I grew up in the eighties when life was much simpler. The options for entertainment had more to do with people communicating with each other in person than staying hooked on to their mobiles. All the nine houses on the street (para in Bengali) that we stayed at had neighbors who knew each other well, visited each other’s houses frequently and celebrated festivals together. My closest friend in the neighborhood came from a family where both her parents were working. Her father, Uncle K was also my father’s close friend and colleague. Despite the fact that they had full-time help to take care of her and her elder brother. I don’t remember an afternoon where she wasn’t having lunch or taking a nap at my place.
I studied in a primary school for four months before my parents applied for admission to the only Convent school in my home town. Unlike Tuneer, I loved going to school. In the first primary school, a few of the teachers happened to be the wives of my father’s colleagues. Because of their occasional visits to our house and vice versa, I was already familiar with the aunties that school never felt any different after I saw them in the classrooms.
My life at the Convent school started amidst turbulence. On the night before the scheduled date of interaction, my paternal grandfather passed away. As per his last wish, his dead body was taken to his native village for cremation and my father had to go for the last rites. The rules of the admission process had clearly mentioned that both the parents had to attend the interaction session along with the kid. Ma had lost all hopes of getting permission for attending the interview alone with me. But Uncle K took it upon himself to go to the school and explain the situation to the authorities. My friend and I both had our separate interaction sessions after Uncle K convinced the authorities that I deserved a chance. For him, I could never be his daughter’s competitor but her best friend.
Both of us studied in the same school but in different sections until she moved on to a different institution for high school. While we went ahead and made many more friends in school, I don’t remember any of us crying beyond the first day because we had each other. While there was competition in academics and extracurriculars, it was never reason enough to cut ties or devise strategies to beat so-called ‘friends turned into opponents’. My interaction with my core circle of friends went beyond the school boundary walls because their parents always made me feel welcome at home. A couple of months back, when I went to the birthday celebration of the daughter of one of my best friends from school, it never felt like we were meeting after two decades.
It feels overwhelming to accept that I survived the A2Z challenge until today and reached the alphabet R. Last week Tuneer’s new school brought in a complete change of schedule for all of us. And then we had Satyanarayana Pooja at home last morning keeping me on my toes the whole day. the fatigue gave rise to a strong urge to skip writing for the day. But this series has become so much fun that I couldn’t resist myself from writing this last post for the week.
For more two and a half decades of my life, I had really not known what rejection meant both in personal and professional lives. Two numbers in my life have always been high – the digits on the weighing scale and my marks in most of the examinations. The former ensured that I never have any kind of distraction in the form of affairs until I went to college and the latter gave me the confidence to face those who tried to body shame me. When I faced the first rejection in academics, my skills to handle the same were underdeveloped. With experience, this has improved though I must say that I am still quite wary of any kind of rejection for the simple fact that I don’t know how to deal with it.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Sr. T. This man seems unfazed by both selection or rejection. For him, there’s always a way out and everything is predestined. Now how does one argue with someone who starts quoting verses from Gita at the slightest of opportunities? For Tuneer to be brought up by two such radically different people speaks about the kind of contradictory situations that the boy often finds himself in!
We spoke about unsolicited advice yesterday. After the first school admission notice came out in September this year, suddenly my state of mind seemed to be in a state of permanent chaos. Amidst several other concerns related to the preparation for interviews, one factor that suddenly became a priority item on our agenda was to work on his ‘fluency’ in English.
In a typical middle-class Bengali household residing in Bengal, the usual mode of communication is in Bengali or Bangla, as we prefer to call it. Tuneer had started speaking quite earlier than usual and by the time he had turned three, his ability to communicate in clear sentences often led us in highly embarrassing situations for he often disclosed things that were only meant to be kept private. He spoke so much that often it would remind me of my late mother’s statement about how I was such a talkative child both at home and school. With Sr. T staying away from the city five-six days a week, my father and in-laws try to work out a schedule that ensures at least one of them being available in Kolkata at any given point.
Even if my convent education poked me to make an attempt to teach this boy a couple of important sentences in English, his Bengali-medium educated Doctor father kept laughing it off. With a retired Maths Professor as his maternal grandfather and a paternal grandfather whose knowledge on technology and current affairs always turns out to be superior to us, I was fighting a lost battle. If I ever even tried to teach him the answer to a simple question like “What is your name?” as “My name is Tuneer Banerjee.”, it would be met with protests about how I was creating unnecessary pressure on the child. Their preferred answer was always his full name only since no child was expected to answer in sentences. Though I had the sympathy of the paternal grandmother, the maternal grandmother had no way of communicating her opinion from her heavenly abode.