When I was eight years old, I went away to study at a boarding school for the first time–at my own insistence–I might add. My English education began because I pestered my mother to let me study English. The local Chinese school in Tangra, a suburb of Calcutta (now called Kolkata), was the primary school for most of us back then.
My mother relented, and I went away to another city. I had to take an overnight train to get to my school where I stayed for nine months a year with two breaks, summer and winter. Too late…as I tried to get some sleep, half lying on my bedding roll in a crowded train compartment, I was confronted with the reality of what I’d committed myself to. I wouldn’t see my mom for the next four and half months. That was enough to bring some huge tears, and I mean torrential downpours, that lasted for a couple of weeks.
During those early days at school, struggling to learn English, I regretted bitterly being a spoiled kid and getting my way. The truth was my mother probably wanted an English education for me, and when I bugged her to let me go, she didn’t need a lot of coaxing.
Later, when English became more of a first language to me than my own Hakka dialect, I patted myself for being so forceful with my mother…I actually had the audacity to think that my eight-year old self was responsible for my own educational direction.
My mother’s birthday is coming up this week. I dedicate this blog to her for giving me the gift of language.