Is it not parent's day today, the monster asks when I tell her that its Children's Day. I was too bored to explain Chacha Nehru (whom Appa hates), and birthdays, and roses, and crisp sherwanis and Lady M.Batten and so on, so I just left it there, saying, no, everyday is Parent's Day and some such. The school seemed to have arranged some magic show with a clown and so on. This I learnt late at night sort of obliquely in the middle of conversation about what else? crying and avoiding the-kids-who-pinch.
The play-school is undergoing renovations. The ladies are all super excited. Kitna Posh Lagayga! they are walking around exclaiming. I am forced to join in their joy, though I am thinking, god, these guys are working so slowly, its so damn dusty, some kid is going to bang its silly head on these tiles, and so on. Anyway, the supervisor requested that parents volunteer at the school since the teachers and the care-taker ladies were super loaded with moving to the temp location, and cleaning and clearing out and over-seeing the renovations.
Mother-guilt forced me to haul-ass over there at 4 pm sharp on Children's Day. Thinking in my head, the monster is bound to be asleep, I can be useful to them for a little while at least. Of course this pink creature with her hair all piled-up nest-like on the head emerged sleepy-eyed the minute I showed up inside, sidled up to me, and started mewling. Now, if I had anticipated this (which I should have), I would have mentally allocated 10 mins of mommy-daughter time. Perhaps that would have helped. As it happened, right at that time, the idiotic fellows doing the renovation broke this whole wall right next to a pile of books, making the books look like they were rescued from collapsed buildings. Alarms went off. Our books Our books. If anything tops mommy-guilt its book-love so I drifted off to help with this issue, leaving the pink-mewler in the able hands that deal with her EVERYDAY.
The supe-lady and me, we had this surreal conversation with the main guy (good-looking, thin chap) doing the work there. Please move these books here, we told him. Okay, he said. Hey You, he called out to an old-ish guy. The old-ish guy showed. Move these books here, he told him. Hmm said the guy and proceeded to carry some tiles from here to there and back again, on the outside. We went back to the main thin chap and said, Okay, get the idiot who kept his shoes on the cupboard (referred to generally as KAPAT) to move them. Hey you, he called out again. Nothing happened. My blood was reaching higher temperatures. Supe-lady is calmer. The shoe got moved. There are guys all around going on with their business as if the world is turning because of them, including one who was on the floor scraping cement off with his bare hands, I think he was supposedly cleaning.
Now, when I volunteered for this stint here at the play-school, I was imagining, hanging around with the kids, in a circle, enthralling them with my rendition of Karadi Rhymes, getting them to smile. Taking them to su-su, in a line. Resolving pinching-scratching-Katti quarrels. And talking intelligently to the cement-covered guys and moving and shaking stuff. Most of all, I did not want to touch anything in the old place, because my skin is hardly what it used to be and it was too damn dusty and cement-y in there.
So of course what I had to do was move about 500 books from the cement enclosed shelft on to the other KAPAT. Dig around in the other, old KAPAT, find poster colours, sheafs of papers with childish scrawls, chart paper, etc. and move them. It took us upwards of half and hour.
When I returned, I found that the largest girl (okay, one of the) in the play-school, looking for all the world like a very pink bunny with a birds nest on her head, had been crying all the while, going AMMA AMMA AMMA. It was a combination of Puke-Crying and regular stuff. No actual puking but you know.. I was really exasperated. The aunties gave me some tea, which was very welcome. I managed to calm it down finally and we hung around singing rhymes. There was a small fight involving pinching. All the kids made cameras from lego and clicked my picture. The boys were running around like maniacs screaming about fighter jets.
Thanks to the intervention of my friend, I calmed down, and we got home, somewhat on talking terms with her. The neighbours asked the usual How was School? question. I immediately said, OH she cried so much when I went to help out in her school. Why, did you do that, they asked her. Because I wanted to be with Amma and I love her very much. she said.