When I look back at my own childhood, I see a girl who always made her parents proud on the day of the final term results. Though my parents never pressurized me for studies (honestly, they never needed to!), my Professor father often spoke about how a good academic record acted as a catalyst in getting through reputed institutions and eventually helped in settling down professionally. I took his words to heart and went on scaling milestones until I did my first post-graduation from Delhi. The city taught me to live on my own since I knew my father couldn’t make those monthly trips anymore.
Two years later when I shifted to Bangalore for my doctorate program from one of India’s topmost institutes, I had finally unleashed the nomad in me. It took me eight months only to realize that I neither had the attitude nor aptitude to do research. My supervisor almost lost his mind wondering how I could manage to be so bad at even basic research. But the best thing about such a devastating incident (for my supervisor, not me) was that I dived into the corporate world with a job in a Market Research firm (without an iota of understanding what MR really was).
I worked for two years before the bug of MBA bit me and I went back to academics again. This was when I had turned twenty-six and my father was due to retire in two years. Life at corporate world post-B-school was supposed to be about savings, investments and settling down. But I was busy quitting, changing jobs or moving cities while the husband was busy studying further and doing his M.D. We lived our lives convincing each other that ‘Darr ke age jeet hai’ (don’t even ask why!)
My father and father-in-law neither understand nor appreciate my whimsical nature. But my husband who probably believes in the importance of stability as much as these two defended every move of mine saying ‘creative people are never satisfied.’ After we moved back to Kolkata, our families had hoped that they would finally see us settling down. But luck has a strange way of playing spoilsport. Sr. T was posted far away from the Kolkata. And in 2017, I decided to go the solopreneur route to start this blog and take up writing as a profession with a two-year-old in tow. To cut the story short, we have successfully lost the plot to settle down.
Tuneer has followed my footsteps with precision and taken the idea of staying unsettled to another extreme. In April 2018, when the kid joined a preschool, we had tried to make the transition as smooth as possible. He came out devoid of any emotion on day one while almost every other kid was crying. I had such a wave of pity for their poor parents. Little did I know that for the next year, I would be at the receiving end of their sympathy while dragging a wailing child through the corridor.
Tuneer’s preschool Principal had tried to convince me that he would definitely settle down post-summer vacation because by then, he would realize how much he missed school. Every vacation (be it summer or winter) made the return to school more difficult where I had to literally carry the boy to school. By then, he had figured out the tricks of the trade. So if he cried long enough, Sr. T got him any item of his choice as consolation. But if he cried while his grandparents were around, chances were high that they would convince me to let him skip preschool. The end result was that he never settled down in his preschool.
The second last interview for admissions was held in a school that followed the methodology of two rounds of the interview on two different days. In the first round, Tuneer was seated in front of a teacher while Sr. T and I interacted with two other teachers in the same room. The teacher who was interviewing me took out a piece of paper from the multiple chits inside the glass bowl kept between us. The question that was directed to me went as, “Suppose your child creates a fuss every day before coming to school and he keeps crying even after a trimester is completed. What will you do to ensure that he settles down eventually and not develop a phobia of education?”
I looked at her stunned. For a second, I had a feeling that someone had already informed the school about how badly I had failed to help the child overcome his reluctance to go to school. But I gathered myself instantly and made it sound like I was already a pro in dealing with such situations. There’s no point to having done a management course (that too, with marketing specialization) if one hasn’t mastered the art of storytelling in real life situations. By then Tuneer had finished his mini-interview and stood beside me listening to the answer. He had started understanding selective English words clearly and for him ‘settle-down’ was familiar territory.
After Tuneer uttered his first words, elders in the family would often advise us to be cautious with our choice of words in front of him. The reason became clear to me the moment Tuneer opened his mouth to speak next. “I will not settle down. Mummum says I have been crying for one year now at the preschool. Even if I come here, I will still scream and cry.” No amount of sign language through the eyes could stop the spontaneity of this innocent devil.
Expecting the worst, I had not even checked the results of this eventful interaction after three weeks. When Tuneer made it to the second round and was eventually selected in the final list, I couldn’t help but appreciate the courage of the interviewer who chose to have faith in my abilities rather than trust the boy’s solemn promise to continue crying.
Tuneer, staying firm in his resolve hasn’t disappointed us after joining the same school last week. Of the three days that he has attended class until now, he has cried on the last two days (though this time he has asked me to keep this a secret from his grandparents). Yesterday he has made his intention clear by saying that no chocolate or Peppa Pig book can now lure him into entering the school premises peacefully.
Of course, Sr. T cannot just stay away from contributing his bit in this kind of situations. Often when I am found pleading with the boy to reconsider his decision to cry, the man enters the scene with a condescending smile and unsolicited opinion like, “But you only say it is ok for boys to cry. Why are you confusing him now?”. Someday I am going to seek vengeance for this. But as of now, I am busy escaping from running into the interviewer who teaches in the same building where Tuneer is found shrieking at the top of his voice daily. As I reach the end of this post, I already feel a little shaken up at the thought of dropping him to school tomorrow.
As we enter the last leg of this challenge, I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed reading some snippets of my experiences related to school admissions until now. I will be back with my most personalized post in this series tomorrow. You can read all the previous posts here.