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Blossoming of little minds

Updated on July 20, 2014

The story of a preschool in India

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English medium preschools have become a widespread phenomenon in urban India over the last few decades, with the century-long legacy of British rule having established this language as the common link between people speaking a multitude of tongues who constitute this nation of a billion plus individuals, and also as the preferred language of higher education.

However, with English not being the spoken language in most homes, children taking their first uncertain step into an environment of formal education have to be gradually introduced to a new vernacular, with its peculiarities of idiom, intonation, and tradition. The onus is upon the preschool teachers to channel this bubbling, disparate, and disoriented assortment of nascent thoughts and deeds towards a structured understanding of society, its mores, and its needs.

This is a story of such a preschool in India. It is being serialized on Squidoo, with a chapter being presented each week, beginning the third week of April 2011. The author hopes that readers enjoy it as much as he did writing it.

..

Blossoming of little minds

Dedication

A thematic thought . . .

Chapter 1: The opening-day pandemonium

Twenty-three wide-eyed, open-mouthed little heads bobbed in unison to the rhythm set by the tapping-feet of two kindergarten teachers, as they sang and enacted a nursery rhyme to their mesmerized wards, on the opening-day of a new academic year at the Balaranya Nursery School.

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

It's so much sweet ruckus, in the morning,

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

Tentative smiles blossomed on some of the little faces, when they saw every-morning-happenings-at-home, being played out musically, and with as much verve. It almost felt like being home.

Papa's busy on his cell, "Hullo! Hullo!"

Mamma holds a bowl and urges, "Swallow! Swallow!"

Sister's growling angrily, "Lazy fellow!"

Doggy dunked his tail in paint, its yellow, yellow.

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

It's so much sweet ruckus, in the morning,

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

These were children of Upper Kindergarten (UKG), had been to school for two years, and were familiar with the school surroundings and their teachers. However, they were yet to overcome the trauma of being away from home for extended periods, and this was the first day of school, after a two-month long summer vacation, which accentuated their insecurity.

Mamma's packing lunch for me . . . Cake, Cake.

Doggy comes, his bushy tail . . . Shake, Shake.

I give a bit to doggy saying . . . Take, Take.

Mamma's pinch on the cheek, Oh! . . . Ache, Ache.

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

It's so much sweet ruckus, in the morning,

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

Many a little hand went up to their corresponding faces, as one of the enthusiastic teachers, soundly pinched herself on the cheek, during a particular moment of over-zealousness, to mimic the action of an annoyed mother towards her naughty child.

I hide and fire with my toy-gun, gun.

Sister's pencil falls and breaks, it's-done, done.

To begin the morning so, isn't it-fun, fun?

Papa's scolding is sure to come-run, run!

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

It's so much sweet ruckus, in the morning,

It's always like a circus, in the morning,

As the teachers concluded their oft rehearsed, yet essentially impromptu performance, there was a chorus of young voices insisting on an encore. The tiredness of the strenuous exertion of the past few minutes, all but vanished from the countenances of the teachers, who were certainly not in their prime. One had witnessed her fiftieth summer, while the other was close on the heels of the first. The feeling of satisfaction and elation that they experienced was not any different from what accomplished artistes would on stage, when the audience gave them a standing ovation.

With beaming faces, the teachers plunged into, an even more fervent and animated repeat performance, to the delight of the children.

Watching all this from her vantage point, seated on an old stool near the classroom door, was the principal of the school, Suhasini Ranganathan, who had nurtured the school-as a concept to begin with, and then as a perpetually adapting reality, for thirty long years.

If you asked her for one reason, that would define her dedication to this pursuit, she would unhesitatingly say, that it was her love for children-toddlers in particular. The innocence on their faces, the straightforwardness of their manner-untarnished by the complexities of the adult world, and the spontaneity of their reactions, had always drawn her towards little ones.

Over the years, she had discovered that beneath this veneer of innocence, were invariably hidden the marked characteristics that would make them the individuals, that each of them were to become in their adult life. This revelation had made her wonder occasionally about the extent of the possibility, and the proportion of traits, being a function of heredity, environment, and chance (or destiny, as some may call it,) respectively.

..

"Suhasini ma'am! There is someone to see you!" hollered a voice from close quarters. It was Abida the Aaya-the official nanny-in-chief. She had been the other thirty-year-old permanent fixture at the school, Suhasini aside. One thing that was not among her many virtues was gentleness of speech. Her employer and associates were perpetually engaged in an ever-losing battle of changing this peculiarity of hers. Their perseverance in the face of such unflinching obstinacy was a measure of their own dogged determination. Witnesses to this battle of wits over the years had given up speculating on the outcome, and left it to Time to decide the ultimate result, which too was suspect.

