Last Friday was children’s day in India, a day described on the internet and in the newspapers as a day of ‘fun and frolicking’ for children, celebrating the birthday of one of India’s founding fathers, Jawahar Lal Nehru. The day is marked by cultural events at schools and parades and children should be seen to be engaged in fun activities… So how better to celebrate this than with the longest ever assembly and performance at School, followed by a ‘free afternoon’ to give children the opportunity to take part in or watch parades through the towns.
Although various teachers had hinted at the need to wear a sari to school on Friday, none had actually explained the reasons why… So, no, I did not go out at the eleventh hour to ‘purr-chase’ – people here make ‘purr-chases’ rather than ‘buying things at the shop’ – a sari and came to school in my usual ‘Western-take-on-churidar’ outfit: legs covered and with sleeves! I only had a vague idea what Children’s Day entailed as I tend to do my internet research after the events rather than in preparation (not the best move.. ). So I was not quite dressed for the occasion and all the teachers were wearing Kerala saries, all cream and gold, apart from me…
And as the children piled into the assembly hall, I was presented with a chair… at the front. Any attempts to move further to the back of the hall were craftily foiled. As this all happened before I met Sylvia in Kovalam, I did not yet fully grasp that my status as ‘guest of honour’ would linger for a while. So when all the dignitaries present had to light a candle, I was also called upon and wished I had at least borrowed a sari… But I am sure nobody really noticed and if they did, they were polite enough not to mention it.
However, spare a thought for the children who on this day of ‘fun and gaiety’ sat through a whole hour of speeches by a guest professor, the Principal and various other teachers. This was followed by a further hour of watching children and teachers perform songs, music and poetry. Even the older children became rather restless, but the little ones struggled to keep their attention focussed on the stage and found many other ways to occupy themselves:
Later on, having a free afternoon in town, I accidentally found out about the Children’s Parade in N., in which about 60 schools took part – it is a competition and the school with the best display wins a prize. I do not know who won, but I certainly would have given my vote to ‘Mahatma Ghandi Mini-Me’!!