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The Baldwinian

You were five when you entered Baldwin Girls’ High School. The day was a blur and even though you wore a green skirt, the others wore intimidating blue uniforms.

You quickly adapted as a newcomer to the world of reading and writing. Your head was bent over a notebook, clutching the page with two tiny fingers to achieve that perfect indent to your paragraph.

You were given a dark blue, majestic looking diary with the school emblem on the cover. It looked and felt important, and teachers used it to rat on you to your parents. Exam scores, bad behaviour, forgotten notebooks- they’d all be recorded in the diary along with tomorrow’s homework.

You had your first experience of true horror when an older girl told you about the ghost in the tree and the girl who died in the elevator by the bathroom many centuries ago. You were too scared to ask your teacher about it; you just stayed clear of trees and avoided drinking too much water.

If you grew up before the “no beating” rule, you received your fair share of raps on the knuckles for speaking out of turn. You walked back to your seat after taking the hit; palms stinging from the wooden ruler and eyes stinging from tears of humiliation.

You stood with your arms outstretched as a lady measured you for a new school uniform; you were excited to begin your new life in Middle School – pinafore and all.

You were elected class leader. It was an important role that only grew more important as you got older. You paced around and yelled at the noisemakers, and your shiny leader’s badge completed the authoritative look. 

Events and festivals came and went. More than once, you were part of a group that sang, danced and acted on stage. Just for a day, your slightly messy school uniform would be accepted. Some teachers would even go as far as to say “don’t bother changing back into your uniform now.” It was surreal to sit through classes in a costume and makeup. 

You lost a classmate. At fourteen, she and her family died in a car accident. A classroom full of girls sat dumbfounded as the strictest teachers gently broke the news, sounding like they were holding back tears themselves.  

You took your first school trip to North India. You spent three days in a train with hundreds of others your age, pushed the boundaries of what you could say to the teachers, and brushed your teeth with a view of a village you were passing by.

You graduated from the Middle School Library to the Senior Library with a sense of pride. Whether you read every book in the Sweet Valley series or caught up on gossip in the smaller rooms, the library was a merciful break from the real world.  

You marched with the band on sports day. You wore a red checkered uniform and a serious expression. Because of the band, you fell in love with sports day – even though the only time you’d ever run was from vicious stray dogs. Why does the “loser band kid” stereotype exist?

You watched your teachers let their hair down and profess their love to you for Children’s Day. It was today that you realized how much you loved them, even though they drove you as crazy as you drove them.

When the first of December rolled around every year, the excitement was tangible. The speakers blasted Christmas carols, teachers were a little more lenient, and you could always see groups of students practising the show they’d later put on. At this time the graduating batch became even more emotional, and it was understandable why. December in Baldwins was a month-long party, from Christmas singalongs to the skit with three kings and a camel. 

You sat in an eerily silent classroom as you wrote the exams that would decide your fate. After three years of hearing “it’s important to learn that for the boards,” the real thing was here. You found them easier than the torturous practice exams you had to give.

Before you knew what was happening, you were attending farewell parties, bonding with everyone else in the graduating batch and wondering just what would happen next year. Your uniform was signed by 200 other girls while you signed theirs. For one day every year, the graduating batch stood out as the girls with writing all over their uniforms.   

It’s been many years and you barely think of school anymore. You have a job, a house and wonderful people in your life. But when the first of December arrives, you find yourself thinking of the teachers who shaped you. You find yourself thinking of the “rebels” in your class that you didn’t think would amount to anything. Today, they run successful businesses and spread thoughts of love and inclusion in a world that’s quick to alienate. They make you realize how much you have to grow. 

For 136 years now, Baldwins has etched itself into the minds of thousands of young women – the sharp command of “Baldwin girls, dis-miss,” followed by five rhythmic claps, the terror of getting caught with unpolished shoes, the memory of Mr. Mitchell playing the guitar in music class. But slowly, each part of the school was replaced with something new. Today, you can barely recognize the fancy new buildings that have replaced the musty old ones. While it’s upsetting, remember that you’re unrecognizable too – sometimes even to yourself.

