I held his hand tight as I walked down 1st Main, Chamarajpet, skipping over holes in the footpath, jumping past puddles from the previous night’s rain. I had woken up as usual to wave tata to my mom from behind the dysfunctional blue gate as she walked in front of it after heading out through the other gate, on her way to catch the blue bus to the Factory. I was given a thorough shower and decked up in a pair of brown shorts, a pair of brown shoes with brown socks and a spotless white shirt – all of them brand new. The breakfast of sambar rice followed by curd rice was eaten much earlier than usual. He still shared his rice mixed with ghee though. The Ayah had arrived as usual on time to shepherd my brother to school.
I left with him as he left for his office. Skipping around, talking nonsense, I saw other kids walking by, all similarly attired. The closer we got, the more they were and the words dried out. We soon stood there outside a room. There were slides, swings and see-saws beckoning nearby. There was a house with some hens clucking around. There were parents holding the hands of other kids, some crying, some jumping around, some standing still shyly. A woman in a sari came out of the room and said something in English. I saw kids leaving their parents’ hands and walking into the room. Like a calf in a herd I followed suit and walked into the room.
I looked around to see wooden benches and everyone trying to find a seat. I looked back through the meshed window and saw him standing there, smiling and waving. I was alone. I looked for the door and found it just as it closed shut. I rushed to the window looking for him. I was alone. Alone amidst others, who stood there at the window, all alone, some waving, and then some crying.
He started to turn back, and then I felt the tears. “Take me with you. I don’t want school” I wanted to shout. All that came out was a massive bawl. I joined the chorus of other kids as we let the tears flow unrestrained. The teacher gathered us and got us to sit on the benches, still bawling. I was told that it was an Aaf day and that I’d be back home by noon, same as what my brother did during Saturdays when he wore colour dress. The tears dried up slowly as I joined the others resigned to face whatever it was. It was just a matter of a few hours and then Maami would come to pick me up and I would go home. And life…would go back to being the same again…