"Who is it, Abida?" asked Suhasini, in a voice commensurate with the distance between the two conversationalists.

"Some parent wanting to admit her child," boomed the answer, from Abida the Aaya.

Measured steps carried the principal to her desk, where a nervous parent and her casual child were seated.

"Good morning!" stammered the anxious young mother.

"Hello ma'am!" lisped her five-year-old daughter, with a carefree smile.

"Good morning!" the principal returned both greetings, reserving a not too stern expression for the parent, and a welcoming one for the little girl.

"Ma'am! We have heard so much about your school. Sravya is my only child, and the doctor has said that I cannot conceive ever again. I am so worried about her, and have been searching for a good school, where she will be safe and well looked after. Can you assure her complete safety? She developed rashes within two days of being enrolled in another school, and we got her admission cancelled immediately. Oh! I am so desperate and lost!" wailed the young woman, almost hysterically.

Experience had made Suhasini adept at dealing with such situations. Like students, parents too came in innumerable varieties. Overly concerned, absolutely indifferent, extremely co-operative, utterly unhelpful-you name it, and Suhasini could recall a parent, who would fit the specification.

"We can certainly assure you good attention for your child, but nothing special, or exclusive," replied Suhasini, in a reassuring voice. "If you have brought a copy of her birth certificate, you can fill up a form, and admit her immediately. I will ask my colleague to help you with the exercise."

Just then, the telephone rang in a subdued pitch. The volume of the ring tone was another matter of eternal contention between the principal and Abida the Aaya. The low pitch was also an indication, that the principal's desk had not been dusted so far that morning. If it had been so, the ringing of the telephone would have been many times louder.

..

“Balaranya Nursery School, Good morning,” spoke Suhasini, into the receiver.

“Ma’am, this is Hukumchand Kapadia. Have you considered my request?” said the voice at the other end.

“Mr. Kapadia, I have already told you that there is nothing to consider. This is a school, not a grocery store, where you can bargain over the price of an item. You will have to pay the same tuition fee that you have paid for your other five children,” replied Suhasini, immediately recognizing the accented nasal voice with which she had been familiar for over a decade now.

“Ma’am, now-a-days, even corporate hospitals offer discounts. I got a complete medical check-up done for my wife and myself, and the hospital offered a free assessment for one child. Surely, you can waive fees for at least three months of the year for my son! I can also pledge to admit my seventh child, who is still suckling, in your school, when he attains the age of three. I am sure no other parent would have been so loyal to you,” pleaded Hukumchand Kapadia, summoning all his bargaining skills.

Suhasini Ranganathan was made of sterner stuff, and was unmoved. “I am sorry, Mr. Kapadia. I do appreciate your ‘loyalty’–as you call it, which I am convinced has much more to do with the fact, that our fee structure is among the lowest in the vicinity. We have been happy having your other children with us, and would be equally so, to have your sixth child and the seventh as well. But it would be only on payment of the full tuition fee. I leave the decision to you. I have to attend to other work. Thank you for calling.” The receiver regained the coziness of its cradle, throttling Hukumchand Kapadia’s continued protestations.

By nature, the principal of Balaranya Nursery School was not an unsympathetic and discourteous person. But sitting behind the principal’s desk had taught her the nuances of dealing with people of different genre in a manner that would be in the best interests of the institution that she presided over, and she was much obliged to people like Hukumchand Kapadia, for having provided opportunities for her to develop those skills.

Interacting with parents also offered her a glimpse of the kind of characteristics their children may have–being just the proverbial chip of the old block. Assessing the parents helped the teachers in planning their approach, and to win the confidence of their children, particularly during the crucial first days of school. If traits were truly a function of heredity, environment, and chance, then such an appraisal revealed at least a bit of the first two possibilities.

The contrasting situations of not having children of her own, and being with children for a good part of each day, yearlong and continuously for so many years, had given Suhasini the independence and expanse of thought to objectively analyze, what exactly was the notion of having and bringing up a child. Developmental psychology postulated that egocentric thinking predominates during the childhood phase of the human life cycle. Suhasini felt that the concept of a child itself was ensconced in egocentricity; it wasn’t any different, when applied to an adult too.

