The Essai Files: 6. The British School Girls

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The British School girls squad – Nooran, Junko, Samara and Asha – prepared for their ACT with us from the summer of 2018. Every class was a 100 mile-per-hour event full of laughs, gossip, Starbucks, and Subways, and the office has seemed eerily quiet since they left. They were  certainly a batch we won’t be forgetting, and so we had to stage a reunion for this special edition of the essai files.

We met in the basement on a rainy Thursday afternoon. There was pizza (but no barbeque sauce- Nooran was upset).

The interview got off to a good start when Junko became the first (and only?!) person to wish Farhad on Valentines Day.

Essai: We should have made this whole interview V-Day themed … let’s at least start by bringing up that iconic Inesh and Samara photograph.

Samara: Haha we still get teased about that. We’re friends!  

Essai: Hmm okay sure *cough*

Essai: Ok, let’s begin: Imagine we’ve just met for the first time. Talk to us about the girl sitting next to you.

Samara:  Junko likes the colour yellow. She’s obsessed with it. Actually she used to hate yellow, then one day everything changed – now she’s even Yellow House Captain! But she’s not a sunshine person on the inside – she’s really dark. The darkness goes deeper than her resting bitch face.

Farhad: Yeah, even I’m scared of Junko.

Asha: Nooran is the opposite – she’s always in black but on the inside she’s a ray of sunshine. That’s probably why they’re best friends. Opposites attract.

Samara: Nooran’s an egg-head. She’s good at breaking down math problems and she’s good at breaking down. Period.

Essai: You are pretty good at having dramatic meltdowns Nooran! Pretty sure you cried in ACT class more than once.

Nooran: I can cry on demand. It’s a talent.

Essai: Maybe one to leave off the resume though. Where do we see Nooran in 10 years time?

Samara: Jail.

Junko: She’ll be a subzi-walla. Or a math professor.

Asha: She’ll have turned into her mom.

Nooran: Shut up. I can see myself doing something related to politics. I’m starting to become more and more interested in the world of social science.

Essai: What about everyone else? Asha has been too quiet so far- as usual!  Let’s talk about her.

Junko:  Asha is really not a centre-of-attention girl. She needs to get to know someone before she opens up.

Essai: We were worried about you when you first started coming to us for class Asha! You barely said a word.

Junko: But by the end she would never shut up!

Samara: Asha underplays herself. She’s probably the most talented one out of all of us – her art is insane. But she won’t tell you about it.

Asha: I’m also pretty good at watching TV. Seven hour series? No problem – one night, done.

*essai is very impressed*

Nooran: I think one of Asha’s best qualities is that she really doesn't care what people think about her. It’s brave.

Junko: I can see her as an artist in the future – or maybe an architect. In Canada. In a big shiny tower-block, sitting in an office with a huge window.

Essai: Who else do you think is destined for greatness?

Nooran: I think Samara will be a CEO – or she’ll lead some sketchy cult. She can be pretty controlling when she wants to be.

Essai: You’re right! If she didn’t want to work in class then she was an expert in re-directing the conversation away from the lesson topic.

Samara is dramatic. Everyone agrees. She’s a leader – Head Girl through and through.

But she’s self destructive. More agreement. essai asks what this means.

Samara: Isn’t everyone self-destructive from time to time? We all do stuff that we know isn’t good for us and that we’ll probably regret. But that’s not really me any more. I mean, I’ll do stupid things like leave my essays to the last minute and get a bad grade, but in general I think I’ve become pretty smart about my decisions.

Essai: What changed?

Samara: In 9th and 10th grade I really didn’t care about my academics. But then I fell in with these girls here, and I guess I was peer-pressured in to studying! It’s probably my competitive nature that motivates me now.

Essai: All you girls are motivated. It’s one of the reasons we liked teaching you so much. It’s actually refreshing (and encouraging) to work with students who are really focused on getting good grades in school. Is that something which comes from the environment at the British School, or elsewhere?

Nooran: I definitely care – probably too much. I’ll admit that I get upset when my teachers don’t give me full marks. But that’s probably my egoistic side coming out.

Junko: It’s something which comes mainly from our families. They all want us to do well; we’ve grown up in environments in which academics were a priority. Not everyone at school cares as much as we do.

Essai: So many of our students want to go in to the world of business, economics, finance … is it something which genuinely interests them or are they just responding to a different sort of familial influence?

Asha: It’s hard to say. Economics is definitely one of the most popular IB subjects though. And it’s true that following your family into business is generally expected in many Delhi families.  But it can be hard to really know what’s going on inside the heads of the other kids at school.

Essai: Why?

The Girls Together:  Because everyone is so fake!

Essai: Fake?

Junko: Sometimes it just seems like school is one big popularity contest. People will tell you one thing to your face, then they’ll bitch about you behind your back to score a point.

