As promised, I joined the Republic Day celebrations around 9.30 AM as one of the class X girls was reading out a Kannada speech on the significance of the day. A short talk in English (again read out by a class X girl) followed. Both were delighted when I praised their confident effort. And then a high school teacher and finally the principal addressed the students in Kannada. The last was significant as he reminded them that Republic Day isn’t about hoisting the national flag, singing patriotic songs and eating sweets. He chided them for leaving/throwing plates in the neighbourhood after their lunch and walking across the railway tracks nearby instead of using the footbridge. It ended with another class X girl excitedly thanked the participants and said later that it she who had prepared her speech hastily and was very nervous while delivering it.
The children dispersed after the teachers distributed toffees. As Venkatesh, Surya, Sandeep and I got talking, I realized that Sandeep had assumed I lived with my parents. Surya corrected him saying that they are in Hyderabad. Then Sandeep was curious about who all are at home. When I replied that it was my husband and I, he added immediately, "and your kid!" After I told him that we had no children, he said with a consoling expression, "We are your kids, miss!" Like some of my Byrasandara students, he seems to sympathise with me although he hasn’t yet asked like one of them did, "Isn’t it a problem for you at home?" I’d like to see his reaction when I tell him that we have chosen not to be parents although the extent of traditional socio-cultural conditioning about bearing children is evident.
Sandeep and Venkatesh suggested that they could explore computers at my place. I said that we could plan it out based on our availability. They didn’t easily understand that my husband works from home and we have only one desktop. Venkatesh suddenly said, "We can send e-mails using computers. I’ve sent one to my uncle’s mobile phone!" Did he mistake a text message to a mobile phone from a computer for an e-mail? Does the terminology confuse him? As the conversation continued, I asked Sandeep why he is inattentive and troublesome in class when he is keen on a career with computers. He hung his head in silence and nodded quietly when I urged him to introspect. As they were leaving, they recognized BBMP’s local corporator as he entered their school along with an MLA to chair a health camp by a non-profit organisation. They’d seen him in their neighbourhood a few times but weren’t able to articulate if and when he kept his promises.