Parents can behave very much like children, becoming illogically emotional and uncompromisingly biased, when it comes to anything to do with their own children. Emotion by its definition–a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as a strong feeling, usually directed towards a specific object–is a direct and visible manifestation of egocentricity. Bias is a conclusion that is bereft of logic. One’s child can therefore be visualized, as an expression of one’s ego, and its consequent emotions. This deduction was in stark distinction to the visualization of a child, as an epitome of purity, innocence, and virtue. It was a good example of unity in diversity, and a fine case in point for the saying–“Two sides of the same coin.” It was this dual nature of things that made the world work, individuals tick, and Balaranya Nursery School to be in existence.

..

Just as a child resided in every adult, an adult dwelt in every child too. A vivid exemplar of this phenomenon was Divya, a UKG student. The imperceptible frown of irritation that creased the principal’s face, as she rose from her desk, after having attended to the call from the indomitable haggler with seven children, was replaced with an air of concern, when she saw Divya herding Rakesh–an eight-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome–towards the classroom. The boy had plaster on his right temple, and the girl was leading him, holding his hand, and concernedly looking up into his face every few steps. It was about half-an-hour past school starting time.

“Why are you late today, Divya, and what happened to Rakesh?” asked Suhasini, coming in step with them.

“He fell off the vehicle, and hurt himself, ma’am,” replied the driver of the vehicle, who accompanied them. “I took them back home, to have his wound dressed. That is why we got late. Rakesh seems to be still in a daze, but he insisted that he would come to school, despite his mother asking him to stay back and rest.”

Divya and Rakesh lived in the same apartment block about a kilometer away, and commuted to school in a three-wheeler. Though three years his junior, the girl was very caring and protective towards the boy. They even shared a bench in the classroom. While many UKG children still needed to be fed by the teachers during lunchtime, it was Divya who took upon herself the responsibility of feeding Rakesh, and then ate her own lunch. She was affectionately called the “little nanny” by the school staff.

When they reached the classroom door, Suhasini addressed the girl and said, “Alright, go to your desks now, both of you. Divya, look after Rakesh. If you find anything different from the normal in his behavior, inform your teacher immediately.” The principal then turned to the teacher, and as their eyes met, she gestured towards Rakesh and put a hand to her temple, indicating that the boy was hurt. The teacher slowly blinked, conveying that she would keep an eye.

Suhasini then called the boy’s home on her cell to confirm that his mother was aware of the situation, and that she had sent her boy to school on her own volition. There had been instances earlier, where despite the school’s well-intentioned measures in such situations, they had been accused of negligence. Handling children of this age group carried a big responsibility, particularly so, when there was so much emotion and apparently, less logic involved.

Suhasini had often wondered whether being emotional was illogical, and being logical was unemotional. She found it difficult drawing a line delineating the two supposedly distinct and non-inclusive mental faculties. If being emotional was a manifestation of the ego, then the proclamation of being logical was surely an expression of emotion. On the other hand, acknowledgment of being emotional was a demonstration of reason, because the hallmark of logic is acceptance of the truth.

In her surmise, there was only one mental faculty with two manifestations, which were contextual to the viewpoints of the observer. And the girl Divya, seemed to have a healthy balance of both. Over the years, the teachers had got into the habit of identifying the children, as soon as they were admitted, into broad behavioral categories. Divya and her likes were classified as the “Nanny” set–those who displayed responsibility beyond their years, were caring, were ever willing to be of help, and could be trusted and depended upon. Not many were so, particularly among boys. It was a representative picture of the composition of the adult world.

..

Mornings have this peculiar tendency of making all people believe that a lot many things have to be accomplished immediately and without delay. Everyone magnanimously leaves the rest of the day to the others, and rushes out to get their own work done first. This common and intractable penchant is what brought Tarun Khandelwal’s mother rushing to the principal’s office that morning. The boy was a repeater–one of the “Straggler” category, going by the Balaranya lexicon. Stragglers came in three flavors. They could be mischievous, quiet, or normal. Tarun was of the second kind.

Hardly had she reached the door of the second classroom–the farthest that she had been able to go from her desk, since prayer-time, when Abida the Aaya’s verbal salvo jarringly assaulted her eardrums, announcing the arrival of Mrs. Khandelwal, and the principal was drawn back to her desk by the unseen string of conscientiousness. The visitor had, in fact, come there heeding her summons to discuss a perceived problem with her child.

