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I went to a girls convent school in Bombay ( it will be Bombay forever for me, till my last breath, thankfully you can’t erase memories unlike airport signs) which as you can imagine were dictated by nuns.
I won’t get into the specifics of the innumerable rules, just remember the Golden one “NO BOYS”. Of course this was the golden rule that every girl invariably broke, aided by the rush of hormones and the ever expanding dirty vocabulary through voracious imbibement of kiss magazines and Mills and Boons, hidden in chemistry or biology textbooks of course.
Lunch times were eagerly anticipated. None of the girls could afford the subsidised canteen food, so it was the absolute eagerness to see what was in the dabba of the other friends. Meenakshi invariably got poha (a Maharashtrian breakfast dish) everyday, so it was predictable. Razia’s lunch box yielded the most delicious kebabs and if you were lucky, the left-over biryani from yesterday’s dinner. The girls who ate non-veg were great fans of Razia’s mom’s cooking and praised her earning an extra bite. The veg ones mostly sat away from Razia’s wonderful smelling treats. Annie mostly got sandwiches. These were few and couldn’t be shared except with chosen few. Annie being a prefect was expected to be on her best behaviour even at lunch time, so you wouldn’t catch her being unladylike and of course her friends had to meet her standards. Melissa’s lunch, just like her, was always a revelation. Melissa herself being an Anglo-Indian was blessed with golden brown hair, greenish brown eyes and English skin. (This combination resulted in brave teenage boys standing outside our school gates with flowers proclaiming love or friendship, either with Melissa was welcome. This was a nightmare for the nuns to manage, however for us other girls, it was a treat and with green eyes we chose our pick of these suitors. Melissa of course was too easy going to mind, as she already had her own boyfriend). Sorry for digressing, Melissa’s lunch box often included Baked Chicken, Beef or Broccoli and other exotic items that we had never heard of in the late 80’s in Bombay. OMG what lunches they were now that I think about it. Geetanjali’s lunch had mostly rice and south Indian veggie or fish. Scarlett was the weirdo…her mother made omelettes four out of five days for lunch, which Scarlett hated. She gave up her lunch box to whoever wanted omelette and she ate other’s lunch boxes or she would feed omelettes to the stray dogs and starved for lunch. Her friends didn’t mind, as she was a nutcase, cracked jokes on everyone, mimicked the teachers and basically was a riot and not to mention a good athlete. The food was always shared and after that there were games that involved a lot of giggling and running about.
School was the foundation of my growing years. We rarely visited each other outside school unless you were staying close to each other and it was a struggle to arrange an outside school meeting as it involved co-ordination through letters and teachers getting involved. In school however we had all the drama of a TV opera, the tears, the laughter, the fights, the making up and these were of course confrontational, loud and noisy and the nuns had to intervene. Our friendships were all the more stronger for it and we learnt ways of dealing with the future, corporate life and concepts such as winning the race, negotiations, 50 methods for cheating, emotional blackmails etc. were established in these formative years.
We were one. We were united. Our personal religion did not define us…. If Razia had her birthday, we would celebrate it with equal fervour as Annie’s. There was no one upmanship for the benefit of social media. If two of our friends went out after school, without telling the others, we didn’t really mind. There was too many other things to think about, mainly the lack of money and the very essential study related achievements, if we wanted to survive in this race of life.
Today, it’s the disease of too much, too fast. Too many options, too much money, multiple choices, not only for exams but for life in general. Should I drop my child in the Scorpio, or should I take her in the Merc? This friend I know has uploaded this video, snapchat, etc, let me immediately upload one too…where are we headed? Physical confrontation is the last option, but as a phone typing warrior, I am supreme. Depression and Anxiety are regular visitors and often overstay. Yet no one dares object…. We are forced to evolve into a sensitive generation vis-à-vis the survival generation. God Bless us all, as the nuns would say.
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