It all started with a call from my mother that Santoshi, my daughter, was selected for a dance programme at school and that she needed to carry a prop with her the next day. Unfortunately, my mother couldn’t explain what exactly the prop was. She said it was a duster. I imagined it was something similar to this but she said it had stringy ends made of cotton. I was irked because I didn’t know what I had to send the next day. When I called the school to get some clarity from the teacher, I got to know that the teachers had left for the day and even if they were still around, parents needed to come in person.
I called my mother again and she repeated the same thing again – stringy cotton end duster. On the way back home, I got a duster which somewhat resembled this one. When I reached home, my daughter opened the door and greeted me. She was amused by the duster that I had in my hand. I told her that it was her prop for the dance programme, she said, “No, I need to carry a mopstick and this is not a mopstick”. I called my mother and she repeated for the second time that it was a duster and not a mopstick.
I sent the prop with Santoshi the next day, which was a Tuesday. She told me that she needed to carry a mopstick and not a duster. Since it was becoming frustrating, I decided to meet the teacher on Wednesday morning.
Santoshi was quite upset that she had no prop to take with her and that the teacher had asked her on Tuesday why she hadn’t brought a mopstick. I convinced her that I would be meeting the teacher to find out what needed to be sent and that she could carry it the next day. She must have been wondering, “Why? I already told you, it is a mopstick”.
After dropping her at the gate, I filled out a request form to meet the teacher and waited at the lounge. A few minutes later, a member of staff told me that Santoshi’s teacher was on leave. I explained to her that I wanted to know the prop for the dance programme. So, she asked me to follow her. She introduced me to Ms. D, who was in charge of the dance programme.
When I told Ms. D that I was Santoshi’s mother and I was not sure of the prop to be sent. She thought for a while and said, “Santoshi is in the first row; so, send a mopstick”. I asked her what kind of mopstick she was expecting. She took me to another room and showed me “the mopstick”. I wanted to know where I could get one such thing. She told me, “No, you need to make it at home”. “How exactly should it be made?” She looked at me as if I should have known the answer. “Buy a PVC pipe as tall as your daughter, wrap it with bright coloured paper, cut a mopcloth into strips and attach them to one end.” It was then I told her that since I did not know what to send, Santoshi hadn’t brought any prop. I assured her that she will carry a mopstick, as instructed, the next day. She gave me the evil eye and I decided that it was time to take my leave of her. I was at the door when she told me, “I am sure you know about the costume, too”.
Costume? Oh, I should have known. I asked her to explain the costume to me. “Send her in dungarees”. “Dungarees?” “Yes, dungarees.” “Sorry ma’am, what exactly do you mean by ‘Dungarees’?” “You know, the overall types with ankle-length trousers…” “I understand ma’am, I will get it.” “Also, a blue t-shirt.” “Light or dark? Full-sleeve or half-sleeve?” “Light blue t-shirt, because the dungarees are dark blue.” (another piece of information that dungarees had to be in dark blue colour.) “Anything else, ma’am?” ‘Navy blue socks.” “What about the shoes?” “No shoes.” My next question was about the hairstyle, then better sense prevailed over me and skipped that question. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart and was about to leave. That’s when she said, “bring the costume before Friday for approval”.
I was thinking about where could I ever find dungarees for a 4-year-old girl (who is actually tall enough to wear the clothes of a 6-year-old girl). I printed out a picture of dungarees and made a list of shops which might carry them. In the lunch hour, I went out to the shopping district of our city. Most of the shops looked at me as if I was an alien looking for dungarees for 6-year-old. One of them openly said, “Don’t you know that the biggest size in this pattern can fit at best a 2-year-old?”
So, no dungarees. It was a Wednesday and I was already two days behind the other parents who had got the information on Monday that week. Could I get denim fabric by the yard and get a tailor to stitch it? No one would make it in a day and it was close to the biggest festive season in India and no tailor would even agree to make it. Can I make it myself? I only wished I had learnt sewing. Oh, wait, I can’t make one from scratch; but, I could put a pinafore and a pair of jeans together and create one! Luckily, Santoshi had a dungaree dress already. I only had to buy a pair of jeans of the same shade of blue. But, the entire thing depended on the teacher approving the costume.
I bought a pair of jeans and a light blue half-sleeved t-shirt and went back to work. Once I was home, I dug the dungaree dress out of the bag which had clothes to be given for charity. I packed the jeans, the t-shirt and the dungaree dress in a bag to be shown to the teacher for her “approval” of the DIY dungarees.
Then, to involve Santoshi, I took her with me to buy the items for the DIY mopstick pop. It was raining, so we took an umbrella. Santoshi started singing, “It’s raining, it’s boring (pouring),the old man is snoring; he jumped on his bed, bumped his head and couldn’t wake up in the morning!” She told me excitedly that she had learnt the new song that day.
