It was with wonder and awe that I sat listening to the teen complaining about- what else- the kind of discipline her school was trying to drive among the middle schoolers. Mind you, this was an International curriculum school- that which anyways allows for much laxity when it comes to the age-old norms of what “discipline” should stand for. God save us that we had the good sense of not trying our luck with the ward being sent toone of the schools pursuing Indian boards of education or even better still, the local or as we call them, State boards.
And now you are curious to know what the object of such chagrin was. So it turns out that a particular teacher- and God knows how much negative energy was sent her way consolidated as it would have been among at least a bunch of the impacted person’s classmates- called out one of them for wearing a fancy watch to school! Fancy it was not (as was declared by the impacted party’s brethren). You see gone are the days when the choice of watches was between analog and digital. We had been trained to read the time on our wrist when there were no numbers on the dial- just short and long dashes which one was trained- by experience- to recognize on the hour of the day. And Lord save us, when it got more complicated and one had to read the minutes too! How one envied those lucky few who had numbers that told them the time! And not in the 24-hour format, but the 12-hour one!
Still remember being given a hand-me-down when I turned ten, maroon leather strap and a gold dial. Wasn’t’ I proud to receive my very own watch. In fact, come to think of it, hand-me-downs were so common and so happily accepted and proudly displayed, without an iota of thought given to being that-which-had-been-used by some else and was no longer required by them.
Anyways, so back to the subject of much emotion- discipline. With much incredulousness, I took a long deep breath and geared myself up for – no, not lecturing (you see that seems to have been confined to those who pursue that profession)- but sharing (and that’s all you can do with the wards today, especially when they have reached a certain age). Yes, I needed to share with her what discipline was like when you belonged to a convent school in small town India.
Starting from the shoes being of a defined brand, unless you found one looking absolutely similar to the prescribed one, and socks (mark you, they were plain white) that had to have the weaves exactly the same as prescribed, unless you wanted to be called out by the prefect during the morning assembly queue. (It was amazing how much of a sway a fellow classmate thus badged could have on you). And of course, the shine of the shoes (yes they were leather), had to be bordering glossy- every day, irrespective of which grassland, field or dusty road, you had to walk back home from! By the way, there was also the length of socks that had to be no more than one inch below the knee- and God knows the trained eyes which could exactly measure without a ruler any erroneous piece that seemed to slide down beyond one inch!!
Just as the socks were one inch below, the tunic above had to be no more than one inch above the knee. Any length to the longer side was totally acceptable, especially when parents decide that they do not want to spend every year buying a new tunic for a growing child, and thus ensure length purchased would suffice for at least three years. Thus, resulting in mid-calf length tunics, which would just await hormonal growth to reach the optimal length of the said individual). Butmind you there were instances when such growth spurts one would not be blessed with, thus having to live with the tunic and socks ensuring no piece of flesh on the lower limbs was ever visible.
The crowning glory of course was a different matter (note, that by this point in sharing, the incredulousness has shifted from me to the party with whom I have started sharing it- the good part being, we are still listening- thank God for the small mercies or shall we say, for the EQ regarding intricacies of bringing up the precious masterpieces). Applicable hairstyles were based on length as defined by the skills of those who know exactly how to tame the wild ones (I am still speaking of the tresses). And God save you if you are to have a length which, is debatable in its abilities to be able to be tied up into plaits, coz there definitely would be someone among the revered women who will have the ability and inclination to show you how it is to be done. And of course, to ensure that skills thus demonstrated are appropriately passed on by you to the unbelieving and harrowed mother who shall have to execute the same every day while the bus driver impatiently awaits honking and the glass of milk sits patiently with its yet to be emptied contents.
Having displayed much patience as I elucidated what it meant to be driving discipline, I was almost half-expecting a shrug of shoulders and a roll of eyes thus ending the saga which can only be summarized as “how times have changed” and “now its not the same as it was during your time”. Well, that’s where we ended it. Thank God (again for the small mercies) that at least I had the opportunity to share (remember, not lecture).
But not before an entire discussion on the definitions of the Generations X, Y, Z, Alpha etc. And of course Google came to our rescue as we debated on who belonged to which generation and how the cusps were to be treated and whether they could be considered water-tight compartments etc. etc. It is amazing how one realizes the difference in generations- or what we call it the Generation gap. For some reason, the term “gap” doesn’t agree with me. It denotes something missing. But what are we missing – is it a relevance to the time that has come or is it being relevant in a time that was. Glass half empty or half full- its all a perspective and well- those never are wrong or right- especially when you live around teens who actually have a subject called “Global Perspectives”!