On a usual July summer morning, flushed faces soaked in sweat and generous sunshine moved about their business like honey bees. Wielding colourful pictures and print material, little hands worked dextrously to design classroom soft boards. One small box of board pins, one large card sheet and two pairs of scissors were being shared between 50 girls. We had 20 minutes to complete the task. If video-tapped, it could have been used as an excellent example of seamless teamwork. I think every teacher has known the unbridled vibrance, the sheer energy, the collaborative enthusiasm of primary school children.
This victory was crucial. A large chunk of our house points depended on it. We were a wild focused army of Gorkhas fighting for a cause… the first cause known to our innocent human existence in Grade 4. We could have given our lives for those Red, Blue, Green and Yellow houses. Mocking slogans mercilessly filled the school air. ‘Yellow yellows, the dirty fellows’ , ‘Blue blues, mend your shoes’… Yes, I was in the Blue house. (Perhaps, that explains my pure love for Indigo to this day.)
The theme assigned by our class teacher was, ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.’ We had collected relevant materials for the soft boards with much ado. In those days bereft of the World Wide Web, it meant rummaging for ideas and meanings in the school library, sifting through piles of old magazines and newspapers, coaxing parents and neighbours and whoever you will into answering endless questions… One week of preparation and here we were. Books had convinced me and my fellow house mates that physical beauty was just one superficial aspect and the idiom meant that beauty could go beyond skin deep, that beauty was subjective, that the beholder’s perspective made all the difference.
Phew! it’s done, dot on the clock. Time to stand back and marvel at our creation, our very own rather wistful representation of beauty. We were proud of it and smirked at the other soft boards that were filled with pictures of models representing the standard conformist definition of beauty. Quite evidently, we were the unrivalled winners!
Nope. Our teacher did not think so! She was expecting good-looking boards and the models from latest advertisements of beauty products did it for her. A debate ensued, as a bunch of little girls suddenly turned into unstoppable crusaders of the feminist brigade. We certainly had a good library! Mrs. Srivastava perhaps cursed the moment she had chosen this theme and ended the discussion with a curt, ‘-5 to Blue house for questioning my decision. Yellow house has put the heading very clearly in bold letters. They are the winners and get 20 house points.’
Disappointment. Yes, and injustice. It was a regular feature of school days and contributed to many lifelong lessons…
The Score card lies in the hands of the teacher. I learnt it that day. For every assignment thereafter, I asked as many questions as I was allowed. I had to gauge the teacher’s understanding and expectations from the task assigned. I gave them what they wanted. I learnt and read what I wanted and thus loved leisure reading and hated school work.
That’s exactly how the subverted class develops intuitive abilities. I read this theory years later in a book about the psychology of women.
Photo Credits- VA. Theme- against the tide.