Tanya reached home one day after finishing her class
A cheerful happy day she thought it was
Until her folks told her the news of the day
From the city they were shifting to a town faraway

A transfer was in order as a promotion was due
It was something her father was looking forward to
She was happy to be relieved of the city’s maddening pace
She was sad as her friends would be far from her place

The day arrived when they bid adieu to the city
And arrived at the town, it was quiet and pretty
She breathed in the fresh air and smelt the nature
To explore the town, she was very eager

The weather was cold, but warm was her heart
She missed her pals, with whom she didn’t want to part
But one can’t have all, to realize she took awhile
A new phase in life, she welcomed with a smile

They settled in their house, a beautiful cottage
There was a garden in front with a tiled passage
She brought out her cycle which she always wanted to ride
The city’s traffic and pollution had made her keep it inside

At the gate she met a familiar little friend
Daughter of her dad’s colleague, she was Kiran
With two simple plaits she looked very cute
To roam around the town off they took

Riding on their bicycles, they felt the cool breeze
Just then Tanya smelt some delicious cheese
“A Pizza place in here!” Tanya exclaimed
“Oh yes, we have all here!” Kiran proclaimed

The girls went to their houses after a joyful day
From the next day their feet would tread the college way
“I love this little town”, Tanya told her father
Off to sleep she went without a bother

The next day was the start of a new phase of life
New college, new classes, new friends to say hi 5
Kiran came along too but hers was a different class
With anxiety Tanya stood near the door of her class

The teacher was yet to come, the girls were chatting
As Tanya entered, everybody stopped talking
They stared at the new girl and someone said ‘Oh my!’
Tanya looked at them and herself and then realised why

Most of the girls were dressed in simple salwar kameez
While Tanya wore jeans with a top sans sleeves
Their hair was braided while hers was left free
It was a culture shock, either way you see

The teacher entered while Tanya occupied an empty seat
Mrs. Rita looked at Tanya and observed her from head to feet
She welcomed her into the class but not with a smile
The others knew what was in store for her and left a sigh

After the class, Mrs. Rita asked Tanya to meet her outside
The girls looked at Tanya with a worried look they couldn’t hide
Tanya now puzzled went out to meet the teacher
She had no idea what shock was about to hit her

“You must know that the college follows certain rules
There’s a dress code to be followed almost like schools
You shan’t wear any shorts nor any jeans
And certainly no tops that have no sleeves

Keep your tresses under control, don’t let them loose
They reflect your life, all tangled and confused
Discipline is necessary, keep them braided
Your attire must reflect that your goals aren’t faded”

The discourse was over, Tanya stood zapped
The teacher left her for her words to grasp
Tanya looked around, she felt so alone
She was now sure, she’d arrived at a hell hole

She turned around moping back into the class
She needed a friend, none was here, alas
She sensed the stare of concerned girls
One of them approached her to calm her nerves

“Hi, I’m Seema”, she introduced herself
She inquired her, “Are you doing well?”
Tanya nodded and let out a shaky hi
The girls around came and stood close by

“We are sorry this happened to you
We thought every new girl knew
It’s been like this since two years
They are strict about it and very clear”

“I thought this college was very good
I did go through the whole rule book
No mention there about a dress code
And what harm is there in what I wore?”

Just then the next teacher came in
Back to their places the girls settled in
Tanya was miffed and couldn’t concentrate
Dreams of a happy college life now seemed to break

The teacher asked her whether she was updated
Tanya nodded though still confused and jaded
Every other teacher she met asked the same
The chances of a happy college life looked so lame

Kiran met her after the classes
Tanya realised she never told her about the dresses
Kiran knew she was about to be scolded
She quickly apologised with her hands folded

“You must forgive me, but it was never my fault
In the morning I tried to tell but you wouldn’t halt
Remember I’d told you, I’d something to say
But you hardly listened to me all the way”

Tanya agreed, she was way too excited
“What was I thinking?”, herself she chided
But now to think about a serious matter
The dress code stole the essence of a girl’s character

She decided to go home and talk to her parents
A revolt was in store, she just needed a clearance
Bidding goodbye to each other the girls went home
Aroma of a favourite dish came from a special zone

She rushed into the kitchen, eager and glad
She forgot that all along she had been sad
She hugged & thanked her mother, began enjoying her dish
She hadn’t realised she was so famished

And then her mother asked her how was her first day
Her smile turned into a frown thinking of the day
“Everything was good except there’s this one thing
It reminds me of school and it’s strict discipline”

Tanya went on to tell her what had happened
Her mother couldn’t believe that this still happens
“We’ll talk about it later. Now eat and take some rest.”
Thus pacifying, to continue her chores, she left

Later, Kiran’s family came over
They all had a little get together
Dress code was the hot topic during dinner
Tanya wouldn’t let it get any dimmer

“What’s wrong with what I wear?
Why such a prejudice for western wear?
And why such an admonition for my hair?
Does it look like I haven’t taken any care?”

Tanya was very agitated, her father calmed her down
“I know there will be such issues as we live in a small town
Just give me a few days, we’ll try to solve the issue
Now cheer up before you break down and ask for a tissue”

Tanya calmed down and smiled at her father’s remark
She went towards Kiran to have a little talk
“Hey if you want I can lend you a Salwar Kameez for tomorrow
Or any other dress that you want, you can always borrow.”

