"School" ,she called it.
Mum said I'd love that place, and I was equally sure that I would hate it.
She fed me and dressed me with so much care that morning.
Packed my tiffin in a brand new shining red tiffin box with Micky Mouse and Donald Duck dancing on its top.
I was given a new pencil box, too...this one had Barbie stickers all over it. It contained a long green pencil with a tiny rubber at the end, a long violet one, a cute scented pink eraser, a little green sharpener and a 15 cm long ruler. Mum carefully sharpened both pencils so that it would help me write the most beautiful "A for APPLE" ever written by any kindergartner.
I still wasn't sure of what all the fuss was about. Mum combed my hair into neat piggy tails held together by little white hairbands...and made me wear a "uniform", whatever that meant. I found it embarrassingly funny with a bib in the front and a bow to go with it, but Mum kept calling it "cute". Of course, Mums will find you cute when the whole world doesn't.
Also I got white socks and new black shiny Ballerina shoes, that Mum polished and polished till I could see the reflection of myself when I bent over them.
She handed me over my new pink school bag, after stuffing into it my red tiffin box, blue pencil box, two neatly covered notebooks, a book on mathematics, another on English and a School Diary.
Dad called out to hurry up, while Mum was putting finishing touches to making me look hilarious...pinning a folded handkerchief on to the bib and putting a water bottle around my neck.
All set, we got into the car and headed for my first day at "school".
I had a funny feeling driving away from home, it was kinda eerie...reminded me of the time I was being taken to the dentist. Mom patted my head every now and then, and such affection scared me even more.
Where was I being taken to??!!
After a drive that lasted ages, we got off in front of a huge building with gigantic gates. A big board bearing the name of the school was right ahead of us.
"In a few days, you'll be able to read what's written on it", Dad smiled.
As we walked into a corridor, a bespectacled lady greeted us cheerfully. She ushered me away from Mum and Dad. I felt chills go up and down my spine as they waved byes to me anxiously and promised to pick me a few hours later. Mum stood there until she could no longer see me.
I was terribly frightened by then and was planning to turn back and run for my life before I was thrown into some dead, dark dungeons with slimy demons teaching me how to read the alphabet.
Contrary to what I had imagined, the corridor ended in a bright classroom, and there were no demons in it, but scores of other timid kids...looking as hilarious as me in new uniforms and powdered faces and colorful handkerchiefs pinned on to the bibs.
They stared at me and I stared back, as the lady showed me my bench and told me to settle down.
The teacher introduced herself and asked each of us our names. I fumbled thrice with mine, and the kids laughed. Damn....
She told us to open our notebook and take out pencils, while she hung before us a chart with huge pictures and strange symbols.
After a while we were all busy scribbling those weird symbols in our notebooks, in horribly distorted handwriting. The period ended and another teacher walked in with a chart containing another set of crazy-looking symbols.
"Numbers", she called them.
She taught us how to count, and at the end of the day I realised that I had five fingers on each hand.
I scribbled numbers in another notebook and the tip of my pencil broke thrice while i tried to write the digit '8'.
A bell rang and announced recess. Most kids had nibbled through half their tiffins already by then. Each of us chewed through our food awkwardly, and messed up the new uniforms, too.
Later we were taken to a playground, with swings and slides and see-saws and colorful cubical structures to climb through. We tumbled together, fell face down, ran around like a bunch of squirrels...had loads of fun! It wasn't awkward any more, I hardly knew the names of other kids, but they were friends now. There was the boy who fell of the see-saw, the girl who kept crying when she was pushed, the girl who threw her shoes into the fish-pond, the boy who could make goat-like sounds....
Before we realised, the day was over, and even before the bell rang anxious parents lined up outside the gates, to pick up the tiny tots.
I slipped on my bag and water bottle, and ran to where I saw Mum waiting for me. She was kinda shocked to see my piggy tails out of place and shoes all brown, uniform crumpled beyond recognition.
"What happened!?", she asked.
"Mum, can I come here again??", I said as I waved bye to my new found friends heading home.
"Yes, honey...you'll be coming here everyday now.", she smiled as she ruffled my hair.
It was a really great day.