First Day Back at School
We all try to get out of things that we don’t like. But does this really help us?
“All ready for the first day of school?” Amma asked, walking into Vidya’s room. Vidya had been staring out of the window and jumped at Amma’s voice. “Yes,” she said, “everything is ready.”
“Exciting, isn’t it?” Amma asked. “Going back to school?”
Vidya didn’t think so but, “Yes!” she said. Her voice sounded hollow to herself. Would Amma guess from her lukewarm response that Vidya was dreading going back to school? After a month and half away from school the rules and regulations, the very routine seemed alien and scary.
“I hated going back to school!” Amma declared, surprising Vidya into saying, “Really?” “Yes,” Amma smiled mischievously. “Absolutely hated it. And the last few days of my vacations were spent praying that school would close down. It never happened, of course, but that didn’t stop me from hoping even as I walked to school on the first day!”
“Hmm,” Vidya said and then, taking courage into both her hands she confessed, “I …I feel that way too!”
“You do?” Amma seemed amazed. “I suppose,”she went on, “all children feel that way!” Vidya thought briefly of her friends. None of them seemed concerned about going back to school and accepted it as a necessary part of life.
“You know,” Amma was grinning again, “one year I decided that I wouldn’t go to school on the first day!”
“Did you mother let you do that?” Vidya asked, surprised.
“Oh, yes,” Amma nodded. “Your grandmother had no problem with my staying at home on the first day!”
Wow, thought Vidya, that was an idea. She too could miss the first day of school. Would Amma let her stay home? Did she dare ask her mother? Aloud she said, “Lucky you!”
“Lucky me?”Amma echoed. “Hmm, I suppose so. That is what I thought too. I was so pleased with myself for having missed the first day of school. And then I had to go to school the next day and I realized how wrong I had been. I realized that I had not missed the first day of school after all!”
“What?”Vidya frowned. What was Amma saying? “But you missed school on the first day, didn’t you?” she asked. “Yes,” Amma nodded. “But when I went to school the next day, that was my first day at school!”
“Oooh!” Vidya said, realization dawning.
“Yes,”Amma nodded. “And by then everyone had decided who their seat partner was going to be, the teachers had asked for introductions and…in short,” she sighed, “it was a horrible day for me!”
Vidya could imagine how that would feel- going to school when everyone else knew what was happening, everyone else had decided things. “It must have been worse than the first day of school!” she exclaimed and Amma nodded. “Yes,” she agreed. “It was. The next year when my mother asked me if I wanted to miss the first day of school…”
“…you said ‘No’,” Vidya completed. Amma laughed. “I had decided that I would never ever miss the first day of school.” Amma explained. “I would go even if I had to force myself to go there! Because… trying to escape from scary things never works. The scary things only get…
“Bigger, stronger and scarier!” Vidya said.
“Exactly!”Amma nodded. “And that’s why I wouldn’t let you miss the first day of school, even if you begged me!”
“I was going to ask if I could miss the first day,” Vidya admitted. “But now…I am going to school on the first day!”
“Only on the first day?”Amma teased.
“The first day and every single day after that!” Vidya declared, her words a solemn promise, both to herself and Amma.
This story was published in Young World, the children’s pages of The Hindu.