Naya starts school tomorrow, which regardless of what country we are in is a pretty big deal. And preschool admissions here makes New York City and Washington yuppy mommas' scrambles look like a breeze. Everyone told me we would have a hard time getting a "seat," as it is called. I had made a few calls and kept being told that applications don't start until January for April or September admissions. That list consisted of all the A-list preschools of New Delhi -- Step by Step in Panscheel, Magic Years in Vasant Vihar and a few others.
On Friday, on my way to work, I decided to stop in at the two near us in Safdarjung Enclave. Green Fields Nursery and La Montessori -- less than five minutes away by car. I wishfully mistook the first -- with its bright slides and neatly uniformed children singing songs -- for the latter. A guard instead directed me to La Montessori, which told me they were still accepting children but wouldn't let me look around. I said I would not enroll my child in a school I could not see. The principal finally relented and drew back the curtain on the pre-nursery. At least forty uniformed children sat in desks with one woman looking over their notebooks. "Just one teacher?" I asked. "The other teacher has gone on chuti," I was told.
I walked back to Green Fields and asked to see the principal. Very kindly she met with me but when I told her Naya's age, she laughed and said I was starting too early. "Come back next year."
All my attempts to call Magic Years had been unsuccessful so I thought an in-person visit might help move things along. Long before we knew we were moving to India, I had been set on a Montessori approach. Both because of its child-initiated focus and focus on cleaning (which I could have definitely used in those formative years). But when we pulled up, I wasn't sure I was at a fortress or a playschool. I won't say much more but after 10 minutes of passing notes through iron bars to the guard to give to the principal, I decided the school might not fit our family's ways.
Remembering our landlords had sent their children to "Little Pearl" or somesuch and equipped with a Reliance card enabling my laptop to be online whenever, wherever, I googled to find the school just a few blocks over. We pulled up to a brightly colored building, although I was skeptical when I saw a few guards. But they simply asked me to sign in and ushered me inside, where an admissions director was more than happy to meet with me. One tour, two rabbits, three birds, two hamsters and countless wooden toys, easels and books later, I put down a deposit for Naya's first school experience. The next morning, Felicia and I went to pick out a tiffin and two flasks to put in Naya's knapsack that dubbed her a "Little Pearl."