Day 5: Diary sheets and fat kids

I sent back a number of the student diaries today with incomplete information sheets. Being associated with a progressive and a liberal school like mine, I had anticipated to see most parents leave the ‘Caste’ row empty, and I wasn’t disappointed. I felt a little hypocritical, asking students to insist that their parents filled that in, when internally I wanted to high-five the parents and tell the kids to grow past these trivial differentiators. I realized that this was just the first in a long list of ideological mismatches between the education boards and me that I would have to live with for some time

Attendance: A physical attendance register would probably be the next big mismatch that I would take time for me to accept. As I spent diligent time rewriting the names from ‘rough’ pencil to ‘fair’ pen, I imagined me in an alternative universe, managing all of this digitally. I imagined digital signatures, and collaborative editing, and real-time updates. I imagined parents being automatically notified when a child was marked absent. I pictured us staring into tablets and laptops instead of ancient attendance registers. I came back to reality with a thud when my colleague pointed out that I should be marking absentees with a red A and not a black A. Sigh!

Weight trouble: Right after the empty caste columns, most diaries had blank height and weight informations. I wondered if the parents really knew that little about their children or if they had the same confusion as in my head about the true purpose of the school collecting this information. I might still be able to play the devil’s advocate and justify collecting height details. But the weight?

I almost forgot about the trauma of putting that trivial bit of information in writing until dear lil Ms Nambiar sneaked up to me, wondering if she could leave the weight column blank. I was immediately sent back to my own school days and how I found it extremely embarrassing to speak about it. I remembered stepping on the weighing scale in PT class and hearing a collective gasp behind me when my classmates found out about the reading on the machine. If my memory serves me right, I was exactly as old as lil Ms Nambiar. The troubles of a ten year old, and she was going through the same thing decades later.

I spoke to her through the day, at different times when we got a chance, and I tried to get her out of her discomfort. We spoke about one’s weight being just a number and how a part of owning your body was to accept yourself for who you are. I told her about how I’d wasted a lot of my growing years worrying that I didn’t fit in with the rest. A couple of her classmates pitched in, complaining about their height or bony build, and we spoke about how every body was different and everybody invariably had something to complain about themselves. While she listened to it all silently, I still didn’t sense a change in mind. I still saw the fear in her eyes, hidden behind her pink colored frames.

She walked close by during the afternoon class in the auditorium, and sat huddled by me, elbows resting on my legs. Mid session, she whispered in my ears “Aunty, is it OK if I fill my weight only in the pages I give you and not the one left in the diary?” Well, why not? And here was our breakthrough.!

Aunty, why does your tattoo say “Daddy’s gundacchi?”

Because my dad used to call me that.

But you’re not fat, no? Then why he called you that?

Ha! I don’t know.

When you do your mummy tattoo, can you please say “Mummy’s ollicchi?”

Geography is the study of boats, and aliens, and fossils.

Some things are better when done alone. But then life would be so boring if you did everything alone. That’s why we have team work.

Aunty, it’s magic. How do you know all our names already?

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