After the unsuccessful endeavor of the previous year to make Tarun to read and write properly, his class teacher and Suhasini had suggested to his parents to consult a clinical psychologist, to examine the possibility of the boy having some manner of abnormality that may need a little measure of specialized intervention. The Khandelwals had been quite upset with this suggestion, which did not greatly perturb the principal, because it was the invariable initial reaction from parents, when told about a possible problem–particularly to do with the intelligence of their child. For the school staff, the interests of the student were paramount, even if it meant a little discomfiture of the parents. The father–a successful businessman, had been almost livid at the suggestion, and had managed to keep his cool with great difficulty. The mother was willing to consider it, though reluctantly, but was browbeaten into non-acquiescence by her husband’s veiled bellicosity. Keeping with their established norms, the class teacher had written out their recommendation on the report card (which obviously declared that the student had failed), included the telephone-number of a well-known psychologist, and had further stated that the parents meet the principal on the opening day of the new academic year.

Again, as a matter of procedure, the parents of all repeaters were reminded over the telephone, a day before the school reopening, about their appointment. That was Mrs. Khandelwal’s reason and purpose of appearance at the school.

“It is nice to see you again, Mrs. Khandelwal. Do be seated. Have you been able to take Tarun to the specialist that we recommended?” the principal came directly to the point.

The fidgety manner of the woman seated in front of her provided the answer she sought, even before it was spelt out by the visitor.

“We can do only so much, Mrs. Khandelwal. It is your child’s future that we are dealing with. Unless you take the initiative, it will be difficult for us to do anything further,” said Suhasini, calmly.

“Oh! I do want to take Tarun to the psychologist, but my husband is completely against it. He says that with proper coaching the boy can do well,” whined the mother.

Suhasini wondered whether this was a genuine description of the situation, or merely a ruse to appear helpless and camouflage negligence. This was another combination of emotion and logic at play, whatever else it might have been.

“If the boy fares poorly again this year, the school will not be willing to admit him for yet another term. Please bear this in mind. From our end we will strive to help Tarun, as much as we can,” declared the principal, getting up from her seat, which indicated to the visitor that the meeting had concluded.

If there was one thing that teachers found nightmarish, it was teaching stragglers–particularly those, whose parents appeared unconcerned. It was a feeling of frustration, inadequacy, helplessness, and self-doubt; all put together that gnawed at them incessantly. This sentiment would turn acute, if by a quirk of fate, the child turned out to be one of those who blossomed late, and the teachers got to see the child, or heard reports that it was blazing a brilliant academic trail. Such incidents didn’t happen too often, but they certainly did occasionally, which was cause enough for the former teachers to momentarily see the stark landscape of the nether world.

..

Kids throw tantrums. Temperamental ones shower them bountifully. In hindsight, it can be charming, but contemporarily devastating. None, but kindergarten teachers, can understand the true import and profundity of this observation. No tribute would be adequate to honor this characteristic of such teachers–who are invariably women–to be able to withstand that manner of emotional onslaught, and yet remain sane at the end of each day. In such a situation, men would have been vanquished–comprehensively and completely, in no time. One temperamental child can be quite a handful. Managing many at the same time . . .

A rose in any form can be a gift, as delightful. Tanmay Rao discovered this variation to the Shakespearean norm, when he remembered seeing a picture of a rose in a magazine, on the morning of the day his school was to reopen. That the picture be cut and pasted on a piece of cardboard, and taken to the school as a gift for his favorite teacher, became his one point agenda for the morning. His mother’s explanation that it was a borrowed magazine, that there was no cardboard readily available, that she hardly had time to make breakfast and send him to school and his father to work, fell on deaf ears. The mother’s attempt to buy peace with the promise of fulfilling his demand by the afternoon, to enable him to take the precious picture to school the following day, also failed, as it was inevitably bound to. The alternatives available to her were, as clear, as a pure glass of mineral water–the picture or tantrums.

The mother had no option, but to bear the latter, which comprised of intermittent cyclic bouts of ear splitting screams, inconsolable sobbing, and uncharacteristically silent brooding. It was a disheveled and exhausted mother, who deposited her son at the school gate, surreptitiously tipped one of the aayas with a ten-rupee note, and returned home relieved.

She did not deem it necessary to update any of the teachers about her son’s rebellious state. This was not an exception, but the norm–as the teachers had found to their chagrin the previous year, when Tanmay was admitted to the Nursery class. It would have been necessary to take the teachers into confidence, only if a norm had been transgressed. The boy was a distinguished member of the “Moody” set, as classified by the school staff, and this was just another normal day.

