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What will happen when the world gets back to ‘normal’? Or is this the new normal? A mother peeks into her daughter’s school world.
“Mysha, you never fill me in with the details of the school. Never.” This was my persistent complaint over the years.
My ever-so-talkative child turns mute at a place where she is not supposed to. Whenever I check about the on-going in the school, she doesn’t fill time with words. Our walk from her school to our home, which is not more than five minutes, is filled with nothing more than silence and her amateurish acrobats. I always felt I am missing out on the school details – what’s going on there – until three weeks back! Bhagwaan jab deta hai, chappar phaad ke hi deta hai. (When god gives, it comes in an avalanche.)
We are in Australia. More than a month and a half back, we saw everything closing down, level by level. First the entertainment units, then personal services, followed by amusement parks, auctions and open houses, public playgrounds, international and domestic travels and finally a place which is a blessing for parents more than children – schools.
Honestly, I had asked Mysha to sit at home much before the administration asked us to. It was March 10th when she last saw the grounds of her school.
After assessing the situation and realizing that the lockdown could stay-put for months, Mysha’s school decided to open for the second trimester but not physically. So they had their grand opening on WebEx calls instead from April 15th.
The first time I heard the combined sound of ‘WebEx call and Prep students’ it felt unnatural – “How is this possible? Aren’t these children way too young to be seated and entertained for six hours in a conference call, 25 students together with a teacher? I mean how?”
But then like every good thing, you don’t discover until you experiment. The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us but then it has opened new avenues and jargon for everyone. Words you didn’t hear and work that seemed impossible in bygone days are the new normal. Every day we are getting a hang of new technology and terminology as we are working our heads around it.
So then on April 15th, Wednesday at 7:45 AM, all hell broke in this house while we got her ready, and at sharp 9 AM, the class started. As Mysha logged on to WebEx, while I sat beside her, she and other munchkins were greeted by their teacher with “Good Morning Prep.”
“Good morning Miss M” roared a cumulative voice of enthusiastic burrow holders.
Initially, this 9 AM – 3 PM timetable took a toll on my back, schedule, and time management but then I streamlined. The breakfast, lunch, and other chores of the house all are maneuvered based on this frame of WebEx calls, aka web of calls.
The silver lining is that the children got into a routine. Their time is compartmentalized into subjects. Even subjects like Mandarin, PE (Physical Education), Robotics comes to your home. We take the video calls in the backyard for those PE sessions. While some children practice catch with their siblings, some get hold of a parent, some are lucky to make it a family session while some make a pact with a wall. Everyone is dealing with their baggage.
Life has provided me with another opportunity to be at school and this time it’s booting with an advanced version of me. I can sit with her in her classes, and guide her the way I wanted to. And in times like these I am revered by the working parents because as I am fighting to hold up the fort, I see the struggle much more rigid where the parents can be heard taking official calls at the background while children work. There are children who are raised by single parents, children who have three if not more siblings at home, and then there is one girl who is been dropped to school on a requisition as her father has an outdoor job and the girl can’t be placed at home.
There are days when I laugh with them. Like the other day the students were asked to draft a sentence saying “In my home, I see (which so ever family members stay with you).
Mysha had a smaller sentence thanks her family size; so it went as – In my home, I see my mum and my dad. Other students drafted similarly but then there was one precious soul who read out hers – In my home, I see my mum, my dad, my baby sister, Ashar, Amal, Joyce, Raina, Mysha…. and she counted all 25 students in one go. She had my heart at Ashar; the moment that little girl started calling out her classmate’s names, I couldn’t help but applaud. She realised that we have started dating each-other through these calls. You could hear the parents guffaw from the background while the kids clapped for the beautiful-thoughtful girl. These moments make my day.
What seemed uncanny at one time is life in today’s world. It’s a routine. Every morning these 25 students come to my world through a screen. With them comes the baggage – their parent(s), sibling(s), pet(s), their homes and backgrounds, their language and accents, their taur-tareeka, and their voices. These tiny ones empower me – they tell me I am not alone, they tell me that we all are struggling; they tell me that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
One particular anecdote comes to my mind. A happy, curly-hair, blonde named Anna pops on our screen making funny faces. I remember most of the students by their features than their names. Last week as their writing session geared up, something in her broke and then I heard the class teacher break the conversation with,
“Anna, what’s wrong?”
Both Mysha and I lifted our heads which was drowned in the former’s writing and I swiped the screen fast to get hold of Anna’s window amongst the 25 popping heads.
By the time I found her, the malaise had discovered the passage from her heavy heart to her big blue eyes. “I….I….I….can’t get it. You…you…are…going…too…fast.” Sob-sob, sniff, and sniff. Her lips trembled and her cheeks went red as she stifled.
“It’s okay. I am sorry. I will be slow.” said Miss M.
“Miss M,…I…I…can’t…write….a question mark.” Anna’s downpour continued as she poked her fingers in her eyes.
“No problem. Breathe Anna, breathe. You take your time” Miss M assured the girl with gentle slow words.
As I saw her rubbing her eyes, I felt water tinkle on my cheeks; her pain spoke to me. She did not have help and got lost in the session. After all, it was a question mark! It’s in the name and it’s hard to make.
While Miss M gave Anna instructions to breathe, I followed the slow breathing too to unburden a heavy heart while Mysha wiped the salty water off my cheeks.
That’s the thing about humans. They need humans to survive. They speak to others with emotions.
Have you ever thought about being alone in the world? Like being the only soul on the planet (for some reason) much like Wall-e. I have. In fact, I have a whole story in my head but scribbling it on papers itself will make me isolated. And this is coming from me! I am the biggest introvert I know – I love my home, my time, my isolation but then I do need MY people. Thoda companionship ka tadka zaruri hota hai!
A time will come when the clock will be set straight! We all will be back in life which we called a routine in the past but then who knows what’s on the other side of the horizon? Deduced from my behaviour, even though I wince at the sound of WebEx calls and school coming at home, I’ll miss these tiny souls and their collegial approach. I detest having tea while listening to them but then looking at them working collectively makes me hopeful and, really happy. They have taken me back to Kinder, back to the basics – in the state of life, in the art of living.
2020 is a disparate year! It will go down in history as a year we all gave in our all, did the unreal, and lived life more alive than ever!
First published here.
Image source: Saumya Srivastava
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