Sally was the nursery teacher in one of the popular schools on Mount Road in Madras, three decades ago. She was in charge of the senior nursery, which meant she had to handle kids who were all above four years of age but below five. Sally was very good in singing and used to enjoy singing with the kids too. The girls either had cute little pigtails or ponytails or some cut their hair short like little boys.
This was the year when Sally had her own niece in her class, as one of her students. Maya, her niece, used to be very friendly with her at home, and was a very talkative and confident imp, to top it all she could sing beautifully. Since Sally did not want other students to feel that she was being partial, she used to ignore and cut off from her niece all together. The result was that her niece stopped talking to her or relating to her even while at home. Maya’s knowledge of English and numbers was remarkable, so Sally had nothing to complain about.
On day, Sally had to attend a meeting for nursery staff members. She put a substitute teacher in charge. When Sally returned she saw that Maya had been punished and made to stand in the corner of the class. The teacher complained that Maya had used bad language. After the teacher went away, Sally thought that she should talk to Maya and find out what had actually happened.
“Sally aunty, one girl was calling another girl ‘stupid- basket’! I asked her why she was saying basket. She told me that it was a bad word and that it was meant for bad people. I just told her that the correct word that she should be using was, ‘stupid- bastard’.” Maya was merely correcting the usage and not using the bad word. The teacher heard Maya using the word and she was punished for it. Sally was tongue-tied and could not react.
The senior nursery used to put up a Christmas tableau every year and Maya was selected as Joseph. A timid and pretty little girl called Radhika was selected for the role of Mary. There was no acting involved, but there was to be a lot of Christmas carol singing, with the tableau in the background. Joseph could be heard singing loud and clear, he suddenly removed his whole beard and put his arm on Mary’s shoulder. The crowd was roaring with laughter as this would have possibly been the most demonstrative and possessive Joseph ever. He kept lifting Mary’s chin and directing her to look at the audience, oblivious of the fact that Jesus (the doll) was lying on the ground unattended. Suddenly Joseph lifted it by the leg and gave it to Mary. The crowd just loved it.
When kids are young whatever they do out of their innocence is accepted. Somehow today kids seem to have lost that innocence altogether.