Their stern gaze gets softer as it shifts from me to my son, who jumps up saying an impromptu "Hello" as a courtesy, which turns out to be a conversation starter.
Them: Does he go to school?
Me: Yeah, he goes to a Montessori.
Them: Oh. What class is he in? Must be playschool now?
Me: They don't have a concept of class. But compared to regular system of education, he is about to finish his playschool and starts preschool this session.
Them: How long has he been going to school?
Me: Almost 8 months.
Them: Wow. What all has he learnt? (turning to son) Beta, what all do you learn at school? Can you say all the alphabets? Numbers?
Son: No! (feeling a little flustered at this IIT Level interview that he's been subjected to)
Them: No? You've not learnt alphabets? (points to the alphabet 'A' in capitals on a flyer pasted outside the lift) What alphabet is this?
Son: H! (Exclaims excitedly)
Them: Not a very good school he goes to. Can't tell the difference between A and H. What has he learnt all these months?
Me (to Son): Beta, that's an A. Ok?
The elevator arrives and the interview continues inside.
Them: You should change the school. Are you happy with his progress?
Me: Yeah..It's a Montessori actually. Their methods are different. Every kid learns at a different pace.
Them: What rubbish? These days schools want to make money by charging high and not teaching anything. See your son. Almost 3 and doesn't even know alphabets properly. My grand daughter knew them before she turned 2. Take a wise decision and pull him out.
And they get out of the lift as we reach their floor. So many words exchanged within a couple of minutes.
I look at my son in embarrassment and anger. He always seemed so smart growing up. Is the school really not good enough? Is he really not learning?
We get inside our home and as I prepare to wash the veggies for dinner, I hear my son pull out some action figurines and enact a monologue between Batman and Spiderman (with Hulk appearing to offer some special effects). I'm almost mad at him for not paying attention and not learning as quick as the imagined potential that I thought he possessed. I take out an alphabets puzzle and ask him to tell me all the alphabets correctly. He refuses. He's not interested in ABCD. He wants to continue playing with the action figures. I quickly lose my temper and walk away saying, "Please don't talk to me until you want to read the alphabets".
I bring the ladyfingers to dry them on a soft towel on the dining table. As I bring out the knife and the chopping board, my son comes up to me enthusiastically and asks me, "Mumma what is this?". I ignore him and he comes even closer, grabs hold of my hand and asks me again, " Mumma, what is this?". I retort rather angrily, "It's called ladyfinger. Now go away".
He looks at the knife and the chopping board and says, " Mumma I want to cut". All the while, his gaze is fixed on the knife. I'm worried when he insists rather stubbornly, "Mumma, I'll cut it". I decide to let him have a go and I'm surprised at his grip and the ease with which he's chopping each ladyfinger into 3 pieces. I'm amazed that his motor skills have improved so much and I didn't even know.
Maybe I wasn't paying attention. Maybe I was busy listening to others' opinion as to what my three-year old ought to know. Maybe he'd been secretly observing me chop veggies and learnt it, like Ekalavya learns from Dronacharya.
My heart was filled with pride thinking about how quickly my son picked up a life skill, just by looking at me.
Me: Beta, how did you learn to cut so nicely.
Son: Mumma, I learnt this at school!