This incident needs to be documented for posterity’s sake.
I was in class 4th. That time I was living in Ahmedabad and I had just joined school a few months back. I was having trouble making friends due to the language barrier and I was already in a sad state of mind due to my terrible bullying experience in another school in A’bad , where I finished class 3rd. But somehow, here it was easier to talk to people because I had a couple of non-gujaratis in my class.
I was always interested in extra-curricular activities. After a couple of months of joining school, our teacher announced the annual fancy dress competition to be held in about two weeks and I was immediately interested. I went home and told my parents about it and they were equally excited. We zeroed on making me dress up as Rani Lakshmibai, since she was someone I knew enough about, courtesy my dad’s nightly stories and already developing habit of voracious reading. By voracious, I do mean voracious, because my mom had to hide my Tinkle subscriptions around exams time and I would look for it like a bloodhound.
Anyhoo, I digress. So, we started preparing for my role as the great Indian freedom fighter. My dad wrote down some lines in hindi for me to learn, something along the lines of ‘Main apni Jhansi nahi doongi, nahi doongi, nahi doongi!’(I will not give away my Jhansi, ever!) My mom got a very pretty white and purple saree roll-pressed and sized up a blouse and was getting it ready for me to wear as a 9 yard saree. I used to practice my dialogues daily brandishing a comb as the sword.
Meanwhile, our teacher at school also used to take a rehearsal of the students representing class 4 B in the competition. Every day I would recite those lines as a teeny tiny soda glasses wali Rani Lakshmibai threatening the British/classmates with a pencil. My teacher was happy with the way I was doing.
On the eve of the competition, my parents got my saree, jewelry, chandrabindi ready. They went out to buy me a gajra for my bun and a sword from balloon wala. They had to spend around 3 hours looking for a golden sword fit for a queen. Every balloon wala had a silver sword. I had to have a golden one. Finally they found one and came home. I was supremely happy and was so ready to rock the stage.
The next day, I got up early thoroughly excited. My mom made me wear the 9 yard saree, did my hair, put the pretty gajra. She put some compact on my face, the Chandra bindi typical of Mahrashtrians, fake nath, and lastly my soda glasses. Ah well. I went downstairs in full navvaari(9 yard) glory to wait for my school van with my bag and a little plastic bag of uniform to change into later.
My school van arrived and I sat inside. The 2-3 boys in the van who used to board before me were major bullies. They had made my time hell and made sure to torment me daily about any damn thing. They were surprised to see me dressed and asked me why. I told them I was participating in the Fancy Dress competition. They sniggered and told me that there was no competition and kept making fun of me. I got a little teary eyed but kept quiet. As we were reaching school, the other kids boarded and looked at me like I was an alien or something. As we reached, one girl asked me again what was I dressed for, and I repeated the same answer. I went to the assembly area and stood in the line for my class. We had to go inside the school building class by class monitored by high school captains, and that was our daily rule.
To my horror, I did not see anyone dressed up! Every single kid was in their uniform! Finally a friend told me that the competition was not that day, but 3 days later! I had totally messed up the dates. I had a very bad habit of leaving things to my memory and not writing instructions down in the school diary. URRGGHHHHH! The horror! I can’t remember now, if I had written the wrong date down or written nothing at all! But it was so embarrassing to say the least.
This part takes the cake. As we were let in inside the building, I was the ONLY kid not in a uniform. As I passed one captain while going up the stairs in the line, he looked at me all bewildered and said ‘ Happy Birthday!’ He thought I was in birthday dress! OMG! Worst. Thing. Ever! I just went to class and started crying till my teacher came and understood the situation. She calmed me down and took me to the girls’ restroom. Thank God that I had my change of uniform with me, otherwise I would have been so miserable and embarrassed.
After I reached home, I told my parents what happened, and my parents had the laugh of their lives after consoling the crying me. Till now, my mom tells how they roamed so much for the golden sword and what I did later. She has that taunt ready whenever I act cocky about the power of my memory and when I claim I can do no wrong. Aaaaah, the shame!
I did not participate in the competition that was held 3 days later.