Autumn 🍂 of 1979

I’m now in the IV th grade. Our class teacher is rather nice. On day one of the new session, she called me to the front of the classroom and gave me a gel pen and said that I must use it for writing instead of a pencil. Christopher, my classmate also got a pen to write with. We were told that we were the best students in the 3 rd grade and therefore deserved to use a pen now. My other classmates were to continue writing with a pencil till their handwriting and spellings improved.

Let me share with you something that I didn’t tell anyone else. I was scared of writing! Of course I can write but I tend to get stuck with words like dab; or is it dad; bab; or is it bad. How does one understand the difference between d and b or p & q. They look so similar. Which way does the head of the ‘s’ face. Is it the opposite of ‘z’. But which way does ‘z’ face.

Now numbers also made me suffer. 8563 in the book may become 5836 in my note book. But they appear to be correct when I check. Why can’t numbers be simple.

Now how do I erase and correct the spelling mistakes if I use a pen for writing. I can’t erase ink. So I asked the teacher for my pencil. She understood my problem ( well just a bit) and said that if I made a spelling mistake then I must put tiny ‘x’s before and after the mistake. No cutting or scribbling on the mistake.

So there I was stuck with a pen for supposedly being a good student.

The books had become thicker and the subjects had increased. The teacher said that from this grade onwards there will be tests that will decide our achievements in class. Till the 3 rd grade we never had any tests. The teacher would ask us questions after talking on a topic. It was a lot of fun.

The History book was the worst book. It had pictures of kings and queens and nobles in very dull shades. It was written in the book that many of them had been beheaded. How ghastly! I had to stop myself from imagining what I read as I got scared. I preferred to sit near the window and see the flowers, birds and insects. I pictured myself amidst them.

Sports day had arrived. I was going to participate in the skipping race. My mother had come to watch me participate. The events were to take place in the high fenced rectangular enclosure. 8 girls from my class were participating. We were given a skipping rope each. I didn’t stand a chance as I was the thinnest girl but I was so excited to compete.

On your marks…. get set…… GO!!! I ran as fast as I could, swinging the rope with my arms and jumping over the skipping rope on each leap. I turned to see where the other girls were. Was I fast enough or not. Some girls were skipping at one place, one girl had tripped and the others were slightly behind me. Was I ahead of the others! I touched the finish mark. I had won. My mother stood gaping at me. I think she was totally shocked that her skinny little brown girl had won.

Classroom was still fun although managing the classes were becoming difficult. I was selected for the annual drama to play the role of a princess, one of the lead characters in the story. This was going to be fun. I asked my mother to stitch a beautiful dress that a princess might wear. My mother is the best dress maker possible.

The teacher gave us our first test sheet. We had to write the answers in the booklet. The Test was for an hour. I loved doing the puzzles, match the following and managed the maths part too. Now came the history questions. I just had 10 mins left. I knew the answers. Can’t I just tell them to the teacher. She said ‘No’. I had to write them. I started getting stuck with some alphabets. So I checked with the question paper for the correct way to write d, b, p, q, g, z, s and even c. I was somehow managing to write slowly and painstakingly. One hour was over and I still had some answers to write.

After correcting our worksheets our teacher briefed us on our scores. I hadn’t done as well as I was expected to do. I had not scored well in maths due to silly mistakes. History was incomplete.

I always knew I wasn’t as good as the teachers thought I was. How do I tell her that I can’t see much difference between a ‘d’and a ‘b’, between a 6 and a 9. Maybe all kids have such problems.

The school annual function day arrived. My mother had stitched the best royal dress. It was in two pieces. A sleeveless frilly gown and a pink floral blouse with a frilly neck. It was far more beautiful and brighter than the dresses that queens wore in my history book pictures.

The play was the last and most awaited event of the evening. We dressed up to suit our characters. I had to wear the gown and the blouse. They were both so pretty.

It was a long play with many characters. The audience comprised of school kids, parents and other family members of the school kids. I remembered all my lines, so did all the other actors in the play. We all bowed in front of the audience after the play was over. The applause was generous and we kids could not stop grinning.

It was now time to find your parents and go home. My mother and little sister were waiting for me. We were all smiling. Then my sister asked me as to why I wore the blouse on top of the gown? The sleeveless gown was to be worn on top of the blouse so that the beauty of the gown was also visible.

Usually I am the one to help my sister decide what to wear and help her change her clothes. Well I thought I knew how to wear clothes. But I had made a dramatic mistake. I guess it is not just numbers and alphabets that confuse me, sometimes even clothes do.