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  • Writer's pictureAditi

I studied in four different countries until primary school. Read my story!

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

I was born in Manipal, Karnataka. I was a morning baby. Actually, I was supposed to be born a day prior but I guess I decided to torture my mother for another 24 hours. We finally became a family of four. Dad, Mom, my brother and me of course!

When I was about 9 months we all moved to Harrogate, UK. My dad got a new job at Hosmat Hospital. At that time he was thriving to make it as a spine surgeon as he had finished MS Orthopaedics. It was the beginning of a new life for all of us.

When I was about 3 years old I started preschool. I don’t remember much of it. But my brother Rahul loved the school there. Rahul is four years older than me. He loved the food, the people, the weather. Everything was going great but after spending two years in the UK, we had to move to Bangalore as dad’s posting got over.

Me & Rahul all bundled up for school in the UK.

In Bangalore, we stayed at my Nani’s house in Wilson Garden. Rahul hated the school. It was a complete change for him. Lunch was served to us in school. I remember we used to get almost the same thing for lunch every day. Sambar, rice and some sabzi. Studies were much harder in India. It was not laid back like it was back in the UK. My brother found it hard to cope but he somehow managed. I on the other end managed to blend in because I was still in Kindergarten.

In the year 1997, again my dad got an opportunity to go abroad and work. This time it was Sydney, Australia. At first, my dad moved, he found a flat, set it up, started working and then he called us over plus Rahul had exams. It was his final term. I and Rahul used to write letters to dad. I thought my dad has left us and gone. I used to miss him tremendously. I remember I wrote him a letter saying, “have you left us and gone forever? I miss you.” I still have that letter stacked up somewhere. But my mother handled everything single-handedly.

Soon we flew from Bangalore to Sydney via Thai Airlines. At that time the cutlery used in aeroplanes were steel, not plastic like it is these days. They gave us juice in tiny glasses with that Thai Airways logo on it. I loved it so much the air hostess decided to give us a set of two. My mother still has them safely kept in the kitchen cabinet.

When we reached Sydney I was in the first standard. I didn’t like going to school. Some days were alright but on others, I used to howl for my mother. It was too much change for me to handle. My class teacher’s name was Mrs. Hogan. She was a very tall lady almost 6 feet tall. She was a kind loving lady who used to give me a huge hug and hush me down. My mother worked at the same school as a part-time teacher. This made it even harder for me to settle in because all I wanted was to just be with her because I didn’t fit in.

During lunchtime, kids used to ask each other, “lunch together?” Kids used to make groups of two and eat lunch together. Nobody ever asked me. And when I finally had the courage and asked them, I was just turned down. I used to try to play with the other kids but it was hard. They weren’t ready to accept me. They said I was a ‘brown girl’.

I remember, we had swimming classes in school. The teacher took me and threw me in the pool. I obviously didn’t know how to swim. I started crying and I said, “they don’t teach us like this in India.” That was the end of the swimming class!

Class Picture clicked in the year 1994. That's my class teacher Mrs. Hogan. And you find me sitting in the first row seated second from the left.

But, by the end of the year, I somehow did manage to make a few friends. There was one who became close to me, Hannah, she was a little plum, red curly hair. Her complexion was as white as snow. She had freckles and red lips. I was happy I finally had made at least one friend. I started to look forward to school. During the weekend we four used to see many different places and we made the holidays even better! We used to get fish n chips packed and go and eat in the park and then play.

Life was good. We settled. Mom also made a few friends but it was soon time for us to move again because dad’s contract was almost over. My dad didn’t want to go back to India. He had so much more to learn as a spine surgeon. So he started applying for more jobs out of India.

We were left with two options, either we move to Malaysia or Saudi Arabia. My mom strictly said no for Saudi, so Malaysia it was!

We packed all our stuff and moved. We landed in Kuala Lumpur and stayed with one of my dad’s friends’ place for a couple of weeks. We then moved to Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. Our house was situated right next to the park. We were delighted! We also had very warm neighbors. Mr & Mrs. Liew. They had three daughters. We all used to get together and play every evening.

I and Rahul got admission to a public school, SRS Datuk Simon Fung School. Our principle was a very kind man. Unfortunately, I don't seem to remember his name. In Sabah, it was a complete change. Again! English was a second language. The first language was Melayu. All subjects were in Melayu. When I say all, I mean all except for English and Chinese. I was in second grade and my brother was in fifth. It was all rocket science for us. But somehow we managed and pulled through a year. The kids there were very helpful and supportive. They helped me through the class. We also used to eat our tiffin together.

