Sumi woke up hastily and looked at the alarm clock and sighed a relief as it was just 5.30 about 15 min before it is set  to ring. She turned off the alarm as it was not required anymore as she can’t sleep anymore besides she wasn’t able to sleep well that night. She slowly turned around to see that Ladli her two and half year daughter’s fast asleep. Sumi looked at the lovely face of her little one for a moment and then turned around to get out of the bed to start the day.

FirstDayofSchoolToday was a “big” day for her as today was the First day of school for Ladli and Sumi was really anxious as Anooj her husband was out of town for an urgent official duty. She had being running through this day in her mind many times and the day had arrived, Yesterday when Anooj had called and said “Don’t worry She’s my Girl!! She’ll be fine. Don’t you know I didn’t cry on my first day of school”.
Sumi Said “I Know but she’s a Girl”
Anooj replied “So what !!! Don’t you remember How She did fine in the interview”

Sumi remembered that she and Anooj had been “training” Ladli for last few months so that Ladli can pass the ‘interview’ and get her into a playschool of their choice. Ladli had to learn “English” as till 2 years of age she only knew her mother tongue and in Bangalore no playschool will teach Bengali. She was same way worried on ‘interview’ day as well as Ladli was not very keen in speaking to strangers. On that day everything went fine ofcourse the ‘interview’ was just a few questions like “What’s your name” “What’s your father’s name” etc which Ladli had miraculously answered pretty smartly.
Sumi thought that day was different as Ladli had both her Mommy and pa behind her and for each question she looked at them and then answered.
But Sumi was worried because this was the first time Ladli will stay away from home without mommy for close to 2 hrs.
Moreover Ladli was a shy child who always hid behind her parents whenever any stranger came to their house.  Sumi’s Ma Babuji(parents) had explained her a lot that not to worry one day Ladli has to go to school anyway but Sumi had argued “but papa she’s too small”.

Sumi quickly finished her work and then checked Ladli’s ‘School bag’ with the colorful ‘tiffin box’ with Ladli’s favorite cartoon which they got from the School stationery store. How Anooj was amused to go to the store after 15 years or so, when he last had gone as a school lad for notebooks, pens, geometry box etc.
The school had directed that every child should have a tiffin box, water bottle, diapers and Id cards so Sumi cross checked the list twice so that she doesn’t miss anything out.
Then Sumi prepared the tiffin and woke Ladli up and got her ready. She herself got ready and was about to leave when her cell phone started jumping in her handbag, she quickly took it out and saw Anooj was calling “Yes tell me”
Anooj “So are you all set I called little late as I didn’t want to disturb you”
“yeah we are just going out.” Sumi answered  Ladli pulling her duppata with a twinkle in her eye questioned “pa r phone?”(Pa’s phone)
Sumi turned to Ladli and said “hain ma Pa r phone”(yes dear, pa’s phone)
Anooj said from the other side “Give it to her”
Sumi gave the phone to Ladli “Nao Pa ki bolche dekho” (See what dad’s saying)
Ladli took the phone with joy and “Jano Pa ami aar mommy ischool jabo bole leady” (Do you know Me and Mommy are ready for school)
Anooj said “Jani to tumi ekta Sona meye ischool ey kono dustumi korbe na… maamder kotha sunbe” (I know you are a good girl don’t do any mischief in the school and listen to your teachers)
Ladli replied “Hain pa” (Yes papa)
Anooj said “Lokkhi sona mommy ke dao” (Sweet baby now give it to Mummy)
Ladli handedover the phone to Sumi.
Anooj “Ok She seems to be fine now you Don’t worry so much and I’ll keep calling. Don’t Worry and I’ll be back as soon as I finish here”.
Sumi smiled and said “Ok Ok fine Don’t worry she’s YOUR daughter I know”.
Anooj said “Great then Bye !!! Love you both”
Sumi “Bye, you take care”.
Sumi picked up Sumi and came down the stairs and near the gate House owner’s wife Mrs. Nair was starting her Kinetic Honda.

She looked up and said “Good morning beta Sumi where to”
Sumi smiled and replied “Good morning Aunty, Taking Ladli to school”
Mrs. Nair remembered “Oh Yes today is her first day right”
then Mrs. Nair turned to Ladli and said “How are you? So going to school”
Ladli smiled shyly and replied like a parrot “I am fine” like she was trained by her parents.
Mrs. Nair then said to Sumi “Come I’ll drop you I am going to the Grocery store”
Sumi got into the rear seat of the scooter and said “Thank you so much Aunty”.
The school is just a few blocks away actually Sumi thought of walking with Ladli but with scooter ride she reached little early.

