I know - this one has been a long time coming, but I had to wait until it REALLY hit me! We have left Chennai! We arrived there over nine years ago with a three year old, three suitcases and a three month visit planned for Nikh and myself. My Darling was to stay for a year. We left several weeks ago with a twenty foot sea freight container, twelve suitcases, six carry on baggage, a twelve and a half year old, a five and a half year old and many regrets that we had not seen and done everything we should have!
My Darling was finding that he was travelling abroad for more time than he was with us in Chennai. He would try to cram as many meetings into each trip as (in)humanly possible, often landing in London, racing home to change and for example,heading to Oxford by mid morning. This is not good. It is not safe and it is not healthy. The up side for us was a new shopping list for him to fill each trip, but the downside was a lot of time without him, a lot of 'coping' and a lot of relying on good friends to fill the gap, help out, ferry the kids, and even have us move in when the cockroaches invaded!
AISC - as you may have read in previous posts - the school in Chennai was practically the centre of our universe. We were thoroughly invested as a family. I volunteered and helped in any way possible, ran the Food Committee, a Multicultural Committee, was President of the PTA, worked as a coordinator in the Elementary School before taking on a class of my own; ran Madras Kids, worked on the After School Activities programme, helped with SAISA, organised Bake Sales, Yard Sales and Charity Fairs. And this was not the half of it! Nikh trained for different teams, raised money for the Tsunami Appeal and Habitat for Humanity, took an active role on the Student Council and was even planning to be a Student Ambassador had we stayed on. The Ray had only just started at the school shortly before we left, but she made her mark too - Friday after school picnics were her contribution!
We were very sorry to leave, but we are starting to get bogged down - the Elementary Principal was a complete waste of space - in my opinion. She agreed with the loudest voice, barely attended meetings, treated the competent staff poorly and promoted the incompetent ones. She is gone now! The Middle School Principal was truly the bees knees. She was fantastic - the school's saving grace! The Security Manager was too busy 'entertaining' nannies and toddlers in his office to bother securing the school. The secretaries and other admin staff were wonderful. The custodial staff - the lowest rung of the ladder were incredible! They worked hard, they worked long and like the admin staff, they supported every single event organised by the PTA and parent body, even when the majority of the faculty did not feel they should. We noticed that teachers in the Middle School were beginning to treat kids as favourites and others as not so favourite. Senior teachers would show full length movies over the course of two or three lessons to make a point that could have been made in a 5 minute clip. Some teachers were shown to be less and less accountable. Some teachers were beginning to take advantage of the fact that children move on regularly as an excuse to NOT do their best. Some teachers need to be forced to retire - NOW! Others need to be made to work forever! On the other hand, there are teachers who do not feel they are teaching enough hours each week, who would love to work harder and who openly state that they would leave this school because of the lack of process, protocol and accountability. In may view those are the ones we need to KEEP!
So as a result, we made the decision to take Nikh away from the school he has been to since he was tiny and bring him home to London to experience the British Curriculum. He got a place in one of the best state schools in Harrow. He is now enjoying, in addition to English, Maths and three sciences, Design and Technology, ICT, French, German, Classics, Religious Education and Philosophy, Drama, Music, Art, PE, Citizenship, Geography, History and he is pulled out of class for Keyboard lessons and vocal coaching. He is also part of the choir which meets at lunchtime and attends Badminton Club which is run by a national champion after school. I feel that AISC needs to broaden it's horizons. It needs to expand the curriculum, to make teachers accountable for what they do and do not teach. To make the pastoral care a priority. The Principals and Head of School need to be more mobile - moving around the school, the classes and 'popping' in all over the place. Don't get me wrong - I love that school.... I just want it to be sooooo much better!
It has not been easy. The Ray is in a private co-ed prep school. Nikh is in a State school. Luckily both are on the same road, about a mile apart! Their holidays are different. Their timings are different. Neither child finds wearing a blazer and tie easy. Neither child is enjoying the constant drizzle of the last month and the frosty mornings of the last week. Both children (and their mother) long for the blazing hot humidity of Chennai.
But for now, I think we are doing the right thing. We still have a long way to go - we need a new house. We have a new car and new cell phones. I need to find a job. We have to work our way through The Ray's first ever winter, and our first real winter in nearly ten years. We have to get over missing our friends every single day. We are finding that notes from friends, texts popping into the phone and skype calls are as essential now that we are 'home' as when we were away.
The worst part for me is feeling like a stranger in my own home town, I spent so much time trying to make people feel comfortable, secure and like they knew Chennai, I am eternally grateful to the old friends and new friends from The Ray's class who are literally taking me under their wing!
Leaving Chennai was really, really tough. It had become home. It had become the centre of our world. It had become everything to us.
So we sai 'Ciao for now, Chennai' you will always be a fond memory, but not a stranger - we will visit and we will stay close! Thanks for the memories and the friends!
7 years ago