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Schooled to succeed

I'm itching to air my views on the important events happening all over the world, but unfortunately I'm in no state of mind to do it. Manas Chakravarty writes.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2011 01:40 IST

I'm itching to air my views on the important events happening all over the world, but unfortunately I'm in no state of mind to do it. You see, my nephew has just received his 13th rejection letter from the nursery schools to which the little brat had applied. Naturally, we are in deep shock.

We had no idea it would be so bad. The good thing was that the government had banned interviewing the kids. That would prevent the kind of disaster that happened when we took our daughter for admission many years ago. We had coached her for weeks to say Good Morning and Thank You, taught her to identify dogs and goats in picture books, yet during the interview she resolutely refused to open her mouth. Later, pressed by despondent relations to explain her scandalous conduct, she nonchalantly said she didn't like the school principal. "She has big teeth," she explained.

True, we knew the parents' interview was equally tough. But my brother-in-law had taken leave from his office, bought half a dozen encyclopaedias and spent all day dredging through them. By the time of the interviews, they were both well-prepared. I know, because I conducted a mock interview.

"What are the common themes between Boccaccio's The Decameron and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales?" I asked my brother-in-law. He got it absolutely right.

"If 10 men dig 5 wells in 27 days," I asked his wife, "how many men will dig 15 wells in 945 days?" and she too answered in a flash. There was no way in which their kid could be rejected, I said, despite his being a snot-nosed holy terror.

Unfortunately, I was wildly off the mark. The real interviews went something like this:

Principal: Do you work for an MNC?

Bro-in-law: No, sir.

Principal: How big is your flat?

Wife: Big? In Mumbai? You must be joking. It's a pigeon-hole.

Bro-in-law adds: But, as Schumacher said, small is beautiful.

Wife: Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, not Michael.

Principal: How will you decorate your child's room?

Bro-in-law (laughing): What room? Ours is a one-bedroom flat.

Wife: But Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar studied under street lights, as did Manmohan Singh.

Principal [delicately]: We expect the fullest cooperation and help from parents, you know.

Wife: Oh don't worry, we'll help the child with his homework.

And that was the end of the interview.

My nephew will now have no option but to go to some poor neighbourhood play school. He will be deprived of the joys of finger-painting, of shaping animal figures with plasticine, of knowing what Jack Horner pulled out of his Christmas pie. The stigma will haunt him through life. Decades later, appearing for the civil service exams, he will probably fail miserably in the finger painting section, or in blowing little paint bubbles. And even if he gets a job, he will remain forever a social outcast, unable to take part in discussions around the water-cooler about who killed Cock Robin.

No, we're not going to take this lying down. Next year, my nephew will be applying to all the Delhi nursery schools, where they apparently have very different criteria for admission. We have it all planned out. His parents are going to get divorced, she will then marry a Hottentot for a month or two, get divorced again and move to Delhi. Being a single parent with a failed inter-caste marriage and economically backward to boot, there's no way her son can be denied admission in Delhi.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal