Bobo stands eagerly at the door, waiting for his slow-coach Mummy to catch up with him. He has already worn his school bag and now wants to wear his shoes. It is the first time he has voluntarily taken the bag. He said ‘rooster’ earlier, a takeaway from the week’s focus on farm animals.
As soon as the door opens, the neighbour’s four year old daughter jumps out ready with her school bag. She goes to a different school but likes to meet Bobo for a few minutes every morning. She quickly grabs his hand and both walk to the lift. Once downstairs, they part ways.
Bobo has mostly forgotten that till just a few days ago he expected Mummy to carry him to the lift, past the pool, to the condo’s back entrance and to the bus stop. He bounces past the pool by himself and then stops and asks ‘thuki?’ (short for ‘carry’ in Tamil). Then seeing his Mummy is in no mood to do so, he negotiates ‘bus thuki?’ (‘carry me in the bus?’). Mummy is balancing his stroller, his school bag and her voluminous bag and is happy to seal the deal. Even with grandma walking with them, it is best to get him used to walking the short distance.
They enter the main road. Mummy thinks she spies their bus and quickly sweeps up Bobo in her arms and runs to the stop. She realizes she is glad of this excuse to pick him up and break her own rules about getting him used to walking. It is not their bus. Mummy, grandma and Bobo sit down to wait.
At the bus stop, Bobo begins to say ‘hi’ to passers-by and co-passengers as always. Some ignore him. Some smile back at him. Bobo is never discouraged. He keeps up a steady chatter, pointing at various things.
When the bus comes, Mummy puts Bobo on her hip, carries the stroller and bags and then hops in, trying to punch in her fare card. Sitting in the bus is a balancing act with Bobo eagerly trying to look outside. More difficult to handle than having him just slump listlessly on Mummy, but definitely far more preferable.
‘Patti?’ Bobo asks, wondering where grandma disappeared. ‘Patti will pick you up in a couple of hours. You play at school till then’. Bobo nods thoughtfully.
Bobo’s “construction” stop arrived. A nod to the heavy construction work ongoing just behind the bus stop. Mummy opens the stroller while Bobo suddenly begins to cry in a “I am bored to be going this but we have to keep up appearances” montone.
In the beginning, the tears were genuine, full throated ones protesting going to school. They sometimes began in the bus, sometimes in the lift and sometimes even at breakfast if school was mentioned. This was followed by a sad face. Over the days, the tears have become restricted to three slots – on leaving the house, on being put into the stroller at the bus stop and upon entering his school. Now Bobo has all but forgotten phase one of crying. By the looks of it, Phase two is on its way out too.
Bobo asks for his ‘pura’ (short for ‘porvai’ a.k.a blanket), sits comfortably in the stroller and the tears disappear. Mummy and Bobo chatter about the blue car that is going down the road, about the trees and about the man cleaning the sidewalk. They walk the two side streets and then arrive at the school gates.
Bobo’s teachers greet him with big smiles. Mummy calls out ‘bye’ and quickly leaves the gate before he can begin another bout of tears. Mummy thinks that phase three i.e. the moment of parting will produce the most tears. Every morning these gates have seen some of Bobo’s loudest wails and every morning Mummy is used to standing out of sight, behind the compound wall waiting to hear him stop crying. Some days he disappears into the classroom before he has stopped crying and Mummy goes to work knowing he must have stopped crying but feeling sad.
Bobo however has not let out even a whimper.
He is already in school mode. He can see his ‘friends’, he is itching to hop into the toys cars and he knows that beyond these are the rooms filled with toys and fun things to do. He does not know what is for lunch today (cinnamon toast? Bee Hoon?) but he is going to eat it. Mummy thought that Teacher Zira was overestimating his eating skills till he impressed everyone in the weekend by eating his noodles with a fork (Of course while spilling half of it on the floor).
There is no reason for Mummy to wait. She turns and starts walking back to the bus stop to take the bus to her office. Feeling happy and relieved.
And a little sad.