Tanya giggled, but thanked her and politely refused
“I do love Indian clothes, I’ve got them in many hues
And I do braid my hair often, it’s not that I hate this look
The rule is limiting our freedom, it’s like living on the hook”

Kiran agreed and said, “And then it’s a girl’s college
I don’t understand why such rules are needed?”
“No Kiran, even otherwise, such rules are unnecessary
We are humans too. We can’t be treated as an accessory.

It’s not what one wears that is to be changed
It’s the attitude that is deranged
Where the circle of thoughts is faltered
Purification of minds should be there in order

This town had developed in so many spots
From coffee houses, to its own theme park
But the minds seem to have stopped in time
They are singing the same old nursery rhyme”

To this, the girls broke into a laughter
After sometime they bid goodbye and closed the night’s chapter
While Tanya prepared to face the next day
She was determined to find her own way

The next morning she wondered what to wear
A dull Salwar Kameez or again a western wear
Her eyes then feel on the rule book on the table
An idea brightened up her face and her smile doubled

She arrived at the class all dressed up
Some of the class girls cheered and some clapped
She had worn the brightest Salwar Kameez
And big earrings, bangles and anklets to accompany

Into a plait was her lovely hair braided
With a glittery paranda* her long plait ended
She walked into the class with a confident smile
The class knew, Tanya had arrived to change the tide

Mrs. Rita, the teacher, arrived finally
Prepared to catch any anomaly
She noticed the burst of colours on a bench
Her eyes narrowed and her fists she clenched

In a strict tone she told Tanya to come forth
Tanya got up gladly and did as told
Her bangles clinked, her anklets tinkled
The sounds were enough for the teacher to be rattled

“Have you come to a marriage? What is this attire?
This place is for learning and not for your silly satire
Tanya was calm while the girls were on tenterhooks
Taking a deep breath, a step forward she took

“Excuse me Ma’am, but I did what you had said
I’ve worn Salwar Kameez and my hair is in plait
You hadn’t clarified about wearing of any accessory
So I looked up the rule book, there wasn’t mention of any

Since you hadn’t restricted and nothing was in the book
I decided to come in the complete Indian look”
Mrs. Rita was numbed, didn’t know what to say
She wanted to run away but had to stay

A situation such as this, she hadn’t contemplated
She wished she hadn’t bothered whether the hair was free or braided
She cleared her throat, sent Tanya back to her place
“Alright, since you know the rules do what it says “

It was just what Tanya wanted to hear
Now she needn’t worry or have any fear
When the class got over, there were high fives everywhere
And congratulated Tanya for she had the dare

“Well this is just a beginning, there will be more
I can’t leave it at this, there has to be an uproar
So here’s an idea, but I need your support”
And Tanya went on to divulge, her plan to revolt

Some agreed to the plan, but some did not
“That’s ok, to make a point, more than one is a lot
Now I can’t wait to get home, I must go running
When will the classes get over? My paranda is hurting”

Tanya giggled and the others joined in
Better days for the girls would now come in
Soon the classes got over and Tanya reached home
She was happy to have company and not fighting alone

The next day in class it was a vision to watch
More than half girls wore jeans with colourful tops
Tanya arrived too, back in her old jeans
She was delighted to see that her plan was working

Mrs. Rita arrived and saw and was soon fuming
She had only Tanya to blame for the rupture in discipline
Tanya had crossed her limits and must be punished soon
She ordered her to accompany her to the Principal’s room

She told the Principal about all that Tanya was doing
The Principal began to scold Tanya for her misbehaving
Tanya defended that she was told to abide as per the rule book
But there was nothing about a dress code, every page she had looked

Just then, Mr. Prakash, the college trustee arrived
With his sudden visit the Principal was surprised
She welcomed him and offered a seat and refreshments
The trustee sat down and invited a complainant

The person entering was none other than Tanya’s father
He had expected to see in the room, his daughter
They smiled at each other but only slightly
Their joint plan was proceeding properly

“Mrs. Sharma, what is this I hear about a dress code?
We had decided against it two years back when we spoke
How come it’s in place without the consent of the board?
How can the girls feel free if you put them in a tight hold?”

“Excuse me, may I go?” Tanya asked for permission
Watching her teachers being scolded was not her mission
Mr. Prakash recognised who she was and let her go
He then turned to mend some hurt ego

“Mrs.Sharma, let’s nurture values and not false pride
Trying to limit their freedom must never be tried
Let a positive environment prevail to develop their personality
We must trust the girls, they are an asset to our country”

The Principal consented with his thoughts and agreed to abide
Tanya’s father apologised on the behalf of his child
“We are glad to have her here”, the Principal said
“To fight for her right, she’s not afraid.“

Meanwhile at the class the mood was tense
The clock ticked by in the pool of suspense
Suspension from classes was lurking on their minds
Tanya assured them that there would be nothing of the kind

Soon Mrs. Rita came in to take the class
She was unsure how the class would treat her back
She informed them that the dress code was now dropped
The class rejoiced and to the teacher, they respectfully thanked

Mrs. Rita too smiled and joined them in their cheer
This was certainly going to be a very good year
Her prejudices withered away, she herself felt free
Wisdom can come from anywhere, she had to agree

Later, at home, there was a little celebration
Tanya managed to succeed in her mission
She thanked her family for supporting her through
And especially for their support in taming the shrew

Tanya giggled on that last part but apologised soon
She was just being naughty and had not meant to be rude
She knew she had got a freedom that she’ll always respect
Life in a small town now seemed to have brighter prospects.

* * *


Credit to the uploaders of various pictures that were used to create the above edit.


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