When I was 6 years old we lived in Goa, paradise on earth. Goa used to be a Portuguese colony until it was liberated in 1961 by the Indian Army. It looks like a slice of Europe with whitewashed churches and beautiful architecture and the most wonderful food – if you haven’t tasted Pork Vindaloo, or washed down the best fried prawns with a cold beer at Sarita bar on Bogmalo beach before you die, I believe St Peter gives you a do-over!!
And in 1st grade at St Theresa’s* in Vasco-da-Gama – yes, that’s the name of the capital of Goa – our class musical concert was a really big deal. We all got to dress up in old fashioned dresses and sing the classic ditty “Soldier Soldier Will You Marry Me”. If you don’t know the song – its about a young girl asking a soldier to marry her and buying him all kinds of things that he asks for – before he informs her that he’s already married. So a searing story of gender politics, trust issues, and philandering men – in short, a feel good and appropriate subject for a 1st grade concert! Enjoy the song below – and stay for the punch line!
Anyway, my mother made me a 3 tiered blue dress for the concert that I absolutely loved! Words cannot describe how much I loved that dress – it was blue with puffed sleeves and 3 cascading tiers with scalloped edges and I looked beautiful in it. I would periodically open my closet and just stare at it in awe and wonder. Most of my clothes until then had been hand-me downs – a necessary evil of being the youngest amongst all my cousins – but this dress was mine! It was made for me and to my measurements and fit like a dream!
I kept it with great care until my concert and even though Melina Conceicao had a beautiful pink 3 tiered dress bought from a store and everyone loved hers more – I still say she couldn’t hold a candle to me that day in my fine blue homemade dress! And I think my voice swelled just a little bit more as I sang with my classmates about that poor young girl in love, and that bastard, cheating, man-whore of a soldier!
And after the concert was over I couldn’t believe that I would never wear my beautiful blue dress again – that was just too arbitrary and cruel! So every afternoon when I got home from school and changed out of my uniform I would ask my mother – “What should I wear?…Should I wear my blue frock?!” And everyday she would tell me in no uncertain terms – “absolutely not!! You may not go down to play with your friends in a 3-tiered blue maxi dress! You will tear it and it will get dirty!” And my heart would break a little!
At the time my uncle, who was also in the Navy, and aunt were living with us too. They had recently got married and were waiting for the Base housing to assign them accommodations. So one day my uncle came home from work and dramatically burst into the house and very loudly asked my aunt, while waving his arms about, – “Shubhda**, WHAT SHOULD I WEAR??? Should I wear my blue frock!!!” I never understood why everyone dissolved into helpless laughter – I didn’t think it was a very convincing imitation of me anyway so the joke was on him!
I am now 41 years old, with a PhD, two kids, and a number of scientific publications – but yesterday I spoke to my uncle after a long time on Skype and the first thing he said to me was – “hey, how come no blue frock?“!! You gotta love family!! No matter how much you grow up and how important you think you are – they will always remind you of happy times when a blue dress was all you needed to make the day brighter!
*OMG!! I just did a random search for the school on Google and here it is!! It hasn’t changed at all – even the colors are the same!! My 1st grade classroom was the 4th door on the middle floor that you can see!!
**My extraordinary aunt who used her time with us in the best possible way and taught me how to whistle!