“Laviniaaah”, Lavinia’s heavily pregnant class teacher calls out when she sees me. I’m pleased to see a smiling Lavinia making her way towards me with her school bag and water bottle. The weeks before my trip, it was a different picture. Then through sobs she would repeat that she didn’t want to go to her gymnastics sessions and I had to find topics to change the subject. She actually enjoys the sessions and so it was difficult to understand the reasons for the heartache. On Mondays after school she is put through her paces working her way through the various equipments and body strengthening routines. Being the smallest chosen member of the team is not an excuse to slack off and she needs to put in the hard work like the other girls. UK Sports has ploughed money into gymnastics to find the next Olympian and this is how they train. I can already see the little muscles taking shape and wherever she sees a beam or a bar be it in a train or playground she is on it showing off her skills. Today she proudly announces that she doesn’t cry anymore and adds, “Kaitlin push-ed and hitted me in the playground”. Yesterday she was having difficulty finding words to rhyme with can and bug. It looks like, if you can’t find the words, you should make up your own ones. I don’t correct her. Lavinia starts talking about her other friends and I ask her to list them. The names sound familiar. “Aren’t most of them Lakshmi’s friends?” I enquire. So this is what younger siblings do. Your friends end up being their friends. At least over the years some things stay the same.
We pick up Lakshmi when her class finishes and I notice that her teacher is also sporting a big bump. Dealing with kids all day is certainly not putting them off having their own little terrors. Now it’s Lakshmi’s turn to give me her version of events. She saw Kaitlin push Lavinia. She promptly put on her older sister hat and along with her BFF, approached the little lady and demanded an apology. “We’ll give you two chances while we count backwards from 10. If by the end of this we do not hear an apology it will be teacher time”, they confronted her. Little Kaitlin refused and so off they trotted to see their class teacher to complain. “You need to tell Mrs Smith”, Mrs Vohra told them. “There was a lot of pushing, complaining and crying going on in the playground today”, Lakshmi continued. Well the teachers won’t have time for anything else if they start interfering in every dispute, will they.
This was yesterday’s event. Today I was roped into picking the kids up from school again. Once again I pick up Lavinia first and we wait for Lakshmi. Lavinia runs off when she sees Kaitlin and they run around like two headless chicken giggling away. “But wasn’t this the young lady who push-ed and hitted you yesterday?”, I ask. It’s seems they are BFFs today and yesterday is all in the distant past and forgotten. As we walk towards the car Kaitlin enquires if I’m Lavinia’s nanny. “No, her name is ammamma, not nanny,” Lavinia corrects her. Kaitlin looks a bit confused. We don’t explain. Later we meet up at the ballet lesson where Kaitlin offers Lavinia chocolate chip cookies, which she promptly devours and they continue chasing each other.
This reminds me of another Lakshmi story. Her class teacher asked them one day if they can speak another language other than English. “Of course”, said Lakshmi gleefully “I can speak Malayalam”. The teacher looked impressed. “Ok what’s the word for sit?”, he asked. “Iri”, Lakshmi blurts out the only Malayalam word she knows. Now all her mates know the word and use it instead of sit when they play games.