A black frock with red, grey, sky blue and even thin green checks on it. That was my uniform for kindergarten, along with a white uniform I wore with tiny white shoes. Wednesday was when you got to wear colour dress of your choice. Colour dress was always such a special occasion, bigger than the actual occasion at times, when it doesn’t matter why you get to wear it, but just that you get to wear it. Normal colour dress can make so much of a difference in school.
But something one cannot escape is that irritating uniform checking. As a kid, they were like monsters to me, trying to decide whom to punish – but I used to be extremely careful. I remember how betrayed I felt when my classmate ‘chose me’ for I had miraculously forgotten to cut a nail on just one of my finger. Extremely betrayed.
During my tenth, I had not yet got my belt. So nobody could actually catch me, since it was the school’s fault. The detector was usually our library teacher with ‘mercy’ somewhere in her name, but nowhere near how she was at school. There were other checks in class itself too, occasionally. The uniform was a brown sack that they called pinafore, light brown shirt with dark brown vertical stripes, and a dark brown tie with light brown stripes, and a belt with the school emblem. But I had joined a little late, and by then they had run out of belts. And I went there every Friday, and the guy always asked me to come check next Friday – they only had stock for the primary school kids, and I was never really skinny. This happened for around one or two months, until one day, I finally got it. I went to tuition after school, and boarded a bus home after that – my home being just two stops away. That was also, unfortunately the day the school decided they had to get rid of their new batch of record books. If you think you have been in asphyxiating-ly filled public transport, then this was my experience in the category. It was not a KSRTC, but a private bus – nothing uncommon in Kochi. I got into it, thinking it was only two stops away. But what I didn’t think was that so many women would climb in after I had – I was already near the door. I struggled with my extremely heavy school bag, and made faces at unpleasant aunties who frowned at me and my bag. I cursed that their kids will suffer the same fate, only then will they sympathise. Seeing me stuck in a whirlpool of confusion, two aunties sitting to the left of the driver, decided to catch my bag. They sympathised as I passed my bag: oh, why so heavy child? I just smiled gratefully at them. I got down around 15 minutes later, and ran my way home. I was all excited to show my belt to my mom, and stood proud in front of her. But my mom found herself staring at my empty pinafore waist.
I changed my school again in standard eleven, and was in the school hostel. My life was in fact acting like me – all of a sudden it wakes up realising that it had perhaps fallen asleep a bit, and was horrified that there were only two years of schooling left. The deadline was near, and hence such varied long experiences in the last two years of school for me. The very first day, the uniform detector walked up to me in the corridor assembly, flashed her evil smile that I had been thus cursed to see for the next two years, and swiftly removed my ring, put it in her pocket and wandered off in search of her next prey. I stood there bewildered. The ring had been in my finger for so long that I didn’t realise it. It was one among a set of three, the other two with my two best friends. Those two years were when I was in such close contact with my uniform – I had to see its stupid face every day, iron it, wash it, and make sure that somebody else didn’t flick it because the laundry never returned their uniform. They even made us wear ribbons, and I had the tiniest you would find. That way, I was quite satisfied, and they couldn’t complain.
The detector had the audacity to disrupt your line of thought during exams. Being somebody who gets lost in my brain during exams, if somebody disturbs me in between, my reaction would be to keep blinking at you till I returned to earth. So she walks in while I write my physics, or perhaps my chemistry exam. These subjects require me to search my brain for some sort of clue, using which I can make up the rest of the answer. At such a delicate moment, she touches one of my ponytail, and I jump in my seat. Thankfully I didn’t shriek or throw my pen. I made a what-is-it-now face at her. She smiled slightly, and I rolled my eyes. She waited till I had taken out my ribbons from my pocket, and tied it.
Onnekil ketta, alenkil vetta. She threatened one fine day.
My hair was not long enough to plait, so I decided on the other option she gave me: cut my hair. It was my last year, and I was quite fed up of her. A few days later, I tied my newly cut hair into a high pony, so it looks like it’s too short for two ponies