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To do it like Dee

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If only there was a prize for ‘getting-ready-for-school neatly’!

Every day for the past two weeks, he has been coming home from school with sand in his shoes, untied laces stuffed into the rims of the shoes, socks in his pockets or schoolbag, and also half-eaten or untouched sandwiches. On some days, the water bottle will be missing and on others, the cap. But my grubby little trooper always came with the brightest smile. That’s my Dee, my little five-year-old, excited about the upcoming annual sports day in his Army Primary School. And so am I.

He tells me vivaciously about all the events and the races that are happening, about his friends in the different races who fell down and got hurt, lost a tooth; which teacher scolded whom and the certificates he will get. He is in the march past, and importantly, the Army band will be marching along with them. He can hardly contain his excitement as I struggle to shampoo him and get the sand out of his hair, dodging the mugs-full of water that he throws all around. Bath-time is over, and wrapped in a towel he walks out leaving a watery trail, shouting left, right, left ... left, right, left ... my sweet-smelling clean walrus. Soon he can barely keep his big, soulful eyes open. I just about manage to feed him lunch before he falls asleep on the sofa, TV remote in hand.

It’s the big day. Dee has had a haircut, his nails are trimmed, shoes are polished, and he looks grand in the new uniform. He is so excited, waiting for the school bus. As soon as he leaves, I realise I have forgotten to tell him to try and not get dirty. My husband and I get ready to attend our son’s first major school event.

Action on the ground

The Army band is playing, a teacher is shouting instructions over the public address system, some teachers are valiantly getting the children organised for the march past, and most parents are taking pictures. A group of children in costumes are ready to perform a welcome song. The victory stand is placed prominently, and close to it is a table set with a whole lot of prizes, awards and certificates. Two little children with bouquets wait for the chief guest. Parents, siblings and even some neighbours and grandparents are streaming in. Unable to spot our son anywhere, we make our way to the seats.

The chief guest declares the event open. Soon afterwards, the march past begins. All parents are desperately trying to spot their own children. I see mine marching with full concentration; he crosses me and marches on. One by one the events take place and we eagerly await the last race before the prize distribution ceremony.

I hear the announcement, the ‘getting-ready-for-school race’. I can see teachers placing things along the tracks. Ties, belts, socks, shoes, a cap, a bag and a bottle for each child. I hear the names of the children being called. My husband is ready with the camera, trying to focus on our son. The sports teacher shouts GO. The children run amid the chaotic cheering, they grab the ties with elastics and pull it down their heads, flipping the belts across the waists ... and I stand to be able to get a better view.

Dee races to his tie, pulls it over his head and adjusts it properly under the collar, he then runs and picks up his belt and carefully puts it through all the loops as fast as he can, next he wears his socks and then he races and runs over to his shoes, sits on the ground and wears them one at a time, carefully knotting the shoelaces. He gets up and dusts the dirt of his shorts ... But most children have already crossed the finish line. He proceeds to wear his cap and picks up his bag and wears it across his shoulders and takes his bottle and runs toward the finish line. He is oblivious to everything and everyone around him.

I am looking at my child, equally unaware that he is getting the biggest cheers of all times, the chief guest, the Principal and everybody were on their feet, clapping and shouting his name. And as he completes the race he is mobbed by his teachers and friends. If only there was a prize for ‘getting-ready-for-school neatly’!

We don’t have any photograph of that race, but our memories are in fresh.

isha29val@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 8:59:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/to-do-it-like-dee/article19699431.ece

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