I always had the ‘butterflies-in-the-stomach’ feeling when school was approaching. The annual vacation (read mandatory trip to Dada-Dadi’s/Nana-Nani’s [grandparents] house, or an escape to a nearby hill-station) was done and dusted. The two Kodak rolls containing 40-odd photos each, had also been developed and the photo album, seen multiple times. Inquiries were now being made with elder siblings and friends in the same school as to what lay ahead in the next year of school, who the teachers would be and whether they were strict or “cool”. The thoughts of waking up early for school and (gulp!) homework loomed in the mind and the vacation’s blue summer skies were slowly getting murkier as June approached, bringing with it, another year of school. It wasn’t all ominous though. The best part of going back-to-school was here too. A sequence of clearly defined, joy-inducing shopping rituals would now be followed: buy new books and the standard brown wrapping paper, labels, pens, pencils, erasers sharpeners, shoes, ties, uniform and (when lucky) a new schoolbag too! And what about the goose bumps of day one?! The nervous build-up of excitement of seeing the current crush again. The eagerness to show-off the brand new double-decker, tiffin box. The mystery of what sports “house” we’d be part of (red, green, blue or yellow). The secret hope of being allocated to the same classroom as our other friends. A million thoughts rushed through our head, as we picked up our bags for the first time in the year! Back-to-school of the ‘90s!
They came in all types and sizes. “Regular” and “Rainy”, canvas and black. They were a constant source of punishments for us and we had to keep them clean to stay out of trouble!
Standard black shoes for “regular” school days (read non-sports and rainy days), white canvas shoes for the sports days and rainy shoes (there were the ones who wore the more functional plastic sandals and there were the snooty kids who wore the big rubber gumboots). Footwear would be bought before school re-opened, of course, and there was an air of excitement as we waited for the shopping day to arrive. At the shoe store (invariably Bata), the measurements were taken and the vaguely familiar salesman made the perfunctory and cheerful remark of how we kids had grown up. As the shoes were tried, dad would come up and press the tip of the shoes (toe-end) to see if they were the right size. As a rule of thumb (toe in this case!) there should be some space to allow for the feet to grow and potentially stall the inevitable expense on new shoes as we would grow out of these quickly. All three types of shoes would be tried and purchased and at the counter, dad would buy the other paraphernalia which went along with the school shoes; socks, polish and extra strings.
Looking back, the shoes bring back many memories.1. There were kids who struggled with the shoe laces
1. There were kids who struggled with the shoe laces and were always seen at the end of the day, struggling to run and walk with their laces open and trailing behind them. It was only when a helpful friend/teacher came to their rescue, that they heaved a sigh of relief.
2. The aforementioned snooty gumboot kids revelled in the fact that their ankles would always be free of muck during rains, but their revelry came at a price. The wide gumboots allowed water to seep in and soon enough, they had squishy wet socks which they had to endure through the day. And yes, they could not run as fast as the others.
3. The perennial lazy bums who got hauled up by the classroom monitors for having dirty shoes. The instances of “haul-ups” increased on days when they were supposed to wear white shoes. As the year progressed, the shoes would get dirty and the only solution was to wash them/ apply white polish. Of course, another working solution found was to rub white chalk available in the classroom before stepping out to the assembly halls. It was a source of mirth to see these kids huddle together and take turns at applying chalk on their shoes just before the call for the assembly.
Even though canvas shoes have arrived back in fashion today, memories of the times when we protected them from dirt and how the whiter the shoes were, the happier we felt, bring a smile to our face.
Keep blowing the Trumpet! This & many more stories await in the pages!