Culinary Expert, Writer & Consultant
I write about food history and stories most often around ingredients, cuisines, and the people who cook them. I also own and run A Perfect Bite Consulting and @APBCookStudio through which I curate culinary experience and help F&B brands and businesses connect with their consumers.
My class of 94 is having a reunion at Mayo Girls this weekend. One that I tried very hard to get to but gave up on when several factors worked against my favour. I had made my commitment to Kala Ghoda ages before this reunion came up and between it and having to travel to Melbourne to promote Masala Trails in the first half of March, niether budgets, nor time allowed another three days away from my children. From the moment I sent the message saying I will not be attending, I knew a point would come when a part of me would regret my decision. Juggling as much as I do, over the years I have learned to live with the decisions that I make. But as classmates updates have begun to pepper my facebook page with messages about the reunion, a part of my heart has begun to hurt. 'If onlys are crowding through my head'
So I thought I would deviate from norm to post a tribute to my school and my class in the form of these two essays I have written. The first one, Beyond the walls, was written just after leaving Mayo. The other "Uniform" a little later. Both are dedicated to the first batch of Mayo Girls, our school and our teachers. We set a precedent of our own. I think of you and carry you with me always in the sunniest corners of my heart. As some of you will remember, I was always sentimental......
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when,
But we’ll meet again,
Some sunshiny day…
Have a GREAT reunion this weekend,,,
With Much love,
Rushina (S 146)
Beyond The Walls
When the time to leave the security of the four walls came, I blindly followed the dictates of my mind. For a while I oscillated, one part of me regretted having to leave when I could have stayed; the other part patted me on the back for having taken such a difficult step. Then one day I woke up to the fact that I could not expect to move forward when I had one step in the past.
There’s a familiarity about the “clang” of school gates when they close behind you for the last time, but I am not here to take a walk down memory lane. I shall leave that to the movies where the clang is more often than not coupled with a “THE END”. What I am here to do is testify that this clang is a beginning too, to tell about beyond the walls …
My mind goes back often to those to the friends of those lovely idyllic days. Loyalty to your class – Unity was all-important then, friends were to die for and it was easy to promise forever. Beyond the walls I found different friends, the hang around when they need something kind, the use and lose kind, the loyal kind, they all came and some of them stayed and each of them left a legacy that molded me into what I am.
You don’t leave behind teachers either. Beyond the walls there is always a twist on the road where you will meet someone who will teach you a new lesson. An urchin girl – with barely enough clothing on to her covered taught me that if you want even a simple piece of can turn into a crown.
School days never come back. They can’t be recreated but inside those walls I learnt the things that will help beyond those very walls. Those walls that we felt grew every year, they represented jail and we likened ourselves to prisoners, each with our own number, but today 146 is like an omen of good to me and it’s presence works towards making or breaking a situation.
Beyond the walls lies a life just waiting to be embraced, new experiences, a stretching of the wings as it were. Learning that you can do it. Depending on yourself. All those races at school that disappointment in the loss, that exhilaration in the win. We’re the same runners, the prize is as important. Only the race is different. We still cry when we lose, are ecstatic in our wins. We still make mistakes.
And when life gets a little to tough to handle, I can always go back into myself…In me, where I carry that magical place “Behind The Walls”.
I remember longing to belong, be a part of everyday life. However I WAS A FREAK. I could be identified by the rotation of outfits I wore. My first months at Mayo (post the wave of homesickness) are a recollection of tumultuous feeling.Painful embarrassment, a longing to belong and ire at my fate.
Embarrassment? What else could I was usually clad in a Games singlet (white or blue) with jeans or a lace embellished “A line” PURPLE skirt and a salwar.
On arriving at school with a trunk (notably containing the total of THREE sets of home clothes), hockey stick (very ambitious that), and sundry other worldly belonging.I had been issued the requisite parts of my uniform from the stores. But thanks to the ancient tailor we had, borrowed, (as were most things) from the well-oiled machinery of the boys school accross the road I did not get my uniform. And he took a particularly long time to deliver it too! Maybe that was what happened if a man used to stitching clothes for the erstwhileprincely school of Mayo BOYS was suddenly entrusted with the task of putting together uniforms for paltry GIRLS. (I mean considering that the shirts were the same and technically there was less work involved since we wore skirts as opposed to pants, how hard could it be?)
Then I actually had begun to wonder if he was even going to. I was one of the last ones to get mine. Hating the advertisement that I was a “New girl”, Not fitting in… I chaffed at the “civilian” clothes I had to wear. Well partially civilian, anyways, considering that I had the right socks, shoes and tie but the rest of my body was enveloped in anything from jeans and tshirts to lace trimmed party dresses..
Then one sultry summer Saturday, I was summoned from my dorm by the matron. My Uniforms had finally arrived. 12 Grey skirts with broad pleats, 12 snowy white shirts. 2 Divided skirts (for games).I would be as dull and boring as the other girls now! No special attention would come my way, I would not attract the eyes of the teachers in class and face the embarrassment of having to answer questions that I did not have answers to… the anonymity of a uniform beckoned!
Over the weekend the matron had one of the baijis work double time to label my clothes so that they would not get mixed up in the laundry and that Monday I donned my armour and went out to face the world. When the bell rang for breakfast lineup I was polishing my shoes at the bench in front of the quadrangle. I caught a quick glimpse of myself in the mirror as we filed out towards the mess. Shoes polished to a high gloss, socks pulled up as far as they could go (probably with my chest puffed out to there with pride) I entered the ranks of anonymity. I do not remember anything between that time and rushing to the toilet at school when the end of breakfast bell had rung.
I bunked assemblty that day. I had an assignation with the full-length mirror in the first floor bathroom. While the whole school otherwise occupied, away from ridiculing eyes, with the strains of morning prayers ringing in the air I admired myself in the mirror. I turned, I twisted, this way and that, I cat walked, I pirouetted, I simpered, I blew kisses at myself and I smiled. I belonged.
What an anomaly a Uniform is. At once the most celebrated yet the most maltreated garment in ones wardrobe. It gives you an identity but affords anonymity. It commands respect but gets abuse. An institution by itself it leads a life of drudgery. Thrown (into the laundry bag), boiled (in hot water), beaten (by the Dhobi) and subjected to burning coal (the Iron) before it comes full circle, freshly laundered to your pile to be donned with great pride, fresh smelling, startched, crisp.
For the ensuing years of my life at Mayo, I wore that uniform through hot summers and cold winters. With great pride we marched out into the glaring light of the sun on sports days our Shirts shining white, skirts crisply ironed. Basking in the attention of the guests gathered under the rainbow hued shamianas.
Our uniforms played many roles in our lives. They were Our Identity. Our camouflage “Oh no ma’am that was not me it must have been someone else talking to that boy.” Our plumage, “Yes Mr. XXX you are right we are Mayoites” (spoken with a preen).Never stopping for a moment to think that one day it would all come to an end.
And end it did. At the end of my last day at school, I sat on my bed, counterpane neatly stretched across the four corners. I stared down at my Uniformm, gleaming white and crisply ironed as the first day I saw it, white and red label, discreetly claiming me, stitched into it’s collar, it rested there, on the top of my packed trunk, never to be worn again. Inevitability had been the atmosphere all of the last term. There had been an increasing bittersweet air to things as I did them “for the last time”. Finality had not been part of the picture however. It was still distant, then ….the end. But a sense of loss was pervading my world now. It could wait however, for while. I could not bring myself to shut the trunk....