Yesterday was PTM day. A day I have come to look forward to for more than reasons than one. First and foremost it is the one and almost only forced day off I find myself taking with regularity. Come what may, rain sunshine or biting cold,the monthly trip to the boarding school has to be made. It is also the only time when for a few hours I get off the spinning wheel for a few blessed moments. But above all it my special time with what I would like to call the real India, where no differences exist, where all children grow and learn together freed of all labels and tags. So you would have guessed by now it is a day I look forward to with glee and excitement.

The morning dawned and blissfully there was no rain. Had there been rain the journey would have been a nightmare given the present state of our city!. No it was a warm day but the breeze was cool and clouds were playing hide and seek with the sun. It was also a special day as my little grandson was coming with us making the day perfect. The previous day had been spent shopping for goodies – cookies, pizza and doughnuts – and some little knickknacks that good old Maam’ji is supposed to have in her bag. This time we were also accompanied by Steve our volunteer from Cambridge and Gary a photographer friend who also brought along his vintage camera with tripod and black sheet. By the time the clock struck 10, we were at the school gate.

Mamaji our trusted trustee had preceded us and we were greeted by all the 8 children almost at the gate. Seven beaming smiles and one tiny unsmiling face. That was Manisha who had just been in school for three weeks and was still a little lost. It was her first PTM after all. I remembered Utpal’s first PTM and his tearful face and murmured words: I want to go home with you. Today, three years later he was more interested in the boxes and bags we held and in sharing all the happenings of the last month. Boxes and bags were retrieved and it was soon time to make the customary rounds: each child’s class and then the hostel after which we would all sit down and break bread – oops I mean pizza together.

As usual walking from classroom to classroom was a pleasure as every child was given a glowing report by the respective teachers. By this time most of the children’s parents had joined us and little Manisha had broken down as she held tightly to her mommy’s hand and murmured the expected: I want to go home. At the hostel the children once again proudly showed off their little beds and cupboards and once again we expressed our wonder and admiration. It was all part of the act. We spent a few minutes with the warden and were given a list of missing items: Utpal had broken his sandals and Manisha needed some undergarments. After warm farewells and see you next month, it was time to let our hair down.

We found a place to sit under a tree and boxes were opened and goodies handed out. The pizza tasted like heaven because it was laced with so much joy and hope. The cookies fared well too. It was a blessed moment. A picture perfect glimpse of my real India. There was Mullaji, Meher’s Muslim cleric uncle and Yash’s christian dad. Then the rest of us from all walks of life and both sides of the usually impregnable walls. All labels and tags had been left outside the school gates. Here we were one, brought together by our children. You cannot imagine what a wonderful experience it was. I am getting goose bumps writing about it. It was the India of my dreams come to life for a fleeting spell. I could feel the presence of my friend the God of Lesser beings.

But all good things do and must come to an end or else we would turn complacent. After a fun photo session the antique way, one that even the Principal joined, it was time to go. The spell was broken and the world awaited us at the other side of the gates. The only thing we knew as that come September the magic would be recast.