Today I went back to my old school. This morning, I woke up at my uncle's house and went to drop my niece Sanika to school. She's just in nursery. I had never been to her class but Sonu didi said she'll tell me which class is hers. Sanika got on the activa and stood in front, (the floor on the moped) holding on to the handle. I hoped my knees would guard her against falling.
It was a pretty short ride, and we arrived safely amidst all the rush hour traffic. As we got down, I realised I still hadn't tied my shoe laces. I tied them up, and asked sanika if she wanted me to pick her up. She says, "NO! All the other kids are walking." I say ok, but lets go fast, you're getting late. And we started to walk. I told her to hold my hand so that we'd be walking at the same pace and she wouldn't get lost. But she was walking so slowly, looking around, that I decided to pick her up eventually. She is never in the mood to go to school I had heard. She always has a swollen face in the morning when walking to school.
As I was walking, the school bell rang. I didn't pay much attention to it, but sanika was alert. She says, "The bell just went off." I reply, "so should I hurry?" I quicken my pace. As I am getting closer, I ask her to point in the direction of her classroom. She points to 'Nursery A'. I put her on the ground and she's already forgotten I exist. She quietly walks and puts her water bottle down, goes in the class, and wishes the teacher Good Morning. Doesn't even look back for a second. I observe her from the window for a bit and walk back home. I spotted my other niece Twinkle sitting in the assembly ground on the way back, and wave. She waves back.
At 10:30 Purva, Monu didi and I, all three of us went to pick her up. We had another motive. To eat the famous bhel we all used to love when we were in school. First, we went to her class. Monu didi told us she'd be sitting with the same swollen face waiting to be picked up. But she was happily eating from her lunch box. When she saw us, she packed it away, and was ready to leave. Monu didi wanted to talk to her teacher, so we waited outside and engaged in small talk with her and another boy who was also waiting for his parents to come pick him up. While returning home, Sanika was overly enthusiastic and was walking no, running ahead of us all.
Once we were out, I heaved a sigh of relief that I made it in and out of the school twice while avoiding encounter with any of my previous teachers. Once outside, I started to look for 'patel bhel wala' and a 'barf ka gola wala' But they weren't there. I guess they'll be here in half hour when the older kids school lets out. We decided to come back then. Oh, I almost forgot, we had to buy Sanika a little something from a hawker. A balloon whistle toy thingy.
It was a bag of mixed feelings going to school, seeing and experiencing what I did. I was excited to see these things after such a long time. I had cried when I saw all these things in the movie Taare zameen par during the song, "mera Jaha". I was overjoyed that I'm finally getting to see that up close and personal again. But there were things that made me think about things more seriously. Almost made me sad.. I am seeing all these other young kids and I can't find a familiar face in any of them. I don't know anyone of them. The only people I can recognize are the vendors, the hawkers,etc. The guy who pumped air in my cycle tyres so many years ago is still there doing the same thing while I have upgraded from a cycle to a car. Kids have grown and moved from akola to pune, even overseas. But these guys are still at the same place.
After the older kid's school was over, at 11 am, me and Purva decided to go have a barf ka gola, and get the bhel packed so all three of us could eat it together at home. By now the hawkers had come as the older kids have more money to spend than the younger ones and they do much better business now. I had a gola with the red and green syrup on it like I used to love while Purva got one with 'kala khatta.' The price this time was 3 rupees. I remember when it only used to be 50 paisa. While eating and talking about school days, she spotted Twinkle. She went and called her, Arjun was there too. We talked for a bit before they had to leave. Then we got the bhel and returned home.
I entered the house jumping with joy and announced "I had a 'gola' today!" hehe.. Then it was time to eat the bhel. We all knew it was going to be really hot. The green chutney that he adds to the bhel is killer! And we still loved it. We ate it so much that our tongues were kinda used to it. But this time, it was going to be much harder. Still, All three of us finished it in one go. It was as if we were dared to eat the whole thing on a game show or something. LOL. After it was all done, we guzzled down cola and water like crazy. And we were laughing and joking about it. No regrets.
Even when my stomach wasn't feeling so great in the afternoon, I said to myself, "Totally worth it."