Asha: The school elections opened our eyes to the fact that life, and politics, is about getting people to like you. If they like you, they’ll support you, and that’s the only way you’ll be able to exercise power.

Essai: You’ve pretty much summed up politics right there.

Samara: It was actually quite depressing to realise this! I had to really make an effort not to become fake during my election campaign. But the whole process changed my perspective on leadership and friendships more generally. It also made me realised that I forgive people too easily.

Junko and Nooran: She does. She needs to harden her heart a bit more now that she’s in power.

Essai: We’ve really enjoyed having the chance to get to know all these different aspects of your personalities over the past few months. But we really did not know what to expect when you all first turned up! Actually we will happily admit that we used to get a little nervous before your classes. Do you remember what your first impressions of essai were?

*Asha jumps in right away*:  I didn’t like it. I hate reading and we started with reading. I just wasn’t open to it! I didn’t want to do the ACT and my parents made me.

Essai: And then? Did we win you over with our charm and wit?

Asha: Then I decided to give it my best. And I didn’t look back! *laughs*

Junko and Nooran: Our diagnostic was a traumatic experience.  We had plans to go for lunch, then we found out we had to take a 3 hour test! So we weren’t happy.

Nooran: But our first real class was math with Kabir, and we pretty much started liking essai straight away.

Junko: I like the concept at essai because you guys are chilled!

*Essai is confused*: WHY DOES EVERYONE ALWAYS SAY THAT?? WHAT DOES CHILLED EVEN MEAN??

Asha: It means you are the opposite of our other teachers! You’re relaxed.

Samara: We had to work, but we also had conversations. You made an effort to know us and talk to us and make things interesting. I’ll always remember my first class – Farhad tried to explain the Latin root of the word ‘inference’: it comes from a greek word.

Essai: φέρω

Samara: Yes, Ferry. You said to infer meant to ferry across from one bank of meaning to the other.

Essai: Wow. You remember. If I could cry on demand like Nooran, this would be my moment. This even beats the ‘pinnate’ moment, when you pronounced the leaf’s name like ‘pin-ah-tay’.

Samara: That was so funny! And then pinnate became our batch name, and you tried to get all of us to follow your tree-spotting Instagram account.

Essai: Yes! Shout out to @delhitreespotters .

Nooran: essai somehow manages to find a balance of learning and having fun. That’s why it’s different here; that’s why we like hanging out here.

Essai: Even when we confiscated your phones? We remember that Junko was not at all comfortable with that!

Nooran: Junko spends six hours and eleven minutes on her phone each day!

Junko: I just like to stay in touch with everyone! If you DM or snapchat me I’ll reply in seconds.

Nooran and Samara: But she’ll send super long and detailed emails too!

Junko: We love sending emails to one another! The more formal the better.

Nooran: I’ll always remember the email you sent me to tell me you had a boyfriend..

Essai: What? She broke the news in an email?

Nooran: Yes! I still have it! She was so apologetic and serious *She begins to read it out..*

Junko: Hey, I can read out some of your emails too! *Hola Chicas, good afternoon, how have your days been? I’m on my way home from a rather short ACT class. I had physics class this afternoon,  and the highlight of my day was when Miss said “Good girls, good” after our presentation. Actually, that’s quite sad, I should probably find another highlight. Anyway, in basketball Madhav was looking hot in his shorts….*

**rest of emailed redacted**

Essai: Haha that’s brilliant. Thanks for sharing!

Can we finish with a game? You’ve each been sent to a (different) deserted tropical island where you’ll have to live until you are rescued. You can take three songs, one book, and one luxury item with you. What would you choose?

Junko: My tracks would be Sweet Creature (Harry Styles), Better Together (Jack Johnson), and Party in the USA (Miley Cyrus). I’d take Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman) to read, and my luxury item would be a mannequin head  so that I could do hairstyling.

Asha: I can’t choose! I definitely wouldn’t take a book. Apart from my sketchbook. That would be my luxury item – a sketchbook and some art materials.

Samara: I know which songs I’d choose – can I take five? Desi Girl (Dostana), Hall of Fame (Will.I.Am), 90210 (Travis Scott) , You’re Beautiful (James Blunt), and A Team (Ed Sheeran). My book would be Harry Potter – I’d never get sick of that. As a luxury I’d have to take a DVD player so I could watch Yeh Jeevani Hai Deewani  on repeat. I’m obsessed.

Nooran: I think I’d take a book which has been sitting on my shelf for ages and I’ve always wanted to read – Das Kapital. Being on the island would force me to read it! Perhaps I could turn my island into a Marxist paradise. My luxury item would be a notebook and pen so I could write, and my music would be Drive (Oh Wonder), Dark Necessities (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), and Still Feel Like Your Man (John Mayer).

Essai: Not one person would take an essai binder? Not even a practice ACT paper? Wow. Ouch. We’d definitely cover all the cave walls on our desert island with grammar rules and math formulae. That would be a true paradise.

*THE END*