Thank you for everything, Baldwins. And happy birthday.     


Image by Baldwin Girls High School Facebook page

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29 thoughts on “The Baldwinian

    1. I am from a class of 1956! Miss Wilson ( the principal) miss Leonard ( the head) , Mrs .Bradbury, ( my very favourite class teacher, who followed us to the next class!) our French teacher ( can’t spell her name!)
      A deep dark forest of trees way back against the wall. Our favourite ‘hiding place’, we were the fearless lot, no ghosts for us!
      Unfortunately my vivid memory is that of standing on my chair, for talking in class. I must have spent a lifetime doing that!!
      Our Botany class was a joy. Our school had beautiful bushes and flowering plants in the grounds.
      Blue Birds and Girl Guids would sit here singing and repeating the Motto.”Be Prepared !!”
      Sports day was a grand affair, the Gardener with his chalk, busy marking the tracks, teachers and seniors setting up the poles etc..A band in readiness! We would eagerly lookout for our parents, sitting in the Pavillion.
      This Pavillion also substituted as playtime where we invented and played games We would hurry there, after quickly devouring our lunch.
      The huge bell would clang and with long faces, back to class.
      We had our morning prayers in the hall, dances, skits and last but not least ,the Convocation !!
      We graduated from Senior Cambridge, wearing white! Sitting for the photograph with the Principal and The Headmistress, wearing their black gowns, putting our best face forward.
      “It was the best of times . It was the worst of times,
      It was the day of Wisdom…”
      We were Baldwinians and all out to conquer the world!
      Fatima Siddiqui ( nee Husain)

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  1. Perfect recollection!! Thank you for jogging the collective “Girlie” memory with this beautifully written and evocative piece 🙂
    And countless thanks to the teaching and non-teaching staff at BGHS for bookending that trying yet precious decade of innocence in our lives 🙂

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  2. Oh! How I miss my Baldwins! I am forever in love with my school. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me everything what I am today, my character, my destiny. How rosy and protected have I been in Baldwins . I can’t imagine a life otherwise. I miss you Baldwins and thank you so much for sowing in me the seed which brought forth the gift of life. Thank you. Forever grateful. Yours Komal Uppal.

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  3. Thank you for reviving so many memories! i studied in baldwins for 5 yrs till the 6th grade and reading this post now when I’m 20, made me recollect so many amazing memories that i thought i didn’t remember at all (especially the ghost in the tree part :D) So thank you 🙂

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  4. Thank you so much for this!! It brings back so many memories! Hiding in the bathroom to skip march past!Christmas parties! For the swimmers, Swim meet and for the BDO officers – BDO Retreat and what not!! Miss Fransan of the booming voice and turn a blind eye to the favourites 😛 ( me included) .Its been almost 20 years since I graduated and this brings everything back afresh!!! Kudos !!

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  5. East or West…Baldwins is the BEST….
    Baldwins..is in my heart and in my mind..glancing back nearly 43 years ago…the gracious parlour with the opalescent ,silky curtains…the window seat…the grand piano in the corner…old Mrs Gill with her walking stick…the elegant Principal, Dr KashiRam….the bubbly Ms Baldwin and the golden haired Buffy, who used to precede her into our Geography sessions…Miss Fritchley yelling at us in the Dormitory…Girrrlllss…get uuuppp!
    Mrs Gadhadhar who made Julius Caesar come alive in her English…the only girlie Band who welcomed the President!! Oh what fun…midnight feasts…licki g pickle bottles clean….and of course the ghostly stories of fair blue eyed girls who died in the dorm…the monkeys who used to invade the upper rooms…..the Tuck Man with the Bulls eye Peppermints and peanut Stickjaws..our giggly gang of friends…still in touch after all these decades…Baldwins, U are thegolden bond that binds, the strength of character in our beings…we love you..we bow our head before You, our Alma Mater!!!

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  6. Lovely…!

    Once a Baldwinian….Baldwinian Forever..!
    A part of me was nurtured by Baldwins..!Thank You Baldwins For Making Me What I Am Today..!

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