I was born in 1940. I grew up in a small village in Tamil Nadu. There was only a primary school there. To study after the fifth standard, children had to go to the town near by. I had lost my mother when I was a baby and was in the care of my older sister. She did not allow me to travel to the next town to study. English was taught as a subject only after class six.
I regret not studying further, especially now that I spend time with my grand children in USA and they converse mostly in English.
I have two good memories of my school days. I was in class two when India got her independence. On August 15, 1947, when I woke up on a school day, it literally was a new dawn – The Dawn of Independence.
I was too young to comprehend the mammoth significance of the day. I went to school as usual. We hoisted the National Flag for the first time in our school and the staff distributed laddus (a traditional sweet) to the students. As a kid, laddus became synonymous with Independence Day, in my mind. Do they still distribute sweets to students on Independence Day?
Another clear memory I have, is the Milad-un- Nabi celebrations, in our school.
Our school was a Muslim School. Every year, on this day, we children would go in a procession around the village streets, waving colourful paper flags and singing religious songs. There were only five streets in our village. So we made the round of our village in a pretty short time. Every parent, uncle, aunt, brother and sister, would be outside their houses rooting for their kids. It was a lovely sight, when we hundred tiny tots walked in rows of three or four singing and waving our flags.
What I remember most about this walkathon was that we were arrayed in our finest clothes. Gold was not so expensive then, as it is now. So we girls wore genuine gold jewels. I remember wearing a heavy 15 sovereign thick gold chain (kasu malai), huge eardrops and lots of bangles. I would have easily had about forty sovereigns on my person that day.
Can you imagine an eight or nine year old child going to school wearing so much gold now?
Those were different times. Totally a different era!
As told by: K.M.Nafissa Begum. Chennai… Written by : Gulsum Basheer.