When Suhasini finally made it to the classroom of the second UKG section, after numerous aborted attempts, she found Tanmay in his familiar dour stance, a grim face looking at the floor, arms crossed between his chest and tummy, seated alone in the last row. The principal quietly made her way to the bench, and sat beside him for a brief while. Then she casually remarked, “Tanmay is angry with his mamma, isn’t it? I will go immediately to my office, call mamma over the telephone, and scold her. Join the other children in the class activity, while I do so. Let us show mamma, what an intelligent and good boy Tanmay is; shall we?”

Without waiting for the boy to respond, Suhasini made her way out of the classroom. The anticipated change in mood in the boy was not long in coming. He was soon seen joining his mates in making animal shapes from colored molding clay, the gloominess in his countenance replaced by an expression of abandon.

..

The moment the principal stepped out of the second UKG class, she was confronted by an alarmed assistant-aaya, Radha, a girl still in her teens, who reported that one of the students had hurt himself, and was bleeding very badly. It was an established fact that exaggeration was Radha’s indisputable forte, and a thematic joke with regular variations did the rounds among the school staff quite often. The current variant was that, if Radha says that a house was on fire, then a matchstick has been lit there.

Despite Radha being the news carrier, the possibility of a child being badly hurt was sufficiently disturbing, and called for immediate damage-control measures. Suhasini rushed to the office room, which also housed the first aid chest. A moment later, Abida stood at the doorway, completely blocking it with her frame, and holding aloft a hand of a boy in each of hers. There was hardly an emotion on the aaya’s face, while the boy sported a nonchalant grin. The scene was reminiscent of a typical scene from a period-film, where a pathetically puny looking hero is brought to the presence of the monarch by a menacingly brawny and expressionless guard. To add further color to this evocative setting were smears of blood on the face and clothing of the boy.

“What happened?” asked Suhasini with concern, taken in by the façade of a badly hurt boy.

“It is nothing, Suhasini ma’am! This monkey of a boy rummaged through the handbag of the teacher, while she was busy with the other children, helping them with their coloring work. He found her penknife, fidgeted with it, got it opened, and accidentally cut himself in his forefinger. Then he smeared himself all over with blood and asked the teacher, how his painting was. He is making a nuisance of himself too often, ma’am!”

The accusation was almost like a charge of sedition that the brawny guard in the film would have cast upon his undaunted prisoner.

This was not the first time that the boy, Vishaal, had gotten into situations like this. He was one of the “Hypers,” as the Balaranya teachers classified such children–ridiculously inquisitive, and unreasonably energetic. An incident-less day involving them was a rarity.

Suhasini examined the wound to reassure herself that it wasn’t a deep cut, then washed, applied medication, and bandaged it. Abida the Aaya took no part in that exercise. Unwittingly, she had become Vishaal’s pet target for his ceaseless pranks, and caused her consternation no end. She knew that she had to bear this persecution for two more years, and that certainly was not a comfortable thought. Such victimization was not new to her. There had been many “hypers” in her thirty-year service, who had besieged her rustic, but considerate heart. But it did hurt every time there was an unreasonable assault, even if it was from innocent little imps like Vishaal.

..

The principal's next destination on her morning rounds was one of the two LKG classes. She heard one of her favorite nursery rhymes being sung by the class teacher, as she neared the door, and her hands involuntarily broke into rhythmic clapping, keeping with the beat. Entering the class, she began singing too, primarily with the intention of keeping up the tempo of the situation that would otherwise have been disturbed.

Come to us, fairy sweet,

From your home yonder;

How are you so nice and cute?

We always do ponder.

When someone is rude and curt,

Making us so cross and hurt.

Soothe us, if we were to cry,

Soaring like a butterfly.

Come to us, fairy sweet,

From your home yonder;

How are you so nice and cute?

We always do ponder.

We see you jump from tree to tree,

You are so bold. You are so free.

Neither Sun's heat, nor lashing rain

Nor winter's chill can cause you pain.

Come to us, fairy sweet,

From your home yonder;

How are you so nice and cute?

We always do ponder.

