The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Mar 21, 2007

First Day

Today is the boy's first day at nursery. He is not yet two, can barely string two words together, but is all agog at the prospect of getting out of our apartment. Little does he suspect that he will be spending five hours thrice a week among a bunch of kids most of whom will not take kindly to his boisterous nature or his overly affectionate kisses. He has been known to push kids against the wall and smooch them, a bit like a minor hero in a Kannada film.

The wife has dressed him in his favourite blue corduroy trousers, a bright yellow shirt claiming to be Daddy's Little Helper, and a red sweatshirt of uncertain brand (very likely made in China). A short ride in his pushchair brings him grinning from ear to ear to the local nursery. The wife is to be at hand to acclimatise him should he feel cowed by the crowds, but he is in his element and is off exploring the minute he is inside. The caretakers are impressed by this independence, and urge the wife to sidle out surreptitiously. "We'll call you if he starts to wail," they say, and she returns home, suddenly bereft and desperately missing the Gundu Bhajji.

Two hours later, there has still been no call from the nursery. Evidently the little chap is enjoying himself. When the wife goes to pick him up past five o'clock, he is busy pooping and fending off a little girl who enthusiastically kicks him as he squats. This is a change for him: usually it's other kids that are the receiving end of his attentions. He is not intentionally violent, of course. Entirely with good humour, he pushes a child who can't walk or sits on another who is crawling. This has not necessarily endeared him to other mothers, but they admit that he is a cutie and can't stay angry with him for long.

We are told that the boy has already caused a minor revolt in the classroom. When urged to sit with the other kids in his group and read a book, he decides instead to rampage around like a Hun. He pulls out books and toys from the shelves and tosses them around. Encouraged by his anarchic attitude, another little chap decides he has had enough of gentility. The two of them shriek happily and trash the rest of the classroom. (At this point, the wife is already worried that the play-school won't want our man back tomorrow.)

I must say, I have no recollection of my first day in nursery. I do remember, however, my little sister joining me in class one fine morning. I am eighteen months older than she is; at age 4 I am speaking fluent Spanish, engaging the teachers in casual banter, and generally being an insufferable show-off. Madhuri, though, is quiet and shy, and when the teacher calls me to the front of the class to explain that day's weather, she begs me not to go. 'Ettan ponda', she says tearfully in Malayalam. Impatiently, I shrug her off and strut proudly to the blackboard. Thirty-four years later, I can still see my sister's stricken face and her fear for my safety, and my heart melts.


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