being brown

Of National Integration, Salwar Suit Uniforms and the like- The Kendriya Vidyalaya Story

My friend M said, ‘ you remember how we used to tie our sweaters at our waist because we thought it was cool?’ I smiled vaguely. She said, ‘ didn’t you do it? I mean it was all over schools in Bombay.” ‘ But I wore salwar suit to school,’ said I. She was surprised. ‘ What do you mean? Didn’t you have a uniform?” I said, “ of course. That WAS my uniform. White salwar, navy blue kurta and white dupatta.” She seemed taken aback. I explained, ‘I studied in a central government school. Kendriya Vidyalaya. We had navy blue skirt and white blouse as a uniform option. Each school decided which one it wanted to go with. So when I was studying in Mumbai, we had the skirt-blouse alternative and when I shifted to Goa, salwar kameeze was mandatory.” M looked as if she had discovered a new side to me, the government school side.

Making salwar kameeze cool!

There is a whole section of the population that is oblivious to the Kendriya Vidyalayas,  that family of schools started by the Central Government to make quality education available to the children of central government employees who were regularly afflicted by that unique woe- a transfer. Affiliated to the CBSE, these schools ensured a uniform syllabus and teaching method across the country, external to the State Government’s education initiative. They are usually affiliated to one or the other of a  central government institution. Both of the KVs I attended were attached to Navy bases and our classes were inundated with children of Naval personnel, officers and sailors alike.

That is perhaps what I loved most about school. India’s plurality was reproduced in all its splendor in our classroom. I had friends from every region, linguistic background, class, caste and religion. In keeping with its goal of spreading national integration, we spent one whole period in the week singing songs of national integration. Some beautiful, some moralistic, some outright jingoistic, they were all melodious and lent themselves to group singing.

There is a lot wrong with the KVs. For starters there is the abysmal standard of English.  A number of non-traditional course options were unavailable to us and that is perhaps, KV’s biggest failing. But I am going to keep those for another post.

For now, I am content reminiscing about my teachers. Every school seems to have that eccentric teacher, the zealous teacher, the indifferent teacher, the mean teacher and more. I remember one biology teacher RK boiling her tea over the laboratory spirit lamp. I remember one dedicated history teacher, GG, whose passion for history gripped me. I remember my sincere and dedicated class teacher, P, who took it upon himself to rid me of the evils of ‘proudness’. I remember the womanizing PT teacher whom we called Pitwa ( I am not sure how this moniker was decided upon). I remember one English teacher who was inspiring and another who knew no English. I remember one Physics teacher who believed in me even as I flunked his class. I remember one Math teacher, who, in reaction to the linguistic nationalistic sentiment of the time, took one class in Tamil- just to prove a point. I remember another Math teacher who also came home and tutored me and another friend. Tutoring two unresponsive, giggling, shy, teenage girls is no joke and we were the absolute worst kind.  It is a testament of his valour that he showed up every time without fail. And I remember that quiet yoga teacher who listened to all my adolescent trials and tribulations.


16 responses

  1. That is a cool shot and I wonder which one is you! Those goggles are cool, aren’t they?
    I agree with you that the KV’s are both boon and bane to the employees that spend their lives like gypsies. I too believe that English is by far the first causality at these schools although the quality fluctuates from unit to unit. That was great reminiscing your teachers. It promptly reminded me of some of my own: the stolid, the hyper, the angel and the devil. Then there was this physics teacher who would cane us black and blue at the drop of a hat till one day his son committed suicide. Figures?

    April 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    • oh thats awful! in fact that is one of the serious issues I have against my schools as well. The rampant use of corporal punishment and the instilling of fear of authority in children. the latter lasts a long long time!we might not take drastic steps like suicide, but it shows on us even today.

      About the standard of English, I think by the same token the KVs have the highest standards in Hindi in the country. win some lose some, I guess.

      oh and I am the one on the left extreme, goggles, sideways cap and red band on the hand! can it get cooler than that?

      April 12, 2012 at 8:01 am

  2. Maya Sharma Sriram

    I went to KV too- in the skirt and blouse days. Then only ‘northie’ kvs had salwars and we felt suitably superior. The English was awful then too nut the peer group high achieving and teachers more often then not very good. Was in a different era – almost stone age:))))

    April 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    • how did you escape the salwar kameeze?? but yeah the schools in bombay were more ‘progressive’ that way. Some skirts even went above the knee 🙂

      April 12, 2012 at 8:07 am

  3. Ah Sumanya ! I am a KV kid too, from 8th to the 12th, but escaped the salwar kameez uniform. I don’t know how, but I did 🙂 Yes, there is lots that is wrong about KV, but there is lots that is right too. For one, it gave me stability and continuity when my family migrated like gypsies. And two, it gave me the opportunity to meet with an entire section of the population that I would otherwise have missed, as I was a civilian. And three, I could play kabaddi. Now tell me which school in India has kabaddi and kho-kho as part of its sports curriculum 🙂

    April 11, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    • So many KV ites emerging from the woodwork! true about the unique sports curriculum.and then there was Road Safety Patrol (RSP). I think more than anything what ever is wrong with the KVs most of it is true of most schools, private, public or otherwise. I dont think, for example, those with a convent education are necessarily better off save for their English fluency

      April 12, 2012 at 8:13 am

  4. Not a KV kid, but a salwar-kameez kid for sure (Vidya mandir!) 🙂

    April 12, 2012 at 6:05 am

    • oh i didnt know Vidya mandir had a salwar kameeze uniform!

      April 12, 2012 at 8:07 am

  5. I’m a salwar khameez kid too. I remember how uncool we felt during inter-school contests when we saw girls from other schools in short skirts. 😀 😀 Nice one Su.

    April 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    • ha ha ish! salwar kameeze even in wonderful Bangalore! who’d av thunk!

      April 13, 2012 at 7:59 am

  6. Shweta

    Yes you are right Ishma. Even I remember how uncool we felt during inter-school contests when we saw girls from other schools in short skirts. Please remove Salwar Kammeze. its very uncomfortable for all of us.

    May 2, 2012 at 11:32 am

  7. angella

    hi all, nice to hear all ur memories about kv. i’m a 10th grade KVian and wud lik to inform u all that the traditional KV uniform is gonna change nationally this academic year
    2012-13!Good news for all,really luking forward to the new uniform pattern and guess wat. its being designed by the National Institute of Fashion Technology!

    May 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    • Hi Angella,
      Thanks for stopping by. I read about this in the Indian Express about a week after I posted that post. very interesting indeed. Have a good time in school. And do come back to visit this blog.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

  8. Damya

    hey, i’m also a KVian (class 10), i joined this year and before this i was in christian missionary and i find kv much better than my previous school.
    I just saw the new uniform, its worse than the traditional one. i cant imagine NIFT did that!!
    and i heard that the dress is already implemented in some KVs..

    July 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm

  9. Punam

    Girls over there, of kv gorakhpur, photo of year 2000, great time

    November 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm

  10. Punam

    They are punam karnam and miski

    November 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm

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