Having sung it once, the teacher repeated the rhyme-this time accompanied by appropriate gestures. The children too were encouraged to mimic them. The teacher and the principal went around, coordinating the movements of all those little inexperienced limbs that were flaying in every direction, making a wonderfully appealing spectacle, and an utter mockery of the sensible order the teachers were endeavoring to patiently enforce. This was the difference between children making mistakes, and adults indulging in them. While the former was enjoyable-even more than when they did things correctly, the effects of the latter need not be elaborated upon.

The two teachers-the principal was essentially a teacher first-soon found themselves in the company of a third. It was little Karishma, incorrigible, when it came to not leaving others alone. She had to correct others-with all good intentions though, regardless of whether she herself was doing a thing right. She too was moving around in the wake of the teachers, imparting her precious counsel to anyone willing to listen, and even to those who weren't too enthusiastic about it.

"Karishma! Will you please go back to your seat, and do what you have been told?" chided the teacher.

The girl did as she was asked to, showing neither annoyance, nor regret. The reprimand did not deter her from continuing to direct those who sat immediately next to her.

Exasperated, the teacher pulled a bench next to her own in the front of the classroom, and made the girl to sit there. This move only exacerbated the problem, as the girl silently commenced to address the whole class.

In Balaranya parlance, Karishma was the "Bossy" kind. They too occurred in many shades. Some were a bit of show-offs in addition to being bossy. A few were genuinely gifted-perhaps, born leaders-giving visions of glory to those who taught them, of being able to proudly declare in their old age, that they had been the Kindergarten teacher of a certain great and renowned person.

..

We all need, just a good reason, to indulge in whatever that we like most. Perhaps, this adage is applicable to children as well–even to those kids whom the Balaranya schoolteachers classified as “Whiny.”

These were children, who were in the habit of always complaining about everything around them–be it a person, thing, or merely a notion. In particular, they were quite vociferous about expressing such grievances. Any reason was good enough to launch them on a whiny bout. There being no reason at all was a sufficient reason too.

Jahnavi was a candidate who fit this description very aptly. Her father being the one who brought her to school every morning on his rickety motorbike, and additionally being regular and punctual to a fault, Jahnavi’s whining was an alternative morning bell at the school. There had been many occasions in the previous year, where the regular bell could not be rung due to the failure of electric-power supply. But the little girl would be there to remind all to keep time.

Undoubtedly, it was often irritating, but it had its little advantages too. Before the girl was admitted to Balaranya School, the teachers were in possession of the acquired wisdom, which contended that life was full of compensations. Jahnavi unreservedly conferred upon them, the privilege of practically experiencing it.

As Suhasini leisurely walked past the door leading into the second LKG classroom, she heard the whiny girl in focus being in full flow.

“Ma’am! Madhur is teasing me.”

“Madhur! Don’t tease Jahnavi. Do your work,” responded the teacher, in an attempt to restore harmony.

All that had transpired was, that the boy Madhur had chuckled, when the tip of the pencil with which Jahnavi was writing, broke off and the girl continued to write without having realized it. The boy found it funny seeing a blank line, where a moment ago, something was apparently written.

The mild reproach from the teacher made the highly sensitive boy turn his face away from the girl, and refuse her overtures of a dialogue, and the next complaint followed the first in quick succession.

“Ma’am! Madhur is not talking to me.”

The teacher looked up in confusion wondering whether she had heard correctly and dispensed proper admonishment, the first time. Suhasini glimpsed the teacher’s face during that moment of bewilderment, smiled, and walked on.

..

Society is considered to be, as important to a human being, as is food, water, and air. Man would go mad without active interaction with his fellow beings, or at least that is what we are led to believe. There were exceptions to every norm, and this one was no exception.

Loners are conspicuous in adult society. Most of them don't become so; they are born so. The trait can be recognized, even when a loner-to-be is in kindergarten school.

The question "What makes loners?" is, perhaps, partially answered, if we were to understand, what makes man to want society. Interactions between people can be at two levels-material and emotional. Material interaction occurs between people and plants too. We take their produce and provide them with inputs to grow and resist diseases. Between people, there is the additional interactive medium-emotion, whose primary concern is to do with the ego.

Friendship and intimacy develops between people, who are able to enhance and support each other's ego, while enmity and distance arises between those, who cannot have such a mutual rapport.

Loners-by definition, have neither friends, nor foes. This indicates a condition caused by three possibilities:

- There is an inherent nonconformity to the general human behavior that requires constant pampering of the ego.

- The ego in focus is so fragile, and is prone to being shattered at the slightest unfavorable contact, that the person puts up an impregnable shield around, and spurns associations of any kind.

