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Warm up!

Of notebooks and lunchboxes

Warm up!

Shayera Moula
Nothing is too foreign to be scared of and yet everything is foreign to a girl in the earlier days of her life. Sponging in all the new information is really a child's play - yet only when you are a child.

But I speak on behalf of millions of children when I say "I hate school" and I speak on behalf of zillions of adults when I say, "Those were some of the best carefree days of our lives." When did it all start and when did it stop? Time flew by and before you know it old school friends start posting images of you from the past, drowning you into some bitter sweet nostalgia.

It is universally acknowledged that schooling means classrooms, books, detention and cooties! But my first dip into the scholarly articles by Dr. Seuss and all the other wonders of the world took place in a distant land far from my roots; therefore leading to a lot more tear-related damage damped on my dad's shirt on the first day in school.

There are the advantages of growing up with people who look and talk nothing like you. For starters, you come out looking very unique every single day instead of seeing mirror reflections of yourself in the school ground where everyone slips into the same uniform, hairstyle, and shoes.

In an all-uniform school, you of course learn to master the art of standing out through other gadgets - prettier water bottles or expensive hair ribbons. Of course these days they all toy with the technicality (cell phones, ipod, pen drives) in their lives.

But being foreign in a foreign land lets you take in diversity with ease. Educational lessons in the first few months meant learning to adapt to African, American and Asian English accents without any complaints while struggling through the ABC. Then there is beautifying your handwriting that proudly places your unique identity in a world where no one could care less which country you come from.

Education also meant respecting the way others dress while secretly exploring their lifestyle behind our parent's back through highly negotiated exchange of demands of each other's tiffins - nothing like a free exotic delight from parts of South America, Korea and France every other day.

There were also certain things that came naturally. While the elder conservative generation shifted in their chairs during the annual school play watching seniors indulge in the lack-of-garment fairytales, us young bees couldn't care less. We were too busy eyeing the chocolate cake we would marathon towards after the play was over!

School was hard. Words were weird and too many in numbers. But more importantly, there were certain painful chores - arranging the chairs first thing in the morning, babysitting and reading to the younger ones during lunch hours, cleaning up after cooking classes at the end of the week, etc. Yes, we had to take turns, but no one enjoyed them really.

Then there were the fun times. Cooking classes for starters never got anyone down, unless you were chopping onions, which were involuntary tears neither of joy nor of sadness. There were swimming lessons, which were a lot more enjoyable during summer. Try walking out from a warm swimming pool when it's freezing all around - but then perhaps that was some other form of punishment the teachers secretly enjoyed. Who can tell, right? There were annual sport competitions, art and music, picnics and fieldtrips where you never walked alone but always kept your fingers locked with your best friend's, forming two lines right behind the teacher. Education outside the classroom meant education for everyday life.

In the end of it all, it was free-thinking using textbooks, it was learn-by-doing while memorising nursery rhymes, it was learning to care and share despite cultural conflict and it was Dr. Seuss to Nancy Drew to Shakespeare right next to treasure hunts and volleyball matches. But now that I look back at it, it was just a warm-up of all that was to come in a life full of responsibilities, respect and rewards.