Friday, September 27, 2013

Uniform Trouble

The school uniform was introduced in India by the British. I never cease to thank them for that. As a mother I realize that I might have spent a fortune on branded clothes for my kids, but I found them most dashing in their white uniform.

Growing up in Dehradun, a city famous for its schools, I got to see beautiful uniforms. The most chic I found, belonged to Welham Girls' School. White lower (salwar) and white kurta with blue bug shaped dots and a thinly folded dupatta. IMA (Indian Military Academy) also gave the locals, the pleasure of gazing admiringly at the young recruits in their uniforms, even at the places like restaurants and bazaars.

I wore blue, green and white uniforms during my different schools and college. I loved to wear my uniform and even iron it, which used to be a salwar kurta or a tunic. When I joined teaching, things began to change. My first boss was a Russian. He introduced a multi coloured scarf, representing different Houses. Though it saved them from the burden of wearing a tie, I found it unnecessary. Many newly opened schools experimented with a light coloured shirt and dark coloured lower, i.e., shorts, pants or skirts. All the schools came up with lovely combinations.

  Wondering about the school uniforms in the rural India long back, I asked my 75 year old father about his uniform in school. Uniform for them meant  just a white cap or Gandhi topi. The moment he used to see the sun rays hitting a particular rock he used to grab his topi and rush to school which was located by the river Mandakini, a tributary of the Ganges. After standard five he came to Dehradun.  He wore his first uniform, khaki shorts and white shirt, in a school run by Jansangh. Most of his classmates were refugees from Pakistan, their differences vanishing under the garb of the uniform.

My house at the IIT Kanpur Campus, is surrounded by different schools, a kindergarten, a primary school and a KV. I meet many of my ex-students while going and coming back from the school where I teach now. One day I ran into a KV student whom I had taught in DPS. She was not very eager to meet me and was trying to hide behind another girl. Since she happened to be the daughter of one of my colleagues also, I stopped to ask her how she felt about her new school and why was she so shy. She wished me with a grin. As we came closer, I observed her uniform. It was a pair of trousers and a full sleeves knee length kurta with Nehru collar. She also wore a waist coat, at 2 in the afternoon, on a humid July day.  Later her mother told me that how much she disliked her uniform. Senior boys also wore a big blue and red check with red collars and some more designing with red. Wonder how the KV students in the hotter places are coping up with this change.

KV has changed the uniform as a part of a ‘facelift’ to celebrate its fifty years. The ministry of textiles and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) have designed the uniform. I have yet to meet someone who liked the uniform. The good old navy blue and white is missed by everyone.