Rain Actually

The three year old is also enjoying his Easter break. The emphasis is on the word also. Unequivocally, he enjoys school. By and large, more or less, give or take some, it can be argued that he also enjoys holidays.

About fifteen two to three olds are pampered looked after by merely three teachers where kids, not expected to sit still on desks, run around in their classroom. During a busy school day they frequently visit nearby train station, post office, local parks and even supermarkets, surprisingly in an orderly fashion. There is nap time after lunch and play time before which is followed by story time. Unlike his father who detested Monday mornings, my boy was heartbroken when he realised that holiday is a euphemism for ‘No School’.

Pu La Deshpande summarised his schooling experience in just two words – “Gapp Basa (keep quiet)”. Teachers used to take pride in the knowledge that students sit still in their class. My personal ordeal started several decades after Pu La completed his sentence but “maintain pin drop silence” continued to be the order du jour.

Unaware of the hardship suffered by his predecessor at school, the prodigal son demands that his slaves parents keep him actively occupied all the time. A three week Easter break is in progress, a part of his 15 week annual holidays spread over three terms. Take the five day week into account and it dawns that half the days in a year are spent away from school (15*5 + 52*2 + bank holidays). That should explain why UK government pays mothers £20/week towards child care irrespective of their annual income. If anything, it should be increased taking into account the various guidelines parents have to follow.

His school invited us to a lecture about the special needs of boys aged between 3 and 7. ‘Boys are unable to remain still’ was the key theme imparted on battle weary parents. Concentrating while being forced to remain still amounts to punishing the boys hence desks are banished in class allowing them to move freely. Fathers were especially reminded to get rough with boys at home indulging in aiming, running, jumping etc. I quietly noted that after learning to keep out of the way of my elders it was time to constantly stay in the face of my son. Parents are expected to raise their offspring with fun, playful activities that will educate and entertain. Guess I should have enrolled for that course in stand up comedy.

Easter is a time to celebrate spring. At the first hint of sunshine we sprung our boy to Serpentine in Hyde Park for his first paddle boat experience. It got dark and windy, soon after our boat ride, sometime around noon. Even before we could finish our lunch, the rain was pouring outside. The next few hours were spent indoor in the serpentine cafe, reading children’s books, during our first spring visit to the largest park in London.

Compared to the perennial rain in UK which affects outdoor playtime for children, my early years were spent joyously celebrating the seasonal Indian Monsoon. Barring the coastal region, mainland Maharashtra does not get enough rain. Growing up in Pune, I doubted the classroom history that civilisation prospers near river banks. The miracle of walking on water was regularly exhibited by all and sundry who took a short cut across the river bed between Deccan Gymkhana Bus Stand and Kelkar Road. This feat could be achieved because our local rivers, Mula and Mutha, are terribly scared to be seen carrying water and hence wait until Monsoon when it gets dark even during daytime.

Kalidas described the journey of a monsoon cloud between Ramtek (near Nagpur) and Mt Kailash carefully ignoring Western Maharashtra. A poet of his pedigree chose not to put any spin on the bird’s eye view of Shivaji’s future land. We waited for centuries and eventually Poet Vasant Bapat described this glorious land. That he chose adjectives like Rakat (rough and sturdy), Kankhar (hard and firm) and Dagad (stone) is a testimony to Kalidas’ tact.

In the merry years of running a paper boat in the rain water, which I reminisce only for failing to do so, sunshine was not a luxury. Instead Sun was extravagantly ordered to guard the sky directing clouds towards South East England. For a brief period every year, we used to sing Yere Yere Pawsa welcoming the rains. If we ever let a few clouds to shower our land of stones, it was merely out of our innate sense of duty to maintain civilisation on the banks of a so called river. Nothing could ever get in our way of playtime as we were busy staying out of the way of our elders!

One reaps what is sown. Poor son has to pay the price of father’s profligacy. When he can’t visit a park, he tries to bicycle in the wet back garden. No wonder then that he wishes the rain to go to Spain because the little boy wants to play!


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