Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Little Girl's First Book

Schooling and Education has undergone a tremendous change in the last five decades.  Of course, it has been undergoing change constantly over several centuries and the last few decades is no exception.  But for us, having seen three or four generations in the past decades, changes that have taken place make an interesting study.  In our childhood days, schooling was something that hardly caused any worries in households.  The number of children in each family was large enough and provided sufficient examples to teach the early lessons in Arithmetic.  There was neither any need for queuing up near schools before the child was born nor planning for a child after ensuring that a seat will be available three years down the line.  Children were considered as an integral part of a family's wealth and every new arrival was treated as a new chapter in the Lord's scheme of things.  Nobody said "We cannot afford children" in those days.  If anyone grumbled about the high number of children in the family, an elder member of the community would admonish him or her instantly.  "People ask you how many children you have.  Not how much wealth you possess!" would be the refrain.  Basic concern for the families was providing food for all.  Other things were secondary and assumed to take care of themselves.

Schooling in our childhood days began at the age of five or six.  There was no concept of pre-schooling and pre-pre-schooling.  In rural areas, Government Schools were the ones available and met the requirement.  There were no issues about the availability of seats.  Like the proverbial "Pushpaka Vimaana" (an airplane that expanded its seating capacity as and when passengers entered it and always had one seat vacant for the next entrant), schools accommodated any new student without hesitation.  The school fee was also nominal and the concepts of "Freeship" and "Scholarship" were taking care of even this minimum fee in most cases.  There was no requirement of school uniforms and some students were lucky to have an acceptable level of dress on them. Uniforms became the norm later on in High Schools, say from eighth or ninth year of education.  Once admitted to first standard at age five or six, a reasonably agile student could reach a level of High School education.  College education was a luxury and only a fortunate few got that distinction.  A graduate was more scarce than "Doctorate" scholars of today.  The situation was slightly different in cities and some private educational institutions were available.  But the overall situation was nearly the same as in rural areas.

Early schooling, known as primary schooling, had only one book to study each year.  Written mostly in local languages, once prescribed as a text book it was in force for several years.  A single book was used by many siblings and was often sold as a second-hand book when there were no other children at home to use it.  Carrying lunch box to school was unknown and school bags and baskets were not heard of.  Early schooling was with a slate and chalk-piece.  Local language and arithmetic were the basic subjects taught at schools.  Teacher was a God for the students and disciplining the students by beating with sticks was an accepted norm in society.  In fact, parents would meet the teacher and tell him to take care of their ward, meaning an additional dose of reprimanding and beating. A student complaining of beating by a teacher at school was assured of another generous installment at home. Home work was indeed very little as there were no books for doing it.  Fortunately for the students, slates provided a limited area for assignments. Student notebooks were indeed a luxury and many children finished their education without using even one in their life.

The contrasting events of today and the amount of preparation to receive a new born astounds us.  Inquiries about schooling facilities starts immediately after the newly-wed couple return from honeymoon.  Some, of course, may decide that they never will have kids to avoid all the resultant problems unmindful of the fact they miss the innumerable pleasures of being parents and thereafter grandparents.

I chanced upon a neatly printed and bound book recently, presented to an expectant mother by her friend.  The title of the book was "Thank heaven for little girls".  This was going to be the first book of the little girl and it was waiting for her even before her arrival.
  • The book - "My baby book" - starts with details about the mommy and daddy of the baby and their history since their birth.
  • Then there is provision to record the family trees of the mother and father, going up to the arriving baby's great grand parents on either side.
  • Details of the arriving baby's initial details follow, including the expected date and actual date of arrival.
  • It chronicles the first reactions of the would be parents and the many preparations made by the parents for receiving their baby.
  • it records the guests present at the "Baby shower" function and the gifts they presented.  (Do not go to a "Baby shower"function without a gift.  Otherwise it will be "NIL" against your name!).
  • Then there is a page for recording the details of the "day before"and all the excitement that it brings to those who were there to "see my arrival".
  • The next page puts on record the actual arrival and incidental details including the name, length, weight, color and what people thought "what I looked like".
  • The child's birth certificate and tiny prints, hand prints and foot prints, are imprinted thereafter on the soft page that follows.
  • Headlines of World news, National news, Local news on the day the baby was born is written down on the next page.
  • Two pages are reserved for the "homecoming" and those who waited at the home to receive the baby with the gifts they brought with them.
  • The world around the baby with even the price of a measure of milk, diaper, gas, car, computer, and even babysitting rates can be noted down in different pages.
  • After immunity chart for mentioning dates of various injections and inoculations, growth ingredients are put on record month after month.
  • The recordings continue till first day at school after which other books take over!
If you look at it physically, it is just a book or just another book.  If you view it with feelings, well, it is much more.  It is a chronicle of beginning of a new life and nature's continuity process.


  1. Still it starts with books and contiñues with day computer will replace everything.....

  2. Wow! well written Keshav. Keeping the record will be a pleasure for the parents and treasure later for both parents and the child. Very good concept.

  3. very interesting narration. In keeping with the author's eye for details in the changing life-style of our community!!.

  4. Nothing but memories remain - memories with these kind of records - " ah " such a wonderful feeling to recall all this in our life -
    Nice Sir

  5. Sir, marvel at the way you turn simple mundane activities into very interesting pieces of readable articles. Life brings many new and strange happenings around us.True it is just about memories and that by itself is a treasure.Keep it going. Good luck.

  6. Sir, very interesting piece. Marvel at the way you take mundane incidents and turn it into readable articles. Keep it flowing. Good luck.

  7. A true reflection of our school days four decades ago and our children;s school days today. Makes us wonder how the concept of schooling has transformed! Though it happened right in front of us,you portrayed it so well that I enjoyed reading it. A good piece indeed!
    Rajashekar .- Please mail to

  8. Very nice way of comparing the two concepts like East and West.
    Enjoyed reading the beginning to remember the age old things and at present and not only that the way the whole world is looking at things. The whole world should give value to make other people's life better and not punish them. This one is a great thought provoking article. My hats off for you.

  9. Took me back to my child hood and college also the new concept of maintaining a record before and after the birth of a baby

  10. I witnessed when my grand son was born. Thank you for bringing back memories.

  11. A great nerration of shift of education system from one era to another. The concept of record maintenance is thrilling for the child one it grows up. Great work Keshu. Keep going. I look forward for more and more articles from you.

  12. Very interesting article indeed. It took me back to my school days and how wonderful and uncomplicated were those days!
    Going by the outlook of the present generation, it could be a good idea to maintain the details for posterity.Past memory brings such wondeful feelings.
    Very nicely written article with a lot of wit and wisdom.
    Keep going!