Two years back, the significance of fourteenth November reappeared in my life in the form of my two month old baby. The date had lost its significance during my growing years, more so in the corporate world. But that year, I actually made an effort to make the day special with some balloons and a soft toy for my munchkin who way too small to understand the happenings. Last year, we got him some more balloons, toys and taught him to swing to happy children’s day just as he would dance to anyone singing happy birthday. For me, November is the month that I would rather delete from my calendar. Every celebration in November needs an additional effort because November for me is when I lost Ma.
T(my son) had his paternal grandparents visit him today and that I guess is the best gift he got this year. They had been missing each other. The joy on seeing them play together like it was an all kids group got me revisiting my memories of children’s day.
In my small town Convent School, the preparation for the grand event to be held on children’s day started almost a month before the scheduled date. Every student was requested to contribute two items of his choice and to be displayed go for lottery . It could be as simple as a whistle or a toy or a pen – just about anything non perishable. It was an initiative of the school to give back to the society even though we were too young to realize then.
Each class and every section pertaining to that class could give a stall under the supervision of a class teacher on that day. The planning would have begun long back. Students volunteered for the food items after discussing with their peers and families. The duty of getting items like dum aloo ,fuchkas, namkeens, pakodas, tea, coffee had to assigned in such a way that variety of items were introduced and no single item was over stocked. Some were assigned the responsibility of getting plates, spoons and cups to serve food. The whole class would work like a single entity to ensure we had the most unique items on our menu. This was team building at its best. Prices were fixed for each item and it was kept affordable. Just the day before the gala event, our assigned counters, which would be on the corridor of the ground floor of the school had to be decorated with dupattas, beads, wall hangings and thermocol cut outs. Amidst all these, each section would try to secretly assign some informers to check out the specialties of other classes. After all, this was war. The counter that had the highest earnings were declared as winners the next day. The school was subtly teaching us the benefits of planning and organizing.
On the day of the event, we walked around like warriors ready to take on every other class and section as our arch rivals. The food items were neatly stacked along with the paper cutlery, final touch to the creative decoration was given and the price list put up. Few students were picked up for manning the counter while some were made in charge of cash along with the class teacher. The rest were the branch ambassadors of that stall. They were to walk around with the price list and get customers to visit the stall. More customer visits meant more sales and thus more revenue. The basics of a management school -marketing and finance was driven through examples. Once the go ahead was announced, the event was a frenzy of activities. The energy and enthusiasm was infectious. Few students even went up to the main gate to ensure they get their customers right at the entrance without leaving them for a varied option. Parents were invited just as friends, relatives, acquaintances and random strangers were entertained. Yet I don’t remember me or my parents ever being concerned about the safety and security aspects. We definitely lived in a better era.
The school’s assembly hall had to be decked up and served as the center for collection of gifts against lottery tickets. The heavy bunch of items contributed by students, teachers and school authorities were put on display after assigning a specific number to each of it. A huge amount of effort went in getting this part carefully set. The most expensive items like saree, wall clock, wrist watch were kept as the bumper prize items. At the entrance of the school, the admission office doubled up as the counter for purchasing lottery tickets. During my term at the school, the price of each ticket went from two rupees to five rupees to ten rupees eventually. One was allowed to purchase multiple tickets. All he had to do is go the window of assembly hall next and hand over the ticket to a staff there the receive the item tagged against the number on lottery ticket. Often long queues infront of the ticket counter was a common sight.
By early evening, the items at most of the stalls would be almost stocked out. Quite a lot of the parents and relatives would have been forcefully fed because every student took up the responsibility of contributing maximum to the earnings. Quite a few would be complaining about having received items like whistles or pens or small toys against their lottery tickets. However there were a lucky few who ended us getting a more useful lot of pencil boxes or tiffin boxes. I distinctly remember having set a record of winning a bunch of whistles against all my lottery tickets in a particular year. My Ma’s absolutely amused face at receiving the set still manages to make me smile. Wrapping up the event, packing the empty vessels to carry back home (losing them would have led to serious consequence at home),taking off the decorations and cleaning up the place were the second last stages. Much before Swach Bharat came into existence,Mary Immaculate School (MIS) taught us the importance of taking up onus for our actions and the impact of cleanliness .
The last stage would always be the most awaited one – counting the money earned. It was not an era of PayTm or swiping machines. Every exchange was in cash. The counting had to be done very secretly lest any other class eavesdropped. After handing it over to the school authorities, we would head back home in anticipation. Only the next day would tell us if we had performed well enough to be winners. The money collected and the remaining gift items were eventually handed over for charity. The school taught us the joy of giving and that however small, every gesture mattered. A lot of the alumni still carry that value with us till date.
In a couple of years, my son will start his schooling. In this generation of an unsafe world, I doubt how secure I would feel for my son when events like this will be hosted in his school. I’m unsure if in this era of violence, deadly games and bullying, whether children’s day will still be able to hold its innocence and charm. Yet as I start looking at the pictures on my timeline about the celebration in my school today, there arises that tiny bit of hope and faith that somethings will always stay as beautiful and pure as this day today.
Dedicated to the institution and my teachers who played a big role in shaping me up as a person and influencing my thought process. This children’s day I only wish and pray that may your clan grow by leaps and bounds.