Have you picked a playschool for your son?” The question caught me off guard while I was in the process of a diaper change. I breathlessly and futilely grabbed at the seven-month-old bottom that was making a fast getaway. “Isn’t it a bit too early…?” I began, when the raised eyebrows made me realize I was making a serious faux pas. I was informed by the “well-wisher” that, in Delhi, I needed to think about playschool right from the time my son was in his cradle, if I considered myself any sort of a mother at all, or else he would be “behind all the other kids”.
Watching him zip around the furniture at barely seven months, I doubted he would be behind anybody because I was having a tough time keeping up with him.
Anyhow, I stammered something about being in the process and decided to ramp up my parenting skills. My child was meant to go to some sort of preschool and my being so clueless about it was scarring him for life and seriously damaging his chances of a shot at the Nobel Prize at a later stage.
You see, I’ve recently moved back to Delhi after a couple of years away and I had only heard about the furore over preschool and nursery admissions. Little did I know I would come back to be a part of the teeming masses queuing up all night and elbowing each other at the school gates just to pick up admission forms.
Also, I am thoroughly confused over the difference between playschool, preschool, pre-nursery and nursery. Aren’t they all one and the same? I am still unsure, but by all accounts, the first three are the same thing and precede nursery school. And what I am sure of in the last year and quarter that I have been here is that if you live in Delhi and you want to be hip, cool and with it, your child just “must” attend playschool. And it would help if it were one of the “top” few. But what really got me spooked was that home-schooling my child in the early years will lead to him not getting admission in a “good Delhi school” later on. The unspoken threat being that if you don’t go to a good playschool, you won’t get into a good nursery school and later a good school... and you get the picture.
Admissions even to preschools in the Capital are a nightmare. The so-called good nursery schools are privately run and not equally distributed across the NCR. Parents ferry their children across the city, regardless of how much time and energy is wasted, just to have the brand on their child’s ‘résumé’.
I am told that I have the good fortune of being in the vicinity of a very posh South Delhi playschool and, with the husband and myself being educated professionals, there is a good chance that our son will get in without too much of an effort.
So, against my better judgement, I dragged my 22-month-old off to the famous pre-nursery in my locality recently, elbowed my way through the crowds and filled up the forms. He didn’t get through. Apparently, he failed to make the cut-off age mark. I heaved a sigh of relief and brought him home to play with mummy and live his careless and unscheduled life. But only until next year.
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