September 1975, Cardiff

Hi! It is me,  again.

I go to school now. The school here is very big when compared to my school in Patna.

My Father walks my brother and myself to school every morning, whether it is sunny, gloomy or rainy. It is a long silent walk. Father drops us at the school gate and then walks  further  to the hospital where he works as a Doctor.

I have an Indian friend in the school. Our parents know each other. We have been to each others house and have played fun games. I am really happy as my Indian friend is also my classmate. She has been in this school for sometime now, so she is not new to the school.

School is interesting. Teacher speaks only in English. The students are English. All very fair in colour with different shades of brown hair and eyes of varied hues of blue and brown. I’m learning how to read and write in English. I realise that I already know a lot of what the teacher teaches in class. My school in Patna had taught me well.

I love the crayons and colour pencils. They are excellent. I love to stare at the different coloured pencils before I choose a shade to use on paper. I love to draw trees, the ground, grass, flowers, mountains, and the sky. I use black to draw the outline of my drawing. Lots of brown for the ground and mountains, tree trunks and flower stems. Then I fill in green for the grass and leaves, blue for the sky and all the other shades for the small flowers on the ground. I love nature in all its colours.

Lunch Break at school is rather long. Food here is very different from what I am used to at home (daal bhat, roti subzi). Food here is rather bland but very colorful.  Green Peas, orange carrots, red tomatoes, almost whitish mashed potatoes, brown buns, green spinach, pale boiled  chicken slices, silvery steamed  fish (smells very fishy).  There is so much to choose from.There is dark coloured meat as well. I did  pick up a funny looking  oblong piece of meat and tried it. I Didn’t like it (had no idea what it was), so left it on my plate. I told my mother about the funny long fat finger shaped food that I left on my plate. The next day my parents gave instructions to the food lady not to serve me any meat besides chicken and fish.

The best part about lunch is dessert. One day cake, the next day custard, then eclairs, tarts, and then doughnuts. Sweet stuff that was different from Indian sweets and puddings. I love them all.

After lunch, all the kids at school played in the school ground.  My Indian friend has many English friends. I also want to know all my classmates and play with them. I have introduced myself to them. We talk about the games we can play. – hide and seek, catch-catch etc. How I love to play in big groups. I’m good at all the games we play. I’m a fast runner, faster than most of the English kids and even my Indian friend.

The first few days at school has been a lot of fun. But now my Indian friend doesn’t want to talk to me anymore. After lunch we all go out to play in the big playground. I am asked by my Indian friend to wait on the side while all the other kids group up to talk about something. So I stand alone on the side. I impatiently wait for the talk to be over so that we can all start playing some game. Finally when their talk is over, I give them all a big wide grin. Now we can play.

The English kids grin back at me and so does my Indian friend. Then they all start calling me ‘Blackie – Blackie’. I’m puzzled. Is this some new game? Maybe this is a new game involving colours. I ask them to teach me how to play this game. My Indian friend laughs out loud and says – ‘No this is not a game, You are Blackie’.

Then an English classmate shouts out -‘We don’t play with Blackies’.

All the kids then run away to the other side of the ground. I am left standing alone. I look at the colour of my hands. It is not black but brown. I look at the English kids. They are almost white, like the colour of mashed potatoes but with a pink tinge on their cheeks. My Indian friend is light brown. Just the two of us Indians have black hair and black eyes. But our skin is brown.

I sit alone on the playground bench and start to think. Don’t these children know the names of colours yet. Haven’t they been taught colours in school. I knew the different colours even before I flew to this foreign land. Maybe these kids need more time to learn. After all my class teacher has recently told the class how bright a student I am and how fond she is of me. I hope my friends learn names of different colours soon enough to call me brown. But, I thought to myself, even if they think I am black, why don’t they include me in the games?

When school got over, me and my brother stood near the school gate waiting for Ma to pick us up. I looked at my brother. He is light brown. I wanted to ask him as to whether he was called ‘blackie’ or ‘brownie’ by his classmates. It just stayed as a thought. I’ll tell my mother about those kids and what happened at lunch break today.

I saw my mother walking towards the school gate. My little sister was in her arms. My sister and I smiled at each other.I looked at my mother and thought to myself – my mother is the best and  forgot all that took place at school.

A new day has come. Hoping to play lots of games at school today. At playtime my classmates run to me, touch me and shout ‘Blackie’. I feel rather uneasy today. I want to go back home. At home I tell my mother about the Blackie incidents. My mother tells me that kids learn at their own pace. Some are fast and some are slow. Some are nice and some not so nice. There will always be some kid better than you and some kid not as nice as you. You need to be patient with the slow learners. They will eventually learn and be nice to you.

Some days have have gone by and I have noticed that my classmates no longer  call me ‘Blackie’ anymore. They don’t even call me brown. I am in the group games and when we have two groups in a game- both the groups fight for me to be on their side. Lunch break is fun again.

They have learnt my name. No, not Baby! My proper name.