I grew up in Chennai — then Madras — and had a wonderful childhood. I remember the quiet afternoons when my mom slept and I amused myself with books and music.
I studied in an all-girls convent school called Rosary Matriculation Higher Secondary School. I loved school and my uniform, a blue pinafore over a white shirt, and I actually liked the exams! My best friend was Punam.
I was among the bold ones in school. The most daring thing we did at the time was to walk across the grounds of a neighbouring school that shared a wall with ours. We could access the main road by crossing their grounds. It was quite an adventure to occasionally trespass on their grounds to buy goodies from a store opposite it and then return to school, all within the lunch break.
The extra-curricular activities began in Class XI. Once I found out that I could stay away from class by attending socials at other schools, I became a regular in the debate/elocution/quiz circuit.
I read a lot and loved Amar Chitra Katha comics. One day when I was about nine years old, a neighbour suggested that I sit on the swing in the garden and read. That was how I read my first Enid Blyton. My favourite book, however, was one which had information on the Indian states and illustrations of people in various kinds of clothes. I remember another book which only had black and white photographs of Gandhiji taken by very eminent people.
When I was about 11, there was a dance performance for which we had to do an item called pinnal-kollattam. Bright ribbons were tied to a disc fixed at a height while the other end of the ribbon remained tied to a stick. Each dancer got a ribbon attached to the stick. She had to weave in and out beneath the disc in such a way that the ribbons gradually got entwined into a braid. On D-Day, during the performance, one of the dancers felt her long skirt or pavadai slipping off. She stopped in horror, clutching at her silk skirt. The plait got messed up and could not be set right. Our guru asked for the curtains to be brought down and we were chased off the stage.
I liked to travel and did quite a bit of it with my dance teacher. She would carry an enormous bottle of home-made mixed fruit jam with her. We had the gooey red concoction with bread for breakfast and tried the famous Coimbatore dosa that is as big as a table on one of these visits.
I am still in touch with many of my childhood friends, including Punam. Recently there was a school reunion. Despite the fact that so much has changed, it was fun.