2002-01-30 Jan First day at school anxious parents 550The school gate was filled with anxious parents with their toddlers in tow. Sumi was holding Ladli’s hand and waiting for the gates to open and she was a little restless whereas Ladli was more intrigued with the “Water bottle” hanging in front from her neck and curiously looking around.
Actually the school was not a new to Ladli as she used to pass this place many evenings when she used to come for walk with mummy and dida(granny). Then she looked up at her mummy and said “Ekhane eto lok keno” (why is this place so crowded)
Sumi said “orao je ischool ey jabe tomar sob bondhura”.(They’ll also go to school they’ll be your friends)
Ladli looked at the people and laughed as if she understood what her mummy meant. Sumi thought whether Ladli knew what friends meant as till now she only knew mummy, pa (parents), dadun, dida( grand parents) and numerous kakus, kakimas, pishis,masis (uncles and aunts).
The school gate opened at 9.30 and only one parent alongwith the kid was allowed into the school. The charming and smiling ‘teachers’ welcomed the kids and this is when the actual problem started as some of the toddlers realized what’s going to happen and they started wailing.
Sumi got tensed and looked at ladli but she seemed too amused with all the things and she went in unfazed by the din around.

One of the teacher bent and greeted Ladli looking at the Id “Hello Ankita” Ladli was little surprised Sumi immediately said to the teacher “Actually we call her ‘Ladli'”.
Teacher looked up at Sumi and then smiled back at Ladli “Ok Ladli dear How are you doing”. Ladli looked up to her mother as these word were not in her dictionary so didn’t know how to react.
Sumi quickly said “Say I am fine to Maam”. Ladli looked puzzled but parroted “I am fine”.
The teacher held Ladli on hand and looked up to Sumi and said “I am Shailaja and I’ll take of Ladli Don’t worry and She’ a lovely girl. she’ll be fine” and started moving inside.
Sumi didn’t want to let go Ladli but could help and let her little one’s hand go and Ladli looked back at her waved her small hand and  uttered “Mommy Bye Mommy Bye”. Sumi smiled , waved backed and whispered “Bye Shona”. One boy was crying his heart out and his parents and the school staff were having a tough time. Sumi looked on when her Phone rang again she quickly picked up the call Anooj “What happened How’s she doing”.
Sumi “Said well so far she’s fine just went in with a teacher”.
Anooj replied “I said you already don’t worry she’ll be fine she’s a smart Baby”. Anoop continued “Come on relax and go home. She’s alright. I am sure they’ll take take good care afterall they are the best playschool in town”.
Sumi unmindfully said “Yes I know.” Anoop said “Well then You go home and I’ll call again”.
Sumi slowly walked back to home. Once at home she felt very strange and the house suddenly looked so empty with Ladli around it’ll be ‘hell’ at this time but now she was in school and Sumi was alone then she thought its only for a couple of hours and began her daily chores.
But time seemed to move in a slow motion as she looked at the clock quite often as it was taking more time to cover the distance.
Sumi reached school at 11, half an hour before as she could not stay at home. Her mind was full of thoughts like how her Ladli will communicate with teachers or will she be able to tell that she is thirsty or hungry or is she looking for her mummy or what’ll happen if she starts crying?
Then the time came and the gate opened and the parents started entering while some kids came out crying with eyes sore.

Sumi’s heart was pounding she didn’t know what to expect as she went inside the class room, it was large hall spilled with lots of toys a small staircase to a higher level for feeding area. She couldn’t see her Ladli anywhere she started worrying then She saw the teacher who taken Ladli away Sumi anxiously asked her “Where’s Ladli” The teacher calmly answered “Oh Ladli she’s a darling there she is at corner still playing” the teacher pointed at the far corner of the hall Sumi followed the finger and found Ladli engrossed in the toys. Sumi almost ran up to Ladli and said “Ladli ma bari cholo bari jabe na” (Ladli come won’t you go home). Ladli didn’t even look up and said “Na tumi bari jao ami ekhon khelbo” (No you go home I’ll play now). Sumi was surprised at that and she said “eso sona ischool chuti hoye geche kaal abar khelbe khon ekhon bari cholo” (Come dear school’s closing u’ll play tommorrow now let’s go home”.

Ladli looked up and relunctantly stood up picked up her “water bottle” and her “bag” and followed Sumi.
While walking back home Ladli filled her mother with story of how nice “maams” were how they had given her so much to play and she wants to come there etc….
Just then Anooj called and asked “What happened school’s over? How is Ladli?”
Sumi smiled and said “Your Girl has grown up and has taken her first independent step. Talk to her” and handed over the phone to Ladli.
Sumi knew this would happen ‘oneday’ but wondered wasn’t it ‘too early’ for Ladli…..

Image Courtsey :