Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This summer, my daughters and I went shopping for their new school bags (as befits a new school year). Lovely, colourful things with Barbies and butterflies, they made me think of what I carried to school when I was very young, if only because of the sheer contrast.

An aluminium box with a handle and a latch! Our books and copies neatly arranged inside, along with a pencil-box and a tiffin-box (also of aluminium), we would swing the boxes jauntily, pretending to be our daddies and uncles, off to office with their important-looking briefcases.

Repeated use and incessant scratching would wear off the glossy polish and when the box became battered and battle-scarred (it was a useful weapon in fights), it was time for a new one. All silver-shiny, with my name engraved in looping letters on the top by the shopkeeper with a gnnn-gnnn-gnnnnn-ing engraving machine.

I remember envying my brother when he joined school with a bright red plastic school-box, which we (mainly I bossing little brother, as was usual) decorated with cheery posters of Complan and other Glaxo-products (I had an uncle who worked for Glaxo).

When I was seven and studying in the second standard, I began carrying my books and stuff in an embroidered Shantiniketani-style(jhola) cloth bag hanging artistically (and unscientifically) from one shoulder.

The indestructible aluminium school-box was appropriated by my dida (grandmother) to keep her hankies and knick-knacks in. It is still there in my mother’s flat, an undying family heirloom, used to store undies.



Aleta said...

I didn't carry a booksack. We just carried our books to school. All students were required to use brown paper to cover each book. I still haven't figured out why, but I guess to preserve the front of the book from careless students. The joy of the brown paper was that we could decorate it any way we wanted. What fun! I also recall (and even in my college years had the same feeling) and enjoying buying notebooks. There's something about the fresh, blank pages just waiting to be filled with information!

mm said...

Yeah I remember that aluminion box too- but not sure whether I actually carried it to school in my early years. I do remember that later on it was a canvas backpack which was with me through several years and in the end it had a tattered and torn look. After that I graduated to the santiniketani jhola. And towards the end - maybe std 8-9 I reverted back to a canvas backpack.

Piscean Angel said...

Our school had this blue bags (almost like a jhola), to match with our uniforms, in which we had to carry our books & that what I used till the 10th std. After that I graduated myself to carrying a file in hand with a purse slung on the shoulder. :-)

Peter Rozovsky said...

These posts of yours set me to recalling memories of my own. ধনবাদ !

In the younger grades, we used to carry books to school in leather or vinyl schoolbags we wore on our backs. I looked forward to the day when I would be old enough to get a read briefcase!
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Anonymous said...

Your post was so good and really transported us way back in time and really feel those preparatory days, as our todays generation or the future generations perhaps ever will never hear about these boxes again...I could relate so much with you as regards to the red plastic box & it was also our case of envy when we saw only one of our classmates used to bring it everyday & yes it has became a kind of treasure box now for us too to relive our memories again & again....lovely reading!

Anonymous said...

oh dear,

i'm not sure i can remember, sucharita! i do know as i entered college it was always a hiker's backpack. the more zippers and pockets and webbing, the better!

i believe at one time in grade school i owned a red over the shoulder school bad - plaid with two buckles in front ..... but this could be a made up memory. maybe i always WANTED a bag like this ...

actually, i still would! ha. yes, juggling a career and children are more than a full time job - it is like two full time jobs. lucky you that your college schedule allows you free time ....

i'm hoping in a few years, i can complete a masters degree to teach at our local college for the very same reason.

in the meantime, i must complete my requirements to become a school teacher first. i have read where people change careers 5 or 6 times in a lifetime .... i believe this will be my third ??

i am still wondering what i will be when i grow up ...

lady blue

ugich konitari said...

I am probably your mother's age, but do I remember those alluminium trunks that we used in school! There were some boys in my class who also used some real leather type suitcases. The older girls in our class, were a class apart as they sauntered in carrying their stuff in their hands, college style. When I went to college in the sixties, I really dont remember anyone carrying any kind of bags. Everyone just lugged their books around....Both my chidren are graduates and they still carry backpacks !

tina said...

when i was in elementary school, almost everyone carried their books, notebooks, pencil cases, crayons, glue, scissors, pad paper, etc. in large stroller-bags that looked a lot like luggage on wheels. maybe we were carrying too much, maybe the schools require their students to bring too much, but it was simply impossible to carry all your school things in a backpack or a shoulder-bag; it would be too heavy for a child to carry. hence the proliferation of colorful stroller-bags resembling bulky backpacks that sprouted rubber wheels and retractable metal handles. if your parents couldn't afford the batman stroller-bag at the department store, then you could make do with an ordinary metal stroller; just strap on your school-bag with a thick elastic cord and you're all set. my school-bag belonged to this latter category; i often wondered what it would be like to have one of those store-bought stroller-bags, but i never thought to ask my parents for one. young as i was i had gotten used to the usual answer of parents trying to teach their children the value of money, and so avoided asking for anything i didn't need. which was a good idea, since my school-bag lasted me throughout my elementary years. :) it's gone now, one of many old school things that have been disposed of and almost forgotten.