My new neighborhood has about a gazillion schools. So, on the rare mornings that I leave for work before 8.00a, I see lots of kids proceeding to school. Looking at school-going kids always brings feelings of nostalgia and longing. Sometimes, I think I would like to do what I consider "real" homework (the kind where you write down stuff in notebooks and submit it to a teacher for correction) again. Sometimes, I even miss cramming at the last minute to get through exams! But most of all, I miss wearing school uniforms.
I have always been fascinated by uniforms (which explains why I like looking at all the folks (guys especially ;-)) who belong to our Armed forces). I like the smart look it instantly imparts to the wearer. Any place with a group of people wearing similar clothes immediately acquires a new respect from the viewer. Of course, a uniform quells individuality. Obviously. Else we would be calling it un-uniform, right? But I think the charm of a uniform lies in the uniformity!
I went to 5 different schools before I finished 12th grade. Every time my dad got transferred, boom! It was a new school and, hopefully, a new uniform. For me, one of the more cheerful side-effects of joining a new school was the chance to try out a new uniform. Unfortunately, most of the schools I went to had the standard white shirt with navy blue skirt and buckled black shoes ensemble. Some of them also threw in a navy blue tie and a badge for good measure. It beats me to this day as to why we had to have that noose, oopz tie, around our necks. Of course it made us look smart. But given the choice between looking smart and not slowly choking to death on a hot summer day, I think we would have chosen not choking every time. But of course, wearing a tie was the RULE - when we did not wear one, we had to pay a fine.
The first time I had a sweater as a part of the uniform was when I got to study in Calcutta (it had not yet become Kolkata back then). Calcutta has pretty severe winters when temperatures go down to about 3 - 4C. Most of my Calcuttan friends had a good collection of winter clothes, unlike yours truly who had one sweater which was bought during the family trip to Kodaikanal. Mercifully, due to the uniform concept, all of us had to wear sweaters of the same color - a smart navy blue for the junior school and bright red for the senior school. Red colored sweaters for everyone? As you might have guessed, we looked like an army of post-boxes during winter! And to add insult to injury, the red sweater went with a peacock-blue colored skirt for the senior school. You can imagine how "dashing" I must have looked. Actor Ramarajan could have borrowed some color tips from whoever came up with the combination. I think that was the "pakki-est" uniform I ever wore.
The uniform I liked the best was for the school I studied at in Chennai. They had a very lovely shade of blue and white as the uniform colors - a white shirt with a blue pinafore over it and a belt. I like wearing pinafores - no fuss, easy to maintain and looks good on most girls. That was also the last uniform I got to wear before I entered the grown-up world of college where we all could express our own individual selves by dressing up as we pleased.
I remember that most of the schools had a uniform different from the regular one, usually all white, to be worn on one day (usually Monday) of the week. Invariably, every week, a few students would forget about this and turn up in the regular uniform on that one day and earn the wrath of the teachers and the sniggers of fellow students. Cases of students wearing the special uniform on regular days also happened, but not as frequently. Regardless, all of us went to school wearing uniform clothes only. When we were in lower grades, some of the schools allowed us to wear "color-dress" on one day of the year - on our birthdays. I used to await my birthday with great excitement every year just so I could skip wearing the uniform for a day!
I sometimes feel sorry for the school-kids I see here in the U.S. because they have never been introduced to the concept of wearing uniforms to school everyday. For me, a uniform confers school-going status on a child - there is something really endearing about watching uniformed kids on their way to school. Among the list of things I would like to do if I can ever go backwards in time is to be able to wear a uniform and go to school again. I think I might even settle for the peacock-blue uniform.