This week, our little Arushi turns twelve. And despite this being her final exam week, the focus of the birthday girl is more on the day she would be distributing chocolates in her class. Sharing chocolates is one such rare tradition that has survived the test of time – except for the fact that in primary school, the ‘goodie bag’ at times replaces that chocolate bag. While for parents, it’s still a routine ‘pack eighty pieces in a plastic bag’ day, for the child, it has its own story and complications. It’s a big day after all. Irrespective of the otherwise popularity of the child, this is a day the child has flashlights of importance all over him/her. Everyone notices the kid that day. Thanks to (the coloured clothes) and that bag of chocolates.
Here’s my take on the little things that make that bag.
1. The number of kids in the class is the first base number!
2. Add the child’s best pals in the classroom, who may get more than one piece.
3. Add the number of other friends in other sections or classes who deserve the chocolate. Eight years ago, Arushi’s best friend Navanshi Pitliya was unimpressed when Arushi couldn’t make it to her class. She came home later that evening. They were both just four years old and yet the importance of her best friend’s birthday chocolate was supreme.
4. Add the number of kids on the bus/auto-rickshaw/van, travelling with him/her to school. This number is complicated. Maybe all will get a piece or maybe a select lucky few will get.
5. Add the number of teachers in that school block to offer. Interestingly, a teacher can pick more than one piece.
6. If the child is popular (read: doing well in academics), he/she is likely to walk around other blocks and seek other known teachers too – who wasn’t around in the block or who have taught in the previous years.
7. A thoughtful child or parent will add few more for the support staff – security guard, lab assistant, library staff, cleaner etc. It’s a great day to share goodwill and get an extra blessing, right?
8. Add some chocolates for buffer! In case of shortage – well there is never shortage; but no one likes to take chances with getting embarrassed on that one day – which comes once a year.
9. Once that heavy plastic bag has made it to the bus/auto-rickshaw/van or straight to school, the protection begins. From bullies who may snatch/steal or from pestering not-so-close friends who may keep asking for an extra piece. This level of shielding is carried out the entire day, till the bag has reduced in weight, to the point of no interest left!
10. From the first classroom period, for a popular child, the classmates will poke every teacher walking in, announcing the famous birthday child. It serves no purpose, aside from eating into precious five minutes of that period! For kids, that’s priceless.
11. The birthday song takes place depending on when the class teacher enters … and in what mood. Sometimes, it takes place at the start of the day; sometimes, towards the end of the day. For the child, it’s still festival day!
12. The kid is unlikely to get any scolding from any teacher or bullying from any ‘enemy’ that day – irrespective of his/her academic numbers! This makes the day worth its weight in gold, for many.
13. Add the freedom to wear coloured clothes on that day to school, it’s worth platinum.
14. Once the standard boring (wonder why any global singer couldn’t give a better birthday song) wishes is sung, the chocolate distribution starts.
15. As the child goes from desk to desk, it’s a slow march filled with pride. The ‘just friends’ have a mischievous smile, the best buddies get an extra piece, the not so close ones are waiting for the bag to arrive, and the general mood in the class is to seek ways at how this event can further extend and eat into the teaching time!
16. The best friend is another star of the day. He/she gets the bragging rights and also the right to carry the chocolates bag along with the birthday child from classroom to classroom. His/her selection may cause a dilemma in the birthday child’s mind – leading up to the event!
17. Once the distribution is over, the residual chocolates are what makes up Points 3-8 above! And if there are any more pieces left, even after everyone essential has been covered, it’s meant to be shared with ones who have already got enough (the best pals).
All in all, rarely do any of the sweet, make it’s way back home. It finishes. A simple event, a very low budget one; but an occasion that touches many people on the day – sharing of goodwill, hugs, blessings and a lot more.
Without that bag of chocolates, this day would have seen lot less human connect and smile exchanges. One day when the child actually talks to every student of the class, to every known person in the school.. and makes a couple of new friends too. It’s a great chance to score brownie points with the support staff too. The bus driver, security guard or cleaner is expected to remember you the entire year..and pass you smiles…knowing you were amongst a minority few who gave them a chocolate.
It is a pleasing experience. A satisfying one. So much better than receiving 1.342 GB of meaningless WhatsApp or Facebook birthday forwards! Am so happy this culture still exists and likely to continue too. The bag of chocolates must go to school, no matter how fast your child grows!