June 15s from my past

Posted on June 15, 2020

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My book writing hasn’t been doing well during the pandemic. While I view myself with compassion and understand that this is a global crisis and not a writer’s retreat, I am determined to gently guide myself back into writing in a more disciplined fashion. It’s not even a writer’s block that I am experiencing. It’s more of an energy block. This morning, I have committed to a month of:

A. Writing my “Beyond Gratitude,” journal daily: (You can learn more about this in a workshop I am hosting on July 29th: Introduction to Mindful Living – 7PM ET on Zoom. DM me to know more.)

B. Keeping a Morning Pages journal: Writing down three pages of all thoughts freely (stream of consciousness) daily is supposed to help with unblocking the barriers for writers.

C. Making an appearance on this blog at least once a week: May be sharing snippets of the book or some highlights from the Morning Pages stream of consciousness

Today’s Morning Pages yielded something very sweet for me. Sharing below. It may make it into my book. You are the privileged few that get dibs on it.

June 15, 2020

A Monday on June 15th would have signified the reopening of schools back in India. It wasn’t such a big deal in India when I was growing up, or may be it just wasn’t in my family. There was no obsessing over outfits because most schools had uniforms. We did get new textbooks and notebooks. The last few weeks of the holidays would be spent in putting these books into brown covers! I can get a whiff of that paper even now.

I find it hard to remember how I felt around the new school year. The only first day of school I do remember is from when I was in grade 1. I had been waiting for weeks to wear the “Big girl,” uniform – a grey pinafore with a white shirt inside. Fun fact: I used to pronounce pinafore as a pinaform. We had a uniform even for kindergarten – a red and whited checkered frock. Too cutesy and not at all befitting the mature young lady I was ready to be at the ripe age of seven. Our tailor, Rathod, gave us the uniforms a few days before school started. Mummy made me put it on to ensure it fit properly. It did. I kept it on for a few days. I was that excited.

Kindgergarten class photo / I am seated second to left from the teacher, Miss Juliet

Yet on the day, I was not ready to go to school! Mummy tried everything. Yelling, cajoling, bribing, but I didn’t budge. Finally, she got Deepak Uncle, our school-rickshaw driver to come up and get me. I can see myself standing by the switchboard of the bedroom that my sister and I shared with my parents, literally backed into a corner. Deepak Uncle came in and swooped me up in his arms gently and easily. I now wonder what went through his mind as he walked me down the one flight of stairs to the rickshaw with patiently waiting children. Perhaps, I don’t get paid nearly enough for shit like this. Was I the first one that day, I now wonder.

I don’t remember the rickshaw ride to school. The next thing I remember is being in the corridor; I was still howling and Deepak Uncle was still carrying me. I saw Sujata Mehta in the first classroom on the left. She asked me who my teacher was. Miss Lopes, I mumbled. She pointed to the next classroom sweetly. What poise she had even back then! Sujata was one of those girls born to lead and do well. It is no surprise to anyone who knew her that she is a doctor, a dermatologist to be precise. Sujata belonged to a prominent and wealthy family. She was friends with all the wealthy children in my grade, yet I found her to be grounded, respectful and welcoming throughout our school years. I think she even came to one of my birthday parties! I am not sure why.

I don’t remember much of the school day itself, but have a faint memory of having a sheepish smile on my face at the end of the day. Turns out, my teacher, Miss Lopes was a loving and caring human being. All the children in my section took to her immediately. We spent the rest of the year making her cards. We thought of her as a friend. Our cards would be addressed, “My Dear Lopes,” because we assumed that was her name. It was not a common last name in Ahmedabad, where I grew up. And definitely not for a seven-year old. Miss Lopes had salt-n-pepper hair that was always in a thin, stringy plait. She wore crisp, printed cotton sarees with her pallu neatly pinned to her right shoulder.

Miss Lopes’ class, 1-B. I am in the second row from top, six from left, towards the centre

I cannot imagine why I had been so anxious when I had been so excited before! May be because my sister would not be around. My sister would have entered grade 5 and her school campus would have changed that year! I would no longer have the illusion of her protection. We weren’t close then, but as I write this, I am convinced this is the reason. (This reasoning / realization is not in the morning pages. It just came to me now!)

I look upon this day fondly. All the people in it. Who is the protagonist? It doesn’t matter. Every moment or memory in our life involves favourable or unfavourable people, fortunate or unfortunate events. All of these come together somehow to form a single memory. Each of those people will have a back story, their own plot within which this single scene or day will be nestled in.

I am left thinking about Deepak Uncle’s day! What was Sujata’s day like? Did my sister miss me when she arrived at her new campus? New eyes on this memory that I have thought of infrequently, but often thought of in the last thirty years.

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