Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pre-school Admission - The Dreaded Interview

I followed the slim woman into a tiny room cutely done-up with posters splattered with coloured hand prints and nursery character cut-outs to face an alert-looking old lady in turn-of-the-century costume and manners; turn of the nineteenth century, that is!

The headmistress, Mrs. Billimoria, pushed her bifocals up her nose. The lace of her collared dress was two inches high upon her wrinkled throat. 'Rohan', she bent down to read my child's name from the pre-admission form. 'So Mrs. Malhotra, tell me something about Rohan.'

'Well, Rohan is a bright, curious, well-adjusted child', I attempted a weak smile. But Mrs. Billimoria's bluish cataract gaze was icy enough to freeze my smile mid-way.

After I talked about Rohan's general demeanour for half a minute, Mrs. Billimoria trailed her finger down the admission form on her lap and came to a sudden halt. She looked up from above her spectacles. 'I see you have been a working mother. What did you do?'

Something in her tone told me that leaving the Mother's Occupation line blank would have been the better thing to do.

Guantanamo Bay prisoners probably faced easier questioning that a mother-who-has-dared-to-work in a school admission interview. Even Madonna would fail the stringent requirement of an Indian nursery school headmistress. Because despite a dress sense that has improved like the aging single malt (which Indian headmistresses must be drinking on the sly to give them this permanent hangover of recidivist back-from-the-past ways!) and despite her castles and cars and accoutrements of luxe-living, Material Mom falls in the dreaded 'W' category. The category of the 'Working Mother', heaven help!!!

Mrs. Billimoria went on for three fourth of the allotted interview time about my qualifications, my employment history, and if and when I planned to head back to work in Mumbai.

I  downplayed everything I had ever done in life, and tried to trill about my mothering strengths as beautifully as I could, given the fact that I had not had the foresight to leave the Mother's Occupation line blank. 'There hasn't been much work lately. I have been so busy with piano lessons and under-4 soccer leagues. Then there were his pre-school committee meetings, the after hours library sessions. Plus, with the challenges of his phonic lessons and pattern-recognition training coming up, I will not have the time to even think of going back to work.'

What I did not tell Mrs. Billimoria was that I was already bored and restless and making plans to start an art gallery in Mumbai. 

But what I said did not seem to be convincing her either. She continued to look disapproving.

'I would be happy to help out', I gushed, bright eyed about future sessions of glitter gluing and sponge painting. 

But inside me, indignation was growing. What did school mistresses aspire to when educating young girls? Did they want to raise the next generation of exam topping females, who after graduation from premier universities would pronto get married, produce beautiful children and dedicate the rest of their lives to raising the next generation? Or did they think the students they fashioned and form would evolve into risk takers with attitude and opinions? But what was the point of ideologues, I scolded myself. I had an interview to wing.

'I could even do book-keeping, if you needed help in that area.' I offered expansively.

But the damage had been done. Mrs. Billimoria rose up stiffly, offering a barely-there smile.

Shit, beam me up some one!

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