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Recently my wife and me visited a Uniform Store in Dombivili, a Mumbai Suburb. It was pitch hot as it was around perfect noon , wherein the sun was saying a hello from just above the head. I chose to hang around outside the store and my wife went inside the store for a replacement of my daughter's new uniform Skirt which we had picked up a month back.
Waiting outside the store , below the shade , having nothing to do, my mind insisted me to accompany him for a walk down the MEMORY lane.
I went few steps back, which was like almost 25 years back, wherein i was getting into the 9th grade then.
During those days, the 1 week phase between end of Vacation and School reopening was one of the most busiest and the most entertaining part which also had its own shades of sadness as the fun vacation time was about to end.
One of the most important activity for me during the end of vacation then was to ensure that just few things are in proper place before the start of the school .
The first and foremost thing was to check if the buttons of the Shirt and the zip of the Pants were in order.
It was never a different set of new uniform every year. I remember having two sets of uniform, which i almost used effectively with good maintenance for two academic years.
The reason for this quality check was, just two months back after the last exam of the previous academic year, one only remembers entering the home running with great excitement and just unbuttoning the shirt with great vigor and unzipping the pant in one of the most rough manner and throwing the Exam bag ( which contained the Writing Pad, Compass Box and the last day question paper ) in the corner of the room, which actually was the place where Old Newspapers were stacked) . The special EXAM PLASTIC BAG invariably will be of some local Tailor like Harmonica, Genius Tailor . And one considers himself more lucky if it happens to be of a Dress Material Store Paneri / Cambridge / Roop Sangam which were normally a bit flashy then.
The second thing to check was if the Textbooks for the new academic year is in place. During those days for majority of the middle class families like ours, Textbook meant SECOND HAND Text book. The tie-up for this with one senior normally starts from 1st STD and ends at Xth STD. This was promised by a senior in my locality. As a child i remember well, during my entire school life I never used to get into an argument or fight with this senior lad from whom i had borrowed books.
The third thing was to check if the SCHOOL BAG is alright. If it had some minor or major wear and tear, i used to take it to the nearby Bag store and request him with a smile and say " Bhaiyya, zara yeh Sila do" . The Bag store guy will give a glance as if one is asking him to give me a new bag for free. And then will shake his head in a manner, as if i have done a grave mistake of repairing the old bag rather than choosing a new one from his store. This insult through visual communication by the bag store guy was the main reason, why i used to request my Amma to do this work for me. But she had her own way of getting things done from me to ensure i learn the value of things around.
So now the final part of picking up few stationeries like Brown Book Covers, Plain Labels, Notebooks and the Camlin Ink . Again here the Ink Pen will last for two years. It was referred as China Pen those days. Then a few checks at gadgets like Protractor / Divider, Scale and then one was done. No great shakes, no great pressure, no great expectations and there you are. On the verge of end of another great vacation and in a day or two the school was to reopen.
The best part of Day 1 was to understand who was my class teacher, who are those students who would be in my Division and who will be my bench partner. It was three in one bench and 4 rows in the class.
The seating arrangement then used to be like height-wise the smallest folks will sit in the first two benches, the medium-height folks in the third , fourth, fifth and then the taller folks in the last two row. Not to forget those few scholars irrespective of the heights used to be accommodated in the front corner rows . The seating arrangement during those days was so Marxist ( Here let me say it has no reference to Marxism ). When i say Marxist, i means the folks with good score used to find a place in the first few rows and the folks with average score in the middle rows. I have always failed to understand the phenomenon of never finding a tall student who is also good in academics . Nevertheless majority of these tall folks were excellent in non academic performances be it Sports or other volunteering work. So invariably the tall folks found a place in the last benches and proudly named themselves as LLB ( Leaders of Last Benches )
In the last 25 years, a lot has changed for good and for bad. Look what Branding, Advertising and Marketing ( BAM ) has done to us. If we go a little back to understand how. Its now new set of uniform every year. The concept of Second Hand Textbook has eroded in a manner very similar to how Orkut eroded from our life. We never realized when FB overtook Orkut.
The old habit of repairing a stuff and reusing it has changed. Now if a bag is torn, i believe majority of the folks just go ahead and replaces it with a new one. In many cases its two bags in the same year. Instead of two set of uniform for two years full, its now many set of uniforms for one year. The Pencil Box count in majority of the homes now will be equivalent to the number of set of good casual clothes we had in those days . Maybe 5 - 6 in numbers.
BAM has played such a role in every aspect in our life . Somewhere down the line the impact of heavy consumerism has resulted in child knowing the price of everything but not the value of the things.
Have not visited the school for ages now so don't know how the seating arrangement are still planned. But as an average student i had always wished if i was given an opportunity to sit besides a scholar, maybe i would have improved my learning sensibility then. By no means, i am blaming my co-benchers here. In fact it applies to them as well as they too were sitting with an average student like me. Only if there was a system to understand or to map the intelligence and learning pattern of each child and then put a student seating system in place then the new terminology to replace the Marxist method would be ideally referred to as "Class-O-Graph" . Identifying the Class's innate learning style, innate intelligence and then putting different students of different levels in one bench, likewise for the entire class, for the entire school, for all the schools worldwide.
Am i visualizing a possible change in system here. Am i grateful to be a part of such an innovative project. Lets wait for time to tell.