My dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
Most people think of education as the learning period of their younger years, but really education is a life time of learning. I am a prime example: learning to tackle the computer world at my age. It is a sure way of loosing more hair! Just look at you three: Komal is always adding new knowledge to her repertoire. Anjli is about to graduate after her second educational journey and Amar is ready to embark on his second educational journey. You are all aware that the end of formal education is not the end of learning. So my answer to the above question is: VERY.
Anjli that middle picture will hopefully be replaced soon with your smiling face.
If I could manage it, I would love to keep studying forever.
Many mothers have withdrawal symptoms when their children start school. Sorry not me! Though I did have huge withdrawal symptoms when you all started university! Not for missing You, but for missing My university days. Most wonderful time of my life. It looks like Anjli, you are making sure your second stint at university becomes memorable.
We have all acquired our education in different ways. Perhaps you will find my stories of education interesting.
When I first moved to England, I was quite sure my educational journey was taking a huge nose dive. Being a Ugandan citizen at that time, I needed visas to stay in England. Hence I ended up enrolling into a dud ‘school’ on Oxford street which issued confirmation of registration for obtaining visas. We used up nearly 70% of the funds I was able to bring with me and I only attended this institution for perhaps 10 times at the most. It was too far from where I was living in Surrey with Mohandada and Geetaba. Fortunately I did continue going to Croydon Technical College on a part time basis to get my basic ‘O’ (ordinary) level certificate. Then with Heenamasi’s influence (on many levels) I continued my educational journey at Selhurst High School and got myself a few ‘A’ (advanced) levels.
By the time I was at Selhurst, my family had been expelled from Uganda. I had become a stateless individual, in fact a refugee and now did not need any more visas! One of the side effect of being a refugee(and there are many) was that I was entitled to free school dinners. I hated two things about this situation:
- After every morning assembly, I had to go the school secretary to obtain my dinner token. If I didn’t, it would be announced after assembly the following day.
- For an individual brought up on a vegetarian diet, I did not find the school dinners appealing. In fact quite the opposite. This fact made me quite popular at lunchtime, as all the other girls could raid my plate for my unwanted items!
I never thought to ask for a vegetarian option. It could be that I was always curious about tasting the non-vegetarian dishes! In Jinja , many a times the men cooked chicken, but that was always cooked outside and this chicken was only for the male members of the family! My first school dinner was Steak and Kidney pie- I become nauseous if I see it now!
There are many other incidences I remember about my time at Selhurst. There were very few Indians at school in those days and the other students found my name quite difficult to remember, except for one girl. She always got it right which amazed me until I found out how she remembered…..she always thought of Fridays and ….fish for lunch. Well at least she remembered! Then there was a time when at the end of a term, Heenamasi and I decided to go to school in a saree. Our head of Sixth Form(a term remnant from grammar school days) was highly embarrassed as we were exposing our waistlines!
Heenamasi influenced me immensely in going forward in my further education. I would call her my Mentor. Dad (and myself included) is a great believer of having a Mentor. Who would you give that honour to?
My parents were busy trying to find their life in a new and strange environment. Fortunately they were liberal enough in not stopping me from pursuing my dreams. As a Ugandan refugee and also as my parents’ income was not very high, I was able to get full grant for university including the accommodation. With that criteria in mind, I deliberately never applied to any London universities for a place. I am still not sure of the reasons but I was offered accommodation on the university campus for all the 3 years of my graduate study. Lucky me. Throughout this whole period of studying, I always held a vacation job. Not only did this help me with my pocket money, but I was even able to give some to Dada when he bought our home.
Talking of buying a property, I as a 16 year old had the task of visiting various estate agents after school to search for a possible property. It took me numerous efforts before the agents started to take me seriously. The picture I must have painted: brown, young, student, with two thick plaits, bag full of books, etc., etc. How I must have hurt my dad’s feelings that first day we went to see the newly bought home and I refused to get out of the car as the house was not my choice! Sorry dad……this is where I lost the big picture and could only think of my menial wishes. We now have many wonderful and sad memories of that house.
In our mind your educational journey has been varied and privileged. We hope you feel that too. Many parents worry about moving children from one school to another or even moving countries. We worried too. Looking back now, children are like sponges, they will soak up all that they encounter. Sometimes it is also good to immerse them into varying environments. It helps them to see the world from different perspectives. We are very proud of how you are embracing your surroundings and tackling all the challenges thrown at you.
Now for the next educational journey: Improving your skills in the kitchen! As promised in my last letter, Amar, I have posted a ‘Tips for Freezing‘ for your benefit. Do let me know if there are any omissions or mistakes.
Please also look up the recipe for khaman dhokra. Like the chakri recipe, not only is this recipe time-consuming but it also requires a special vessel. Hence I doubt you will make the dhokras, but perhaps when you are Ba-sitting next time, you can make this mouth watering dish for her(one of Ba’s favourite food).
One of my new year resolution was to write these letters more often! Alas I am already lagging! Perhaps you can nudge me once in a while to improve on my performance. What do you think?
For the moment, all my love, hugs and kisses,