We went to the store that sells pipes, taps, etc. When I told the shopkeeper that I wanted a PVC pipe of about 40 inches in length, he immediately asked me, “1/4 inch, 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch diameter?” Wow, I didn’t know. So, he got PVC pipes of all diameters out. Everything was quite heavy and would not be the right material to make the prop. I asked him if there were any PVC pipe that would be light. I explained to him that the purpose was to only serve as a prop for a school programme. He told me to go to another shop which would have light-weight PVC pipes. I thanked him and went to the other shop. They did have such pipes! I got a pipe which was 40 inches in length. Next stop was at our grocery store where we bought two pieces of mopcloth.
After coming home, I wrapped the colour paper on the PVC pipe; I then cut both the pieces of mopcloth into long strips, pasted them to one end of the PVC pipe with a string. Then, I realized that while I was pasting the strips, the fabric glue ruined the surface of the colour paper. So, after the fabric glue had dried, I wrapped more colour paper around the pipe and added a label “Santoshi” on the top end. Santoshi wanted to know why I put her name on the mopstick. I told her that the label was to identify this mopstick as hers and no other child will take it. After all, I didn’t want Santoshi to come crying the next day, “…that boy said it was mine and took my mopstick away. Can you make another one for me?”
It was Thursday morning. With my laptop bag on my back, purse on one shoulder, mopstick on the left hand, I took Santoshi’s hand in my right hand and started walking from the parking area to the school gate. Santoshi asked me if I could carry library folder too; ugh, ok. I thrust the folder into my purse and walked along. While most passers-by (not connected to the school as teachers or parents) looked at me weirdly, one of the parents of Santoshi’s class rushed to me, “Are we supposed to send anything today? Have I forgotten?” I assured her that everything was ok and that it was Santoshi’s prop for dance programme. She was relieved. So would I be if the teacher approves my idea, I thought.
As I dropped Santoshi at the gate, a member of the staff said, “Why such a big mopstick? We had said it had to be her shoulder height of the child.” Facepalm! I forced myself to smile and told them, “I can saw it to her shoulder height, ma’am”. She said she would let the teacher decide. I filled a form out and met the teacher. Thankfully, Santoshi’s teacher was available that day and I told her that I couldn’t find dungarees for her but I could come up with one if she would allow and explained my idea to her. She looked at everything and said ok. Yay!! I thanked her profusely and asked her why these instructions (prop, costume, deadlines, date and venue of the programme, etc.) couldn’t be put in the school diary in the ‘Notes from Teachers to Parents’ section, which would have ensured that there was no ambiguity or anxiety about the entire thing. She had no response but at least assured me that they would do it the next time.
Back home that evening, I snipped the top of the dungaree dress and attached it to the waist of the jeans and voila!
Though she is smiling in the photo, she was not very happy wearing it. I told her that this was what her teacher wanted for the dance programme and she reluctantly agreed.
The next day, I took the “finished piece” to Ms. D and she too approved it. Whew, what a relief!
On the day of the programme, we were supposed to get the children dressed in their costume and bring them to school about 30 minutes ahead of the start time. Which meant that she didn’t have to go to school at the usual time. When it was close to the time we were supposed to leave for school on normal days, Santoshi grew suspicious. “Why are we not leaving for school? And, why are you not dressed for work?” I explained to her that we were going directly to the stage (the auditorium, that is) a little before the time when the programme would start and that I would go to office after her school gets over for the day. She was not very sure of the first part of the answer but was happy about the second part. Then, more questions on if I would be around for the programme, if I would pick her up after school,… which I tried to answer before my patience ran out.
We reached the school about 30 minutes prior to start time. She was very happy to see her classmates (who were also part of the programme) in the auditorium while the others were still in the classroom.
The programme was enjoyed by all of us. Santoshi’s dance was the concluding part and chaos reigned with sixteen children aged between 3 and 4 running all across the stage. After the programme, we were allowed to take a few pics. Santoshi was busy looking at the mop holding it upside down and spinning it around.
The school ensured that we had more ‘fun’ after the programme, too. Parents were asked to pick their wards up from the stage, get them back to wear uniform and drop them at the classroom. I picked Santoshi up and asked one of the teachers, “Ma’am, where can we change her clothes?” She said, “Well, we hadn’t thought about it. Now that you are asking, why don’t you choose a corner where no one is around?” I don’t think they realized that children didn’t want to change clothes in the open. Then, I took permission from a member of staff and used the first-aid room to change her back to uniform.
As I dropped her near the staircase leading to her classroom, she seemed upset. She waved bye to me and proceeded to her classroom. There was still about an hour to pick her up. I couldn’t help but think of the previous year when she was selected for the anniversary programme in August that year. When the teacher proudly told me mother about this, my mother swiftly requested to take her out of the programme. The teacher was quite surprised. My mother pointed out to the teacher that it would be too much of work for me to run around for costumes, accompany her for rehearsals, arrange for pick up and drop at school, etc. since I was pregnant at that time, due by end of September. I was very grateful to my mother, though more than year had passed from then.
I picked her up at the usual time and proceeded to office. I made my mind up that if she gets selected for any other programme, I would have to make it a point to meet the teacher at the earliest opportunity. There might come a time when both my kids are chosen for one programme or the other at the same time. It makes me rejoice that it’s not for another two years from now.