Grandma goes to school Children

Staying afloat

One of the perks of going to school was the chance to learn to swim, as Sarojini found out.

The story so far: After a to-do it was decided that Sarojini (the author’s grandma) and her cousins could go to school.

It was a memorable day when grandma and her cousins went to school. All of them lived in their grandfather’s house, as most people did in those days. Grandma’s youngest uncle escorted them followed by a giggling maid who carried their “tiffin” and a mud pitcher of drinking water. The girls wore their best clothes and a lot of jewellery.

“The missionary-mem should not think you come from a good-for-nothing family,” said grandma’s grandma.

“But we’re going there to study,” protested grandma.

“You are not going to school looking like beggars!”

Love at first sight

Sarojini loved school from the word go. She found it exciting to write the alphabet on the slate given by her English teacher, intrigued when making tiny stitches on a white cloth. She loved the stories, especially about a man called Noah and his ark. The teacher’s Bengali accent was strange and she had a funny way of saying things. Grandma and the others broke into giggles every now and then. School got over too soon!

But there was another treat waiting for them. The river! Out of bounds till now, but now they had to bathe there before going home. The maids who accompanied the girls sat outside the school with towels and a change of clothes. Grandma did not know to swim, but the others did.

“Phuli, you’ll teach me how to swim, won’t you?” pleaded grandma, as Phuli was the acknowledged champion.

“Not a chance! I’m not having your grandma coming down on me like a ton of bricks!” said Phuli.

“What will you hold on to?” a cousin asked. “We used the stem of a banana tree when we learnt.”

Grandma was about to burst into tears when another cousin said, “You can hold on to my shoulder. It’s easy!”

The girls jumped into the river. The water was crystal clear and they could see the pebbles at the bottom.

“Don’t you get into the deep water,” cried the maids.

“Do shut up!” said everyone.

A few days of getting ducked and grandma managed to stay afloat. And then came the final triumph — Grandma was actually swimming!

To be continued...

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 11:59:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/staying-afloat/article30790211.ece

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