Reasons to be cheerful

This was something special. Because being played out in front of me was the Pakistan that I wanted to see

Chris Cork December 10, 2014

It was the teacher in the straw hat and pink leggings that caught my eye. All the teachers were urging their teams on, but she of the hat-and-leggings did so with a passion above the call of duty. Backs were slapped, shoulders rubbed and the Yellow House were exhorted to win-win-win — which they often did. It was school sports day, and there were lessons to be learned.

It was one of those not-too-cold mornings when there is a lambent light and a slight mist in the air, the sort of morning that poets wax lyrical about. The students were grouped in the ‘House’ tents on the far side of the field and the parents, some looking distinctly grumpy not to say cold, were arranged in tiers in the stands. The field was marked out and there had been two days of rehearsals. Important People arrived and were greeted, balloons were sent aloft and the games began.

So far, so ordinary. Just another school sports day like thousands of others at similar private — and many government — schools nationwide. It was not until the races were half-way done that a little light went on in my head. No, this was not so ordinary after all, this was something special. Because being played out in front of me was the Pakistan that I wanted to see. The country that I wanted my daughter (who won nothing and learned a lesson by so doing) to grow up in.

Here in the strengthening sunshine were men and women working together, boys and girls competing side by side right up the age range of the school. They were not living separate lives — at least while at school — and there was something  intrinsically natural about the way the genders interacted from kindergarten to Principal who I later photographed looking rather pleased with herself, as well she might.

The competition was real, there were winners and losers. Everybody got a medal for turning up on the day but the races were hard fought, the victors got their prizes and held them high. Real life is about winning and losing as well. Not everybody can come first and somebody always comes last; and the same would be true if I was watching a school sports day in a rural village that had none of the resources that ‘B’ schools have. So far as I could tell nobody cheated, none of the races were rigged; they were honestly won and lost. And there is a lesson in that which is worthy of carrying forwards into adult life.

Played out before us over two-and-a-half hours on a December morning was the template for ‘Naya Pakistan’. Here was a bubbling pot of social capital, the children who are all our futures as well as the teachers who make and shape them in ways that we as parents sometimes fail to see — or often fail to understand if we do.

At the close of play the Principal was careful to thank all who had put so much into making the morning a success, and particularly the teachers whose evident enthusiasm was not put on for the benefit of those of us in the audience, it was the real deal.

Children remember their teachers for good or ill. I certainly remember one of my first primary school teachers who I was deeply madly in love with, Miss Ayres, and recall asking my mother if I could marry her. Mother looked distinctly sideways at that one. Much later there was ‘Doughy’ Baker the music teacher who fostered in me a love of the classics that persists to this day.

There will be children in Yellow House who will, down the years, remember the teacher in the straw hat and pink leggings who on a sunny winters day put her arm around their shoulders before or after the race, looked them in the eye be they boy or girl, and commiserated with their loss or shared their winning run. There are probably thousands of other ‘hat and leggings’ teachers across the country, inspiring their students to ever greater heights, and Principals who have thousands of reasons to be cheerful. I went home smiling.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2014.

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Sexton Blake | 7 years ago | Reply

I enjoyed this article by Chris Cork, and the minutiae such as a straw hat and pink leggings. However, I have noticed that Chris is a cat lover, and I wonder if he could indulge the readers some time in cat minutiae? I myself have a very aristocratic cat who refuses to be patted, insists on running the house, basically will only eat the most expensive tuna fit for human consumption, and insists on sleeping with a satin pillow case on his pillow. Anything less than this and he makes family life unbearable. I know people will shake their heads in disbelief when they read this, but I have to say that I did not start this feline modus operandi or indeed the rigmarole instituted by Chris when he raised the topic of pink leggings. However, if Chris and I have created a little levity into what is becoming a very serious world perhaps it is our good deed for the day. I doubt that ET will print this ridiculous missive!

Sexton Blake | 7 years ago | Reply

@TooTrue: Dear TooTrue, Bad things are happening everyday, but this was a school sports day where the children were enjoying themselves, and the school was doing its best to train them for the future as responsible citizens. Let us be happy for them. Similarly to when enjoying an exciting cricket match, who wants to be thinking about a Madrassah, which may be off-balance, or somebody planning to rob a bank?

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