A Few Stray Thoughts

By Farzana Contractor

Farzana Contractor

April 5, 2003
The other day I was judge for a rather unusual occasion. A fancy dress competition. It was the annual day of Wee Tots and my job was to give marks for costume and approach of these toddlers from the playgroup and nursery classes. Little children, barely three feet off the ground, between two and three-and-half years of age.

Costumes, of course, we could hold the parents responsible for, but the approach belonged purely to the child, and that was the important thing.

While there were many obvious choices like joker, elephant, giraffe, peacock, penguin, rabbit, Barbie doll, fairy, Red Riding Hood, mermaid, Popeye, Superman, Spiderman, doctor, policeman, astronaut, Gandhiji, Nehru, there were more thought-about ones like vegetable vendor, Jhansi ki Rani, salad, Mother Teresa. And then there were some truly silly concepts, like a pregnant lady, Lijjat Pappad, Phoolan Devi and even 'Terrorist Surrenders'. But then you can't blame the kid. It was a hilarious time I had sitting there in the auditorium. The children were so cute. And so petrified. Talk about stage fright. They got their dose real early in life, but who knows, there may be an Alyque in the making out there or Sabira Merchant or Mahbanoo Kotwal.

The playschool kids came on stage clutching their mothers and nursery children were led individually to the mike in the middle of an empty stage by an elderly teacher very, very patiently, all 52 of them.

It taught me a huge lesson in loving and caring and made me realise once again the importance of a teacher. More than half were in tears and only just managed to sweetly babble, "I am a pilot", "I am a teapot", "I am Amul Girl". Only Lord Krishna said, "I am Rishi".

A yellow bikini-clad Miss Universe in high heels did a good number, burst into tears and ran off the stage like she had just won the crown, and the netaji came late, went round in a circle, very aptly shouting a slogan. The nariel pani girl refused to clear the stage, her good-looking mother had to drag her off with her screaming on top of her voice, "Narielpaniwala, narielpaniwala".

What really was unique and the little girl so obedient to her mother's direction was 'Tulsi' of the Saas Bhi... fame who came dressed in a saree, head covered, went around a tulsi plant and even watered it from a copper vessel. She got the second prize after Mr. Netaji who was first. Mirabai came third. The Jain sadhu in the nursery was remarkable, he chanted with eyes closed a complete prayer flawlessly - in Sanskrit, I presume.

It was a morning of new experiences. Understanding children, appreciating mothers and teachers, learning about patience and tender caring. Frustration, despair, even pride and coming away wondering if I was fortunate or unfortunate in not having a sweet two-year-old brat of my very own waiting for me at home.