Once upon a time, a highly introverted three and a half year old girl was inquisitively surveying the landscape. She was seated beside her mother, her feet barely reaching the sandy floor. Through the slits of her eyelashes, tinged with the colours of the rainbow, she saw the tan coloured building as she attempted to shield her eyes from the scorching sun that mercilessly struck its rays at her in spite of the great purple canopy above her which seemed to be named as brother Shammi (Shammi Anna).
As she stared down, with awe at her feet in simple harmonic motion, she heard a great voice saying great many things. She listened in wonder, she had never heard such a great voice before. She thought that the man must be really big to have such a big voice. But try as she might, she could not spot that big man. She heard her mother whisper hurriedly to remain quiet. This confused the little head, as she could not remember parting her lips from morning.
Suddenly, the great voice stopped but the noise that followed was bigger than any she had ever heard. Discordant notes, all noise seemed to constructively interfere and create so much sound, she thought her ears must surely break. She saw people rise from exactly identical chairs talking and discussing. She did not like these wooden chairs. She had a nice green chair and a small rocking purple chair at home in which she could sink in whenever she wanted. She did not like brown. Why would anyone have such boring chairs?
As she sat, contemplating the chairs in distaste, her horizon lifted by many inches. It took her a few minutes to realise that her mother had carried her. Her mother said she was going to introduce her to the Mickey Mouse in the tan building. Hearing this, her heart began to race. She loved Mickey Mouse second best. She liked Aladdin better. Yes, Aladdin was always her hero. But still, Mickey Mouse must be good too. She followed her mother's hand and there she saw it. Mickey Mouse, complete with yellow boots and the twitchy tail she found so funny.
Yes, she clutched her mother's shoulder in anticipation, she was going to see Mickey Mouse. By now, she heard the strains of another big voice, this time a woman's. She thought, perhaps this is a place for wonderful people, big men and women and Mickey Mouse. She stood gazing at him, wondering why he was ever so still. Suddenly, she felt propelled forward as her mother steered her. To her great dismay, a stocky, swarthy man had collected her and carried her off. Aghast at being ripped from both Mother and Mickey Mouse, she began to cry.
She was not afraid at first, she was angry. She thought someone had snatched her from her happiness. She thought of gruesome punishments for that man, perhaps the purple mud monster that haunts her at times should haunt him too. Unbidden, unpleasant memories of her mother's dire warnings and punishments arose in her mind. Her mother had always been unpleasant if she came home late from play, especially if the sun had gone down. She heard of thieves, snakes and kidnappers, all after little girls like her. At this thought, she pounded her assailant's shoulder in defence, creasing his immaculately ironed shirt.
Hastening to get rid of his cumbersome charge, he deposited her across a half closed door to a woman in a plain saree. She, in turn, carried her and placed her down on the floor. As her feet found firm ground, her tears stopped as her eyes opened in momentary astonishment. It was a perfect jungle inside. People were running inside in all directions. Some were actually fighting. Now she had never, till then, seen a fight. There were two boys practically rolling on the floor holding on to each other. Never having seen either fights or boys, she decided that room with peculiar doors, one at the top and one at the bottom, was the hideout of kidnappers after nice girls like her. She renewed her sobs on thinking this, this time fear creeping into her and pulsating through her veins. She thought she may never see her mother again. She cried so loudly. Suddenly, through a haze of thick tears, she saw a smart big girl in blue tie and ribbons and white shirt. She was offering her a balloon. As she raised her head to see properly, she saw her face. Behind her were three boys who seemed terrified of something. All of them were quiet. But after the momentary hush due to an interruption, her voice reached a crescendo, much to the dismay of those blue-and-white attired people.
Meanwhile, she was in shock, wondering how people could expect her to keep a balloon instead of her mother. She started walking around, asking everyone for her mother but nobody seemed to know. Finally, she saw the lady who had carried her first and knowing she could help her outside this bizarre room, tugged on the saree's pallu patiently and asked for her mother. However, she recoiled in fear as the lady turned and gave her a beautifully-wrought frown.
Sunken in misery, she kept banging the lower door and screaming with all her might, hoping that either somebody would hear her and free her or she would be imbued with super-strength and break down the door. In vain, people tried to drag her to wooden benches, she thought resembled the churches she had seen in movies. They tried to make her see the beautiful decorations, which they all assured were for her especial benefit.
Finally, a kind lady attired in a purple saree carried her and said in a voice so sweet, that she stopped screaming but wept vociferously nevertheless. She showed the scene trapped in the half-door that was her ticket to freedom. Yet, the girl did not struggle. She did not want to accidentally hurt someone who had been so nice to her. The lady tried to feed her some milk from a stainless-steel tumbler. But she kept her lips pursed, for had not mother always warned her of accepting food from strangers? But not wanting to hurt the kind lady's feelings, she decided to pretend to take a sip. The lady pointed at the landscape, and asked where was her mother. Her heart leapt as she saw the scene. Why, everything was exactly how she left it, including Shammi Anna! She pointed eagerly at a place, where she hoped her mother was.
Now doubt crept into her mind, if her mother was right there, just beyond the magical half door, why didn't she come and rescue her. Her mother always rescued her from the magenta mud monster that haunted her at times, or those disgusting cockroaches that lurked in the bathroom. Confused, she stopped crying and for the first time she wondered, perhaps, just perhaps she had not been kidnapped.
A great big bell rang and the nice lady carried her to, oh could it be possible?, her mother. Smiling the lady said, "She is really short-tempered and gets very angry. She doesn't look like she's ready for school yet". Her mother shook her head, chagrined, "She's already quite late. She's usually really well behaved, I'll bring her around." The girl was oblivious to all of this of course. She clutched her mother's shoulder with her fist and wept tears of joy.
This was my first day at kindergarten. First of all, I apologise to those seniors I gave a hard time. They were told off for not managing me, I know because one of them was my neighbour. I had never been away from my mother, except when I played downstairs in the little lane with all other girls on that street. Second, this day was followed by one of the most serious lectures I have ever had, about school and duty and honour. The upshot of all this was, I became the model quiet student who the teachers gaped at, wondering what caused this transformation from day two. I never felt bad anymore, as long as I knew my mother was nearby, which she assured me she was always on the stone path, just outside the line of sight of my window. I had no problems then, believing she patiently sat on that uncomfortable stone path, waiting for me to return as I always found her in the exact same place when I finished school and ran to find her. And then, went on to get the second rank in L.K.G, the first of very many in my school life.