|My Class on picnic, Lodhi Gardens|
Yes, there is a difference. The Primary teacher spends her working hours on roller blades while the rest of them can survive the day on their own feet. The parity is in the degree of momentum, the pace and space. Junior wing is a giddy, slightly breathless place. For some reason, the occupants keep bumping into each other, a tumble here, a tumble there, teachers suffer shooting episodes of amnesia, it is as though a fast forward button has been pressed in the vicinity and before anyone is the wiser, the drooping Ma'ams are leading out the still high strung lines to dispersal area. Whoa, believe it or not, school is over! What did we do today?!
It is in this hive of a milieu, on the all-time gyroscope of academic structures, among a tight band of people tuned to shifting gears at the sound of a bell that teachers make it magically convenient to bond. The occasions are aplenty! A quick family update in the corridor, on the way to or from the washroom. Sartorial admiration at the stair-landing while catching breath on the climb up. Exchanging notes on the common enemy, over stay back duty. A smile across the auditorium, a look from behind the soft board, a gesture coming round the basketball court, a lot is going on in addition to the teaching and learning in that edifice.
And then, there are the things that are sure shot brighteners in a junior teacher’s day: a hot cup of tea, her steaming tiffin wending its way from the hot case, the eager beavers lying in wait for her bag early morning. Some more that keeps the smile on her face: an approved leave application, a substitution teacher who does not make her wait, a day when her ‘free’ period is not messed with by the time table in-charge, a prize at an inter-school event, an old student popping in to say hello, an empathetic ear from the Head Mistress, some praise from a colleague, oh they live for this! No, there is no denying their camaraderie in a non-threatening profession with nary a scope of any great meteoric rise for one of the band.
They understand what it means when a parent comes calling on the Principal, regarding one of them. They identify with the self-berating agony of the teacher who has crossed the line with a child that day. They can hazard at the reason one of them came to put a tick mark on a blank page! They know they can bank on colleagues for cues on the best tailors, jewellers, doctors and insurance agents. There are the universal undercurrents of course and the byplays as with any other professional community but the two issues I have seen dissolve the toughest of these pedagogues; in-laws and their own children. A whole lot is forgiven and overlooked if any of the staff is on the back foot over these two commitments. It’s a merry band there in-spite of the loaded day. Drawing, colouring, singing, dancing, miming, running, rejoicing, crying.
Show me a junior wing building and I will show you the hearts on display. It is elementary, the sisterhood and in some cases, the only positive stroke in a typical day of the Indian woman who is a Mom, wife, daughter-in-law etc etc.