Back to the school days, then and now

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - News - PPS Gill

Th­ese days, while adults crib about life in house cap­tiv­ity, not many chil­dren do. They teach us a les­son or two, pro­vided we care to learn, on how not to grum­ble and growl. For grown-ups, this is the best time to do/learn what they al­ways wanted to but couldn’t due to their busy sched­ules and trav­el­ling. Well, here’s how our 11-year-old Aziz keeps him­self busy on lazy days.

Thanks to Covid times, there’s no early morn­ing wak­ing up; no coax­ing to fin­ish break­fast or put on shoes or look for the iden­tity card to rush to school; he is en­joy­ing life’s leisurely pace. When not at­tend­ing on­line classes or do­ing home­work, he ar­ranges, and re­ar­ranges, his col­lec­tion of 100-odd toy cars; spruces up his play cor­ner, cup­board, works on cubes; watches TV; rolls and roars with laugh­ter; plays games on his mother’s smart­phone or watches videos on grandma’s ipad. When glued to the screen, he ig­nores his mother with im­punity. He hears her, but doesn’t lis­ten. And, what a treat it is to see him savour his meals! His only grouse is his in­abil­ity to visit his ‘nanke’ or ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents.

The other day, his mom set up the lap­top and read­ied it for the on­line class. Prior to this, she would of­ten take out print­outs, us­ing her smart­phone. A po­lite en­quiry re­vealed that teach­ers were mail­ing home­work on­line and she was fol­low­ing links and down­load­ing lessons. See­ing my puz­zled look, she went on: The class teacher has formed a What­sapp group. Since I’m not smart­phone savvy, I chose to smile and re­main silent.

Ru­mi­nat­ing on the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and changes it has in­tro­duced in our lives, I was trans­ported back to my school days 65 years ago. We car­ried plain school bags that were no match to the smart bags chil­dren have th­ese days. My bag was way lighter than Aziz’s. We car­ried two slates, one wooden (phatti) and an­other made of stone or me­tal. The first was to prac­tise our hand­writ­ing and the sec­ond for rough work.

We would pol­ish the phatti with clay ev­ery day. We would write with the ‘kalm’ (pen) made of reed that was cut and chis­elled to a par­tic­u­lar shape for good writ­ing. We would dip the ‘kalm’ in black ‘shyahi’ (ink). The ‘kalm-dwat’ (bot­tle of ink) was a per­ma­nent fix­ture in our school bags. We used a ‘saleti’ to write on the slate and a small piece of cloth, hang­ing from a thread tied to it, to wipe it clean.

Aziz is un­fa­mil­iar with such parapherna­lia, as is many a se­nior cit­i­zen about to­day’s tech­nol­ogy.

Home­work was done with pen­cil. For English writ­ing, we used a four-line ex­er­cise book and a ‘G’ nib-fit­ted pen.

We would dip it in blue ink to write. ‘G’ nib was to en­sure each let­ter of the al­pha­bet was writ­ten in the cor­rect way.

Now, there is such a va­ri­ety in sta­tionery as also in ac­ces­sories, such as tif­fin boxes and wa­ter bot­tles. We would be con­tent with ‘roti-subzi’ or ‘salt-ajwain paran­tha’ and sim­ply cup our hands to drink straight from the tap. Wa­ter pu­ri­fiers were un­heard of, so was junk food.

Bi­cy­cles were a rar­ity among stu­dents and we would walk to school. Se­cu­rity was not an is­sue un­like to­day when chil­dren step out, so do moms, stand­ing guard.

Sub­tle signs of chang­ing times.


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