My son today officially became a “big boy” – when he stepped confidently into his coloured, plastered and paper mache’d Junior KG classroom. Being the first day – the school authorities had requested all parents to personally drop and pick up the kids from the school. Waiting outside while the class went on, was completely optional – and some paranoid (and maybe jobless) mothers did exercise the option.

When we reached the school – there was a mêlée of parents, grandparents, chachas, phooyees, aayas, drivers, teachers, peons and helpers bustling around in a scene resembling last moments of a stock clearance sale for iPhones. It was quite easy to miss the fact that the whole thing was actually about the children. Poor lil things were jostled and elbowed and carried and pushed to their classrooms… not a good start. I firmly held Dhruv’s hand and stayed behind – and waited for the gang to clear up. When I finally did reach his classroom – the scene inside was one that of pandemonium. Wailing children being assuaged by helpless mothers, a couple of kids fighting with someone who looked like staff trying to stop them in vain, belligerent parents asking a hundred questions simultaneously to a harried lady – who eventually had to stop them by shouting “I AM A PARENT – I AM NOT THE TEACHER!”

Dhruv looked up at me – as if questioning my decision to pay all that money and enroll him in what looked like the marriage registration office in November. I nodded wisely – “main hoon na” – and proceeded to look for a teacher. Now it is not that easy – especially if you have no clue what he/she looks like. I saw a woman looking at me – and she smiled. Bingo! I went towards her – and saw a little girl in pigtails appearing from behind her legs and looking at me with big eyes. Nope…not the teacher. So I asked her – have you seen the teacher? She shook her head in despair… obviously she too had failed in the quest for the master or mistress. Suddenly I saw a harried housewife (sorry homemaker) running out of the door calling for someone… she obviously didn’t find her and as she rushed back – she bumped into me and both of us almost fell on the sunmica table. “Are you the teacher?” I asked. She nodded very sadly as if saying “you found the poor sod”.
“This is Dhruv”, I said.
“Where is his i.d. card?”
“We didn’t get one.”
Blank stare.
“You were supposed to make one on your own – until we gave you one. Didn’t you know?”
“I am sorry – I didn’t. But I will create one by tomorrow.”
She gave me a disappointed shake of the head – took Dhruv by the shoulder and sat him down on an empty seat. I asked – when can I pick him up.
Tired blank stare followed by “What did they tell you?” while pointing generally at ether.
I looked around expecting a bunch of “them” hovering over my back, wagging “their” fingers at me saying “We told you! You weren’t paying attention! Bad boy.”
“Who?”
“Them. The authorities.”
“What I know is 3:45 from the circular pasted outside – but just wanted to confirm with you.”
Another disappointed shake of the head. She then turned around and tapped another lady on her arm – and asked her the same question. This was the “real” teacher. She said – “3.45. Please come yourself with the i.d. card.”
“I don’t have an i.d. card.” I was getting tired of this erudite conversation – and the blank stares I was at the receiving end of.
“Please make one soon.”
I nodded – and turned to Dhruv. I kissed him on his cheek and told him “Papa will be back to pick you up.” He gave a nervous smile. Meanwhile the wailing and cajoling and questioning around us continued unabated. It was enough to make a grown man nervous – forget a small boy.

But my small boy just nodded confidently and waved me goodbye. As I stepped out of the battlezone – I looked back at him. And the image of a four year old waving at me with apprehension in his young eyes – but a brave smile on his face – I will never forget. I wondered – if I was ever this brave in my entire life. There was a lump in my throat as I walked down the corridor – leaving the noise behind. Will he be ok? And then I saw his brave smile again in my mind… I smiled and I believed.

Yes…he is going to be just fine.

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