- The brain is hard-wired differently, making the person in focus display behavioral tendencies in contrast with what is considered to be the norm.

Children, in whom the third possibility is manifested, are classified differently for obvious reasons-the foremost being the lack of understanding about the condition. The first two, however, are regular occurrences.

In Balaranya jargon, they belonged to the "Loner" category. The first variety needed no special attention, and was usually quite intelligent. The second needed to be handled with care, and quite literally with kid gloves. They came distinctly stamped with the message that was unmistakably readable in their every reaction to any external stimulus.

In general, there was at least one touch-me-not, and one more of the even-if-you-do-it-makes-no-difference, brand of loners admitted to the Nursery class every year. As Suhasini entered the nursery classroom, it immediately became apparent to her, that there was more than the normal share of loners-unluckily more of the touch-me-not sort, admitted this year. Deployment of personnel was the largest in this class. Yet, the place appeared to be in utter chaos.

Every staff member assigned to the class seemed to be tied down to such a child of the loner set, or one of the whiny set, while the rest of the class were immersed in the bliss of cacophony. The first day of school, with a majority of the students being new admissions, was always so. But the principal made a mental note to immediately recruit a temporary teacher, and an aaya, to augment forces to endure the heightened surge of budding sentiments.

..

Intrigue, suspense, and the tension caused by them, aren't confined to the preserve of spy stories and adventure thrillers alone. They can be a part of a kindergarten school too. For those, to whom being in a situation like this is a novel experience, it can be baffling and spine tingling. For those habituated to the state of affairs, it would be just another day. Suhasini had had a taste of both sensations.

She had her first brush with a potential kleptomaniac in the second year, after she started her school twenty-seven years ago.

Complaints of missing lunch boxes from indignant parents, which first started as a trickle, and then turned to a flood within a span of a month, prompted the principal and teachers to initiate an organized sleuthing operation-much like what a regular investigating agency would undertake. Potential suspects were identified and covertly tailed, a random check of bags was ordered occasionally, and a command meeting held each afternoon of all concerned, to analyze the results achieved, and to elicit fresh ideas. Initially, children were the least probable suspects.

The chance finding of the lunch box of a child in the bag of another, during one of the sporadic baggage checks, alerted the authorities to the possibility of one of the children themselves being the culprit.

A repeat seizure of a missing lunch box in the possession of the same child turned the needle of suspicion pointedly at her. Plans were drawn up in earnest, to focus all the probing acumen at hand upon the child.

It so emerged, that the child was in the habit of remaining in the classroom during the lunch break, while the rest invariably went out to the playground, after having eaten. A habit that was taken to be a harmless idiosyncrasy on the part of the child, turned out to be a ruse for a much more sinister pursuit. Under the stealthy gaze of seven pairs of unblinking eyes, the little girl was caught rummaging through the bag of a classmate, take out the lunch box, and stuff into her own bag, after having made sure that no one was watching.

The offender was caught red-handed, but seemed to show no remorse. The teachers too could do nothing more beyond patting themselves on the back, for having conducted a successful under-cover operation. The parent of the child was informed about their child's unhealthy habit, only to be told that she was, after all, a child and such pranks are common with kids.

The exercise, however, made the staff aware of the fact that the psychological ailment of kleptomania can strike preschool children too.

The incident also brought into existence, yet another set of classification of children, as viewed by the school staff-"Maniacs." Perhaps, it was too harsh a term for those so young, but the consummate skill with which the child had gone about her nefarious quest, justified such a nomenclature.

Suhasini's panoramic glance at the bunch of new entrants into the Nursery class was tinged with the hope that they did not have to contend with any new maniacs that year. Experience had no doubt equipped them to deal with the eventuality. Nevertheless, it felt sad to see a child, so afflicted.

..

It is common practice to highlight only the negatives. The positives are usually taken for granted. A newspaper is a ubiquitous example of this phenomenon.

The classification of students into different sets at Balaranya Nursery School should be viewed with a similar yardstick. It is not that the staff members weren’t aware of this. It was the occurrence of all those positive attributes in children, that made the profession of teaching children so enjoyable and satisfying, and also provided the necessary vigor and strength of mind to face, and attempt to rectify, those that inhibited a child, to flower into a wholesome personality.

..

