It is the first day of school.
Here I am, thinking about my school days. The friends, the teachers, the campus and what not. Probably the most unpleasant of those memories is waking up early in the morning. I remember how my sister and I would fight for the other to wake up first to catch just a few more minutes of sleep. Then followed the routine. Brush your teeth. Get ready, change into uniform. Put on shoes, laces tied halfway. That hurried breakfast and then running to catch the bus. Quite a regular morning, you’d say.
This sudden bout of reminiscing is no coincidence. Yes, it is the first day of school in Vellore for our children and the excitement is off the roof for 7 am in the morning. We’re going to see the kids off to school and oh, we can’t wait for it!
Having settled into the college routine, which basically amounts to reaching class within 10 minutes of waking up, without much preparation as such, our curiosity is piqued. Will it be the same? What will the mood be like? Will the kids be rushing to get ready? Will they be sleepy? How will they react when they see us? You see, we hadn’t told them we were coming in the morning to see them off for their first day of school.
As we step into the center, there’s no sign of anyone around. We realize that they’re in the mess area and head there. Just as we’re about to enter, some of the kids come out having finished breakfast and see us standing there, our faces splitting in crazy grins.
They look as if they’ve not completely shaken off their sleep. What are these “Akkas” and “Annas” doing here? Is it time for MAD class? No, it’s time for school. What is happening?
And then joy.
They rush towards us, a commotion of greetings and cheer. “Good Morning, Akka”, “How are you Akka?”, “What are you doing?” “Don’t you have class?”. We are lost in that moment. Holding hands, taking their lunch box, helping them put on shoes. Everything is forgotten. The classes we have to rush back to at 8, the assignment that is due tomorrow, the placements we have to sit for. We’re back in school again, looking for the missing sock, fishing for books, filling up the water bottles and what not. Some of the kids are studying for their test today, others waiting for the bus to come. Each and every one of us is engrossed in some or the other conversation.
We loved taking new stuff to school, didn’t we? So we decided to give all the kids new water bottles along with handmade cards. I’m hopping from floor to floor helping distribute everything just as Shwetha comes running to me. She’s all ready for school and just can’t keep herself from joining the fun. When I ask her what she did first thing in the morning she tells me that she prayed. I want to listen to the prayer and she gladly obliges. She sings,
“Itni Shakti hame dena data, man ka vishwas kamzor ho naa.
Hum chale nek raste pe humse, bhool kar bhi koi bhool ho na.”
[Trans: Give us enough strength so that our will stays strong, so that we walk on the right path, so that we do commit wrong.]
There aren’t enough words to describe that moment. This sweet little girl, shutting her eyes close, hands folded in prayer, singing. You cannot help but be in awe of her sincerity. Her mother tongue being Tamil, she doesn’t understand much of the prayer and we sit and talk about what the words mean. It is no more just another school morning. There’s chatter and laughter and lots of commotion as everyone gets ready. Suddenly going to school is not that tedious a task.
The bus is here.
Lunch box and water bottle, check.
Were we ever this excited for school? School life holds innumerable memories but not a single one of an excited morning in expectation of actually going to school. As we wave incessantly, the bus pulling away with the kids and their wide toothed grin, we cannot help but think back on our school days. So many things we took for granted and so many things without which we couldn’t have made it into this big wide world. Immense gratitude and boundless joy fills our hearts as we see the kids leaving for school happily.
MAD has given all of us countless happy memories. I’m adding another one to my list today. This must be what MAD mornings are like.