The kids are little dumbstruck when they hear my dad’s and aunts’ story. They can’t understand that a little toff from the states could spring up from a situation similar to theirs. I let them sit with the idea, but their teacher Prem Latha is smiling. It doesn’t matter if the story is true or not, although the fact that it’s the former is simply genius. The chance that I’ve gotten their gears turning is enough.
The air’s a little too heavy, so I bat it away with a large bag of friendship bracelets. Immediately the kids are preoccupied with which color they want, but more than that, each of them wants to put one on me–a tradition that follows from Rakhi, an event where girls tie strings around boys unrelated and related to them as a promise to protect each other from harm. So, by the time I get to the last kid, my whole forearm is covered with these ridiculous bands.
We gather up to practice “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and then shortly thereafter, file out to sit in rows in the courtyard for the Christmas assembly. Every class performs their song, and a few classes below ours sings “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Immediately, my kids are up in arms, but I calm them down with the challenge of out-singing the others when it’s their turn. By the time we’ve finished, my ears are ringing. Sangeeta ma’am asks if we want to do the tobacco avoidance performance again, so I wave them up to the front again. The damage of losing their opportunity to monopolize “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” ebbs away and they jump into their roles. Prem Ma’am requests that I retell the story of my father, but this time, I have Shahnewaz, Aakash, and Devashish retell it. They do a great job, except they mess up the punchline–that I’m the daughter–which is just hilarious.
After a few more messages and lectures, we finally make it back to the room. Everyone’s a little drained, but I get Barsegh to come over and say hi in his Santa costume. The kids roll around with laughter–in fact, Om Prakash literally falls off his chair, although I’m not sure if that’s on purpose as some sort of melodramatic stunt.
We spend the next hour doing a mini talent show, and I record the kids singing, dancing, and making speeches. Laughing with each other, but mostly at each other, we finally hear the last bell, and my kids rush out for my last time at Nai Disha. Everyone high-fives and says bye, but most of them are too eager to get home to stay and chat. I’m a little disappointed that it’s over so soon, but I shrug it off. They’re a bunch of prepubescent kids. I’d be the first to get the heck out too. Besides, there’s a game of KoKo starting outside. Now, who in their right mind would want to miss that?