When 43 Nazarbad was sold and dad had moved to another house, he felt that I was too sheltered in the palace and needed wider exposure to other aspects of education. He got me out of the palace school and put me in Christ the King Convent, across the road from our new home. All my siblings went with me. It was a strange experience to be sitting in a classroom of fifty after a group of five. Every one eyed me strangely and skeptically. I did not know how to break the ice and kept to myself. I could hear sniggers as girls whispered about my aloofness but that was not new either. I had got used to being the odd one out and funnily, even today, I continue to be that. Remember what I said about mermaids?
My English teacher Miss Grace, called me aside one day and told me to read the day’s news in the school assembly. I had never faced 450 girls before and my knees shook as I read the news. Rev Sister Fermina, the Headmistress, called me later and congratulated me on my fine diction .Miss Grace took me under her wing and coached me to represent the school at inter-school debates and elocutions. The next year, I walked away with the trophy for the best debater at the inter-high school extracurricular competition. Sister Fermina made me read reports at school functions and I had gotten over my stage fear. Public speaking became my staple diet.
The National Cadet Corps (NCC) was an activity I loved. Though it meant marching for hours in the sun, it gave one a sense of discipline and respect for authority. It also taught us the value of deportment and dress. The annual camps were fun. We had to pitch tents and dig trenches for bathrooms. Since we had to keep our tents clean for the morning inspection, we would go to the nearby village and fetch fresh cow dung, mix it in water and lay a thin film of it on the ground to level the floor. This also acted as a disinfectant. It gave us a lesson in dignity of labour. These experiences have been invaluable for me in handling both my personal and professional life in a positive and productive way. I wish NCC is made compulsory for students in high school. It will go a long way in building their character and physique.
With my close friends from Christ the King Convent
Loved the uniform
By the time I passed out of high school, at thirteen, I was ready to face the ‘world of men’, I attribute my confidence to my ability to face people and speak from a platform. For that, I thank Mrs Watsa for giving me the tools and Miss Grace for opening up opportunities. The role of a teacher at this stage of one’s life is crucial. The right direction and encouragement can make the student’s future.
“What gift do you want for passing your high school”? Asked grandpa in whose family I was the first to finish school. I asked him for a year in a hostel and he agreed. That is how I went to Mount Carmel College in Bangalore, to do my Pre-University course. Dad wanted me to follow his footsteps and become a nutrition expert, so I took Home Science. A week later, I learnt I was not cut out for organic chemistry and botany and what not, so switched to Arts. Dad did not nail me for it.