Chapter 2: Learning dissected

Please click on the following link to read chapter 2: http://www.squidoo.com/Blossoming-of-little-minds-2

Chapter 3: Technical Tales

Please click on the following link to read chapter 3: http://www.squidoo.com/Blossoming-of-little-minds-3

Chapter 4: Close Encounters

Please click on the following link to read chapter 4: http://www.squidoo.com/Blossoming-of-little-minds-4

Chapter 5: Society and Schooling

Please click on the following link to read chapter 5: http://www.squidoo.com/Blossoming-of-little-minds-5

Chapter 6: Special Who?

Please click on the following link to read chapter 6: http://www.squidoo.com/Blossoming-of-little-minds-6

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I was a principal for some years and this brought back memories. First day of school seemed always a nightmare.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

      The children seem to form a kind of micro-society of their own, representing the wider society they will join later in their young lives. Of course, everyone has flaws or at best personality differences that mean they won't get along with every single other person, but this is all part of their learning. Besides, it wouldn't do if we were all the same! A fascinating and insightful read.

    • JoleneBelmain profile image

      JoleneBelmain 5 years ago

      Just amazing how early every child shows their own personalities and how different they all are :)

      Such a great, great lens!!!

      ~BLESSED~

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      Your words bring me right into the school. I feel as if I was a fly on the wall watching, listening and almost experiencing what it is like to be a child, teacher or principal in this preschool.

      Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 6 years ago from Idaho

      This is just wonderful, great stories and illustrations. Blessed!

    • profile image

      onlinemba 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing such useful information to us

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I regret not reading this book much earlier. Its a perfect first chapter with very apt introductions to all the special kids who stand out. I have developed partiality towards Tanmay and s soft corner for the loners. And i couldn't help but smile reading the rhymes. I miss them a lot. I liked the rhyme, " come to us, fairy sweet" very very much. Awaiting more of them. Principal suhasini was given the perfect picture. The psychology of kids which was provied gives an explanation as to why kids behave the way they do. I liked this line about kids more than all other wonderful lines "One's child can therefore be visualized, as an expression of one's ego, and its consequent emotions" . Too perfect. A refreshing and one of its kind book that i have come across from a long long time. Cheers and Waiting to read the rest of the chapters.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Within minutes of being introduced to this series, I took in a sneak preview.

      The author's talents never cease to amaze me, since I am privy to some of his other skills too.

      And if first impressions are anything to go by, this journey promises

      thrills and excitement and spanking new rhymes and childhood tales set

      in the contemporary times.

      While I have nothing personally against the old nursery rhymes, I must concur that its time we added new ones and perhaps ease out the old.

      Goodbye Twinkle Twinkle.

      I will slip into Squidoo every week to see where I am lead.

      Thanks for having me join in all the fun.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This took me back to my kindergarten days... gives me a very nostalgic picture of my days there 17 years ago! I cannot sum up the feelings and respect that I have for all the teachers there! Makes me emotional! I am definitely looking forward to the "coming up" chapters!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 6 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Best Wishes and good success with this series. Kudos to your sister too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      VEry nice story telling..

      inspiring me to pen down a few lines..top of the mind

      please tolerate

      Childhood innocence

      Mostly lost in a rat race...

      Little realising each face

      Has its own endowed latent talents

      .....

      realising after several years..

      what was one's passion and ambition

      how much of that has one achieved in the competition

      Is it to please someone else or to find peace with oneself ?

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      Such a novel (no pun intended, but it works) method to present a book and showcase the need for caring preschool education - interesting and thoughtful lens, Ram. Some of the issues are present in older school children. Makes one think a bit more about the challenges educators face all over the world.

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 6 years ago

      Wonderful story! I appreciated what you shared - - I was a Kindergarten teacher for a number of years :). Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Pre-schooling is an unforgettable experience for children, parents and the teachers. Your story promises to re-live those precious moments. Look forward to the next episode and some more refreshing rhymes. Sursrini

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      beautiful story as always from you! very thoughtful as well. Great job.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      forgot to say - blessed by an Angel and featured on Angel Blessed in April

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      wonderful! well done Ram

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 6 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I do like this story! I can see it as a book too. I especially liked the nursery rhymes because they were new to me.

    • profile image

      alvahir 6 years ago

      This is a great story. I love it! Thanks, Ram..

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Ram you had me riveted to the story. It's very moving, and you write in such a way as to make the reader feel as if they are there at the school watching these events unfold. This is a brilliant lens, well deserved blessings are coming your way.

    • Snakesmom profile image

      Snakesmom 6 years ago

      What a great story, I am looking forward to the next chapter. What a great lens! :)