Becoming Cinderella – A Tribute to My Buch Maam


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Over the weekend I was browsing my wardrobe and accidentally came across few old camera rolls. When some light passed on to them, I realized that they were the negatives of some of the best positive times of my life.

When I was in school, there were no digital cameras. So we had to buy those camera roles, and ensure to capture moments that we really wanted to keep safe and visually available as photographs, without wasting the rolls. From the camera reel, negatives of the photographs where generated, which then were converted into photographs.

These negatives had captured some moments of my participation in school extra-curricular activities. I must have kept them safe that time thinking; I might need big size photographs for framing or may be duplicate photographs in future.

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Looking at them, a thought passed my mind that I was so active during those times; constantly participating in some or the other competitions, school celebrations, etc. Almost every evening either I was practicing on my school playground for some sports activity or in the school music room, rehearsing for a song or dancing on tabla beats. I remember, at times my mother used to really get tough time in helping me getting ready in those tradition or folk attires and helping me get that ‘judaa’ with my bob cut hair. I used to be all the time excited and motivated to be part of those activities. But it was not that I was always like this.

Yes, dance, music and sports were made part of my life during my teens. Prior to this, I felt inferior and didn’t share friendly vibes about being on stage. While I was in 2nd standard, there was a drama of Cinderella’s story organised in school. A Cinderella and her prince were chosen. Many students were part of the ball dance scene. I wanted to play Cinderella, may be just due to the fascination of the character that I had seen in the story book. When I shared this with my friends, they told me that I have dark complexion so I can never play Cinderella. I was hurt. And somewhere in my tender mind, a thought developed that I cannot go on stage. I look dark, I am not beautiful. And only fair girls can participate in dance. Obviously apart from this school incident, there was many other similar facts that contributed to my state of mind. I remember someone suggesting my mother to make me use the paste of chickpea flour that had turmeric and milk added to it as they believed it would lighten my complexion. (Thank God my mother never made me do all this, and over the years only taught me to be comfortable with my complexion.) But as a child many such things get stored in our mind, which result in lot of negative behavioral patterns, subconsciously.

As I got into secondary, 8th standard, I was student of Late. Mrs. Aparna Buch, whom we used to lovingly call Buch Maam. She used to teach us Social Studies, and also used to lead all the extra-curricular activities of our school at that point of time.

Fair, chubby, thin lips, round eyes, always in lipstick and ‘judaa’. She loved wearing cotton sarees and pearls. Any child who was not directly studying with her would be scared, specifically the younger ones, God knows why? But it happened with all of us. But the moment you are in her company, she would become your darling teacher. The best part about her, which I now realize over the years, was that she taught life lessons in very practical ways.

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She had this art of understanding what each student needed to strike a balance between studies and extra-curricular activities, that would contribute in moulding the personality of the individual, positively.

One fine day, she came to our class, looking for students to participate in a singing activity. She picked me. I was surprised and scared. Surprised as she, Buch Maam, chose me and scared as I had never thought or had participated in any singing activity. I didn’t know singing. I was scared to tell her that I didn’t want to participate. And hence, I started practicing with the rest of the group in evenings. It was a group song and I remember standing at the back during the final stage performance, despite the fact that I was shorter than many, behind whom I was in a way hiding. Escaping. I was scared to death. I had forgotten the lyrics and did lisping at many instances during that performance. I was constantly looking at no one in the audience.

But this first performance opened many doors of opportunities in my life, which now I realize.

After this instance, Bush Maam made me participate in many other activities and gradually one fine day asked me to join a dancing group that was rehearsing for a garba competition. A girl from the group had some medical issues and since she was not fit to attend school for some days, there was a replacement required. By this time, I had earned the courage to talk with Buch Maam, a bit. I told her that I don’t know dancing and I feel I dance like boys, and maybe I enjoy that as well. She heard me carefully and then said, “That’s great. This means you enjoy dancing. Try this as well. May be you will enjoy this too. And don’t worry, I am here. I will help you learn. We will practice extra if required.”

So gradually, music and dance became integral part of my routine. When I used to practice, she ensured to tell me that I was doing well. I had gradually gained confidence to stand in first row and sing or dance in the first row. I had started feeling that I look good with those traditional attires.

One day when she visited my house, she told my father how I used to resist participating in various activities, and how now I had become a regular participant. I remember my father telling her, “Yes, I feel she needed this.” And she replied, “Yes, I know. She really needed this.”

When a family faces some bad patch, children get affected. Many a times they lose confidence. Buch Maam knew I was going through same so she helped me. Music, dance and sports were the therapy for me. She contributed in helping me grow gracefully, despite of unfavorable conditions.

I remember one day in school, in 12th standard, when we crossed each other in the corridor, she pointed, “Kankane your skirt seems short”, to which I replied, “No maam. My height is increasing.” She smiled and said, “Yes, you are growing. I loved this reply of yours. It reflects positivity.”

Now I understand the meaning of those so many conversations that I had with her. I realized all this too late. After she passed away. It so happens with many of us that we understand the meaning of certain conversations or activities by others in our lives too late. This even made me realize that sometimes we delay in thanking people for their contribution in our lives.

I am still growing. I am not very accomplished professionally, and there is still more to do, lot to achieve. I face my part of struggle and I will continue to. I come across challenges, and they will always be there. But at this junction of my life, I feel that just like Buch Maam, so many people come in our lives and teach us so many things that prepare us for the future ahead and help us at the right time.

As I write this tribute for my loving Buch Maam, I feel chocked. I wanted to say thanks to her. Tell her how it felt when I was on stage in front row, performing… being Cinderella of that performance. I couldn’t. I know she must be smiling, wherever she is!

Gratitude to all the teachers in our lives.

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