I remember at assembly time the whole school would gather together. I used to feel lost surrounded by strangers. I would just look out for my brother. Seeing his face assured me everything was alright. But after seeing his face I would get tears in my eyes. He would smile and nod his head at me from a distance. I would smile back controlling my tears. I would then take a deep breathe and tell myself it’s just school. A couple more hours and I would be back home with mom.

I used to get teased in the school van. One boy much older than me called me bugs bunny because of my two front teeth. I was quiet for the first few days, but I remember fighting back one day and I called him a donkey. This made me dread school even more.

My Chinese teacher was a really strict lady. She would come and stand at the door and wait for all the kids to settle down. We all were shit scared of her. I got an A grade in Chinese. How? Ask my mother. She taught me. She doesn’t know Chinese either by the way. She just related the words to the things and helped me remember. My mom was on cloud 9 when she saw my report card.

But that was the last day we went to school in Malaysia. For the next two years, I and Rahul were homeschooled by my mother. We were then joined by another kid named Dao. His dad was a doctor and had recently shifted to Sabah. After looking at the education system there he told my mother to home school him as well.

We used to go to Dao’s mother to learn Hindi at his place. And he would come over to our place to learn other subjects.

I remember one day I beat the shit out of Dao. He broke my brother’s toy and I wanted him to pay for it. We went to the park and I thought that this was my chance to get him. So I pinned him against the wall and kept punching him in his back. My brother tried to stop me but I was just getting warmed up. All the kids in the park just stood there and watched the show. After I was done thrashing him, he walked home. The moment he entered the gate of his house he burst into tears.

My brother came home and told my mother. She was appalled. The next day, we went to his house again. His father asked me, “so Aditi, who won the match today?”

This incident is still spoken about to date by the way over the dinner table.

Malaysia was awesome. We had such a great childhood there. We used to spend a lot of time with dad as he used to work from Monday to Friday. The weekends were off. We used to spend the weekends by the beach, in the mountains or run off to the islands. It was bliss. Life was good but it all had to come to a halt as Dad’s contract got over there as well. The management at the hospital told him to extend but my parents thought our education was suffering and we should head back to India.

I and Rahul stayed at my Nani’s house in Bangalore for a month so my parents could pack and move. My mom got tuitions started so we could catch up with school and won’t be left behind. I hated tuitions. We used to speak to our mother over the phone once in a couple of days. My only question used to be was ‘when are you coming back to India?’ I used to drive my Nani bonkers, she got fed up and moved me to Masi’s house. I drove her bonkers too. We just kept shuffling from house to house until the month went by.

For the first time, I and Rahul traveled by ourselves. We traveled from Bangalore to Delhi. We had a lot of fun on the flight. My Chacha had come to pick us up from the airport. Our parents were supposed to reach Delhi in a couple of days. We had come to Delhi after such a long time we both felt really out of place.

After my parents arrived the first thing they did was started school hunting for us. My parents were so drained and tired after so much school hunting within a day in the scorching heat. They met the principal, Mr. Ashutosh Batta, at Bloom Public School. It was definite yes from both sides. After a month we moved to Vasant Kunj and moved out of my Chacha’s house. Dad got a job at India Spinal Injuries Centre, Vasant Kunj. Life was getting back on track!

I was in fifth standard & Rahul was in eighth when we started school. Little did we know we were going to hit rock bottom. We both were lost when we started school. Don’t even get me started about Hindi.

I remember my Hindi teacher made me stand up and read a paragraph, I think it was the worst Hindi ever spoken in her class. She had no choice but to make me sit down after a couple of words. My classmates did have a good laugh.

Studying was hard! But we somehow pulled through. We were lucky because we had good teachers. It took me about two years to finally settle back and get used to the education system. Mom worked really hard to help us and get us back on track.

I and Rahul both passed out of Bloom Public School, it’s been a roller coaster ride but it was fun. I made a lot of friends and I am in touch with a handful of them to date. We still talk about school now and then, the unit tests, our teachers, annual day, my huge handwriting, who had a crush on who. Gossiping about school is never-ending.

Gang of crazy girl posing on some weird dance step on Annual Day Function. Year 2003.

But we always end our conversation by saying ‘those were the good old days!’ and even though I missed living abroad after coming back to India, in the end, it’s your friends who pull you through each day of school. I really couldn’t have managed without you. Love you guys!

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