I lace up Laddu’s new hi-top shoes. She tests them out tentatively. I force a fleece jacket on top of her already cozy top. Her school bag is heavy. Her literature anthologies, fundations journals, composition books, iPad, charger, water bottle and lunch box weigh her down. She is ready though, masked, eyes twinkling and raring to go.
I carry her bag for her as we walk down the pavement. It is foggy. It is drizzling. The bus-stop is sparsely populated. A total of six children line up for first day of school pictures. Apprehension radiates from the parents standing in a group. There is a curious kind of relief when the bus trundles down and the kids are on in a blink. I wave and walk back home with two umbrellas in my hand.
I am not quite sure how I feel. There is excitement that is part of any new beginning. There is relief that this could potentially mark the return to some semblance of normalcy. There is fear and the constant second guessing of my decision to send the little one back to school even if only for two days in a week.
As the day inches forward, I find peace in snatches. I will myself to believe all will be well. Isn’t Vijaya Dasami the day for new beginnings? How fortuitous it is that she starts school on a day earmarked for successful starts?
I shun the news. I avoid references to creeping numbers of new cases in the county. I believe in science. I believe in masks and social distancing. I know the school is doing all it can to protect its staff and the children. I refuse to cave in to fear. I tell myself I will be aware. I will be watching my child, eagle eyed for the first sign of illness. I will do what I can to make this work. I will pray too.