4 sets surge navy blue pleated skirts
6 sets full length white cotton shirts
6 sets white cotton knickers
6 sets blue cotton knickers
6 pairs of white socks
6 pairs of blue socks
2 blue full length cardigan
2 blue pull-over
2 sets of ties
1 blue blazer
...and the list went on and on. Suggested stores: Mohini Stores, Police Bazar, Shillong.
The tall list of clothing for school were packed in a trunk and I was taken one Sunday afternoon to Pine Mount School, Shillong and left there to become a boarder among people I had never met or seen in my life.
I remember being totally frazzled mentally trying to make sense of the situation. My throat hurt trying to hold back the tears until, I was taken to the restroom, where I locked myself up to cry. I could hear someone bathing in the cell adjacent to the toilet but when there was a voice that said,
“Who is there?” I almost choked with fear of being found out.
The girl left the bath cell and raised an alarm upon which, there was much thumping on the door.
“Open the door, I say, open the door.”
I reluctantly did so and there in front of me was a burly woman, whom I got to know later. She was our Matron and of course, I did not like her at all.
Where was my mashi I wondered? Why was I left among strangers? I wanted to run away that minute. But soon the evening began to lose its brightness and I was led by the seniors to the Assembly Hall, where I remember distinctly, being carried by a ‘big’ girl and swirled around in a dance to someone playing on the piano.
They did their best to make me laugh, but something had already died inside me. I would be forever shy of people I did not know and I would always fear that I might be abandoned. I would also fear loss of loved ones, most of all, Laika and my home full of dolls. It is not as if I was not told before that I was going to boarding school. I knew about it because there was so much discussion about in our house that I whispered to Laika – “I think I will be going away Laika. They are packing my bags, just like I helped Mamoni pack hers, remember?”
Laika knew when I was going. He had refused to eat that day. The English Headmistress at School, Ms Thompson had warned my local guardian, my family that no matter what they must not visit for a while and even if they were in tears and in panic, visiting me was not allowed till a month went by.
However, when they did visit, I was already distanced to them. I believe the first taste of being distanced from even myself, had already started then. I longed to see my family now, for what they brought along with them for me and I rejoiced when they left, on what they left with me.
Patsy, my first doll from overseas was one!
Thank you for sending me Patsy from London. She is very pretty and everyone in schools loves her. We are all so happy when she closes her eyes when she goes to sleep and opens them when she wakes up.
She drinks her milk from her bottle but she has a bath only twice a week, on those days I have a bath too. After her bath I put on her lacy socks and white shoes and her pink, painted with flowers dress. I also place on her neck the blue necklace.
She too will be going to school, but since mother and daughter can’t study in the same school, she will go to Loreto Convent while I remain in Pine Mount School.
I don’t cry in the night anymore because, Patsy sleeps with me all night.
That was one of the first letters I wrote aided of course by our Class Teacher. Bless her!
Stories from childhood by Julia Dutta, in anticipation of “Terry and His Little Brothers”
You might also like to read: Until death do us part by Julia Dutta