...a teacher. That’s what I always said when I was very young (I don’t remember saying so, but have to believe hearsay evidence from the family).
A lot of time was spent on rehearsing for the future profession. I would come back from school, take an ancient handbag belonging to my dida (granny), wrap a black orna (veil) around my head to simulate long black hair tied up in a bun and persuade my mother to drape a saree on me.
Then, frequently tripping over the voluminous folds of the saree (which would have to be double-folded to fit my childhood height), I would start taking lessons with various imaginary children. Sometimes I would scribble comments on last year’s used notebooks (Good, V.Good, Fair, V. Fair, Poor, V.Poor; the difficult-to-spell Satisfactory was avoided, and the equally-complicated Excellent rarely awarded) with a red pen kept for this very purpose.
I would teach lessons loudly and earnestly with a lot of imitative gestures like tossing of the head and raising of the eyebrows in the approved teacher-like manner (learning the syllabus myself in the process), praise a few students (whose names were those of my real life class-friends) and vigorously scold a few non-existent poor chaps (with names of classmates I did not like). A boy called Rajeev regularly received severe beatings from a wooden scale – my mother says that the patch of mattress which was supposedly Rajeev was quite worn out because of my strict disciplinarian nature.
I did not tire of playing “teacher-teacher-khela” (teacher role-playing) even when I was nine or ten. Sometimes, my cousin J, who visited frequently, would join in and then we could jointly and gleefully make life miserable for the make-believe students by imitating the classroom-manner of the most fearsome of our teachers. Not all the time, though, because we would also take turns in pretending to be our favourite teacher of the moment.
My Barama (aunt), who was a real-life school-teacher, would sometimes give me stubs of white chalk and I would scribble profusely all over the grey-painted door (which served as a blackboard – scribbling on the walls was forbidden). Once my mother bought a whole box of coloured chalks, and I was over the moon for months. Just as our real school-teachers did, I would draw complicated scientific and geographical diagrams, happily explaining related concepts to my invisible brood of students. In fact, in hindsight I feel it was a brilliant idea of my mother to encourage this role-playing, because it definitely made learning lessons a very attractive game.
Later on, I switched loyalties and wanted to become a journalist. Still later, I compromised by becoming a teacher in a college myself, and getting married to a journalist.
WHO DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?