For the last month, the students and teachers at my school have been preparing for Sports Day. Sports Day is both a blessing and a curse. As a proponent of fitness and a healthy lifestyle I am in strong support of a day that allows tweens to run around outside and get rid of some of their excess energy. But as a teacher in India, I found all of the preparation distracting. It is almost time for exams and we teachers need to complete the syllabus and give assessments. This becomes very difficult when classes are cancelled for drill practice and half of the class is missing because they are at yoga or karate practice. But the teachers can’t do much either because they are often preoccupied with Sports Day responsibilities. Still, Sports Day was an enjoyable event filled with plenty of laughs, friendly competition, second hand embarrassment and some tears.
The event took place at Gitanjali stadium, an unfinished soccer stadium in the southeastern part of Kolkata. We took two days off from school to do ‘dress rehearsal’ at the stadium, transporting all the girls–and teachers– from school to the stadium in two trips.
Sports Day is not merely an inter-house competition. It bears an alternative significance for the older BSS students. It serve as the official inauguration of the head girl, house captains, club leaders and student council members. They take an oath and lead the other students in a march past in which the students march like they are in the military while a drum beats in the background.
The days events consisted of different sprints and games. One of my favorites was Wedding Bliss. In this class five race, the ‘groom’ had to run 50m to the ‘bride’. Once the groom reached the bride, both teammates had to exchange garlands as fast as possible and run another 50 meters to the finish line. The first to cross the finish line won.
There were also events for the parents, teachers, office staff and maintenance staff. I participated in the teacher relay. My team consisted of one of the Hindi teachers (who is also my sari coach), a class five teacher who also teaches Math, I believe, and the swimming coach. I started off the relay for my team, running my fastest in order to secure us a lead. We stayed ahead pretty much the whole time until the last leg which would be ran by the swimming coach. All she had to do was maintain a decent pace and we would come in first. Unfortunately in that last leg, she got tripped up. I hoped in that millisecond that she would catch herself, but she didn’t. She fell to the ground, quickly got up and limped to the finish. I knew we probably didn’t get first but at that point, I was a little more concerned with my teammate’s hamstring (which she had pulled).
We ended up getting third place which entitled each of us to a Kadim’s gift card (shoe store) and a giant tupperware container. The container is so big that I don’t even know what to put in it. But I will proudly take it back to the US with me. The adult events with the other staff members were hilarious and the parent races were enjoyable but uncomfortable. Many of the parents fell during the respective mother and father races. I think three out of six or so dads fell during their flat race and a few moms fell too while running backwards for their race. Most were innocent little trips but one father had to walk it off and see the nurse. It was kind of scary, I would hate to see my father fall down during a flat race. Apparently the ground was quite uneven. I believe it since we were running on patchy spots of grass and most of the parents ran barefoot.
The aerobics routines really came together which I was very happy about. The song that I picked out was changed at the last minute since some felt that ‘Be My Lover’ was not an appropriate line in the song. Oops.
I was the most impressed by the karate display. The head girl wowed the audience as she broke clay tiles using the strength of her arms and legs. I also got to see some of my class six students use nunchucks. Luckily, they are still beginners so I have nothing to worry about.
An event like Sports Day embodies the BSS experience. I was so frustrated at times, first because I wanted to finish the syllabus and then while I was helping the students practice their aerobics routines (try giving directions to 300+ ten and eleven year olds at the end of the day with no microphone or while they hold shiny pom poms). Of course it wasn’t all bad. I got a chance to bond with some of the students and teachers. I felt a sense of pride as the girls presented gifts to the chief guest on behalf of the school and as I inched ahead of the PT teacher during the relay. But at the end of the day, I was happy to be there, starving and tired. All those days of shouting were worth it. I even teared up during the school song , ‘BSS, We Revere’, because I realized how much I am going to miss every little thing about this school.