite on rare occasions when my spirit is up to it.
Given this, well, background, you can well imagine why we missed the earlier PTM. And why, in all possibility, I had a cold feet while preparing to come for this one. I perhaps would even have chickened out if I didn’t seriously fear that the school may have a policy to hire men from Collection agencies when faced (not faced) with parents as terrible as ourselves.
Well, now the real thing. Our turn came. Finally.
(Should I go first? Should I just say I am sorry, sorry for everything? Or, should I just let them shoot.)
The Headmistress smiled up at us. I could barely manage a return smile, still deciding in my mind whether it’s alright to run if you’re at a PTM and playing the P in it. Overwhelmed with confusion and tension, I decided to let the lady go first. Rather, my silence did.
– She is not yet three, right?
– Yes. Two months to go.
– Well, she is the youngest student in our class. I remember having admitted her a class higher up for her age, on your request.
– Yes, Ma’am.
I waited, bated breath. With a faint recollection of the dozens of “she needs to improve/ learn/ cope/ start/ begin..” that the earlier parents absorbed from her, I was ready to brave the worst. She continued.
“I must tell you this, you people are extremely fortunate parents. She is a god-gifted child.”
(Pinch. Pinch harder.)
She continued further, ignoring my open-mouthed expression.
“While she is the youngest, she is the most matured, considerate and sensitive child in the class. Why class, I think it won’t be an exaggeration to say I have hardly come across a child like her in my school. She is the kind of person who knows when a teacher is sad, or when a teacher is ill. She can read it. She is the kind of child who comes and comforts an adult who she hardly knows!”
Of course, facial expressions changing; mouth closed, tears filling up. When will I grow up? When will I grow up to her! I let the teacher continue, not left with much choice.
“She is the one who makes peace when other kids fight among themselves. She gives away all that other kids ask from her. I mean, she is not timid or shy; she is very, very energetic. She runs around, plays, dances, sings. But what I mean is, she is very giving by nature. This is very rare.”
The other teacher, nodding all the way till this time, joins in now.
For any child, be it with his or her parents or with the teachers, it is some task to handle a child.
“Ma’am, I think I will describe Roopkatha this way. For any child, be it with his or her parents or with the teachers, it is some task to handle a child. A child typically comes with some duties for us and for you. We need to look after them. But for Roopkatha, I think we hardly need to do anything. She manages her own things. She learns her own lessons, she colours her own books. And she spreads joy. I do not remember a single time that I saw her without a smile. She walks in everyday with a wide smile, and stays happy throughout the day. She is the happiest person we have here, and I must say that while counting ourselves in.”
I lose words. But then, it falls upon me to say something, so I try.
“But Ma’am, if you remember, when I first brought her to you I told you she might have serious language problems. I mean, she has grown up listening to us always speaking in Bengali and she knew no other language. To be honest, I was extremely nervous about that.”
The teachers cut me short.
“Why, she speaks both English and Hindi quite fluently these days! Of course, in Hindi the gender thing is a little confusing for her age, but otherwise she speaks both the language better than most other children.”
I take my turn again.
“Thanks so much, Ma’am. I wanted to point out another thing. I did teach her things long back, but off late given our schedule, I hardly get to sit with her to brush up her lessons.”
They snatch the mike again.
“Madam, Roopkatha already knew all that there was in the syllabus.”
” Madam, Roopkatha already knew all that there was in the syllabus. We were worried that she had a late admission in August, and we had completed quite a few lessons by then. But soon as she started speaking English, we realized she knew all of that already.”
The other teacher pitches in again.
“Also, I need to mention another thing. We do not have story telling until Nursery standards, but it seems that she knows most of the common fairytale stories and she often tells them to her friends. She starts with waving her hand and a long accented “Once upon a time..”. She even borrows ideas from these stories and makes her own stories by changing the names and places of the characters. This is indeed very rare for someone at her age.”
Ah, what could I say. (Literally, with such a choked throat.)
I think all of us agree that Roopkatha is the best child we have here, they sum up.
PS: Dhopash, I hope this blog-post will remain so that you can read this when you grow up. I love you!
For the Hindi and the gender thing:
1. Could they make Doroemon or Nobita females?
2. Could they suggest a crash course for regionally displaced adults like me?
First published here
Cover photo via Shutterstock
An alumnus of Indian Statistical Institute, Sinjini Sengupta is an erstwhile Actuary turned into an
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