“Are you an Ayah?” asked her daughter. I was told this by the young lady who works as a care-giver in a Home for the Mentally challenged. She said she did not know how to answer the question. But after a moment’s thought, she replied that her work involved looking after a little boy. With sadness in her voice, she confided in me that if she had been able to continue her studies, her life would have been different.
She is just thirty-three years old, but has studied only up to 7th grade. Long back, about two generations ago, girls completed only primary school and were married off at a very young age. But now that is not so. I asked her the reason for her dropping out of school so early in the present times. She told me that she and her parents had lived with her maternal grandparents. Her grandfather had been a very strict person. He believed that education was not necessary for girls. They were agriculturists, and he said that education was not needed for working in the paddy fields. She was married off early, and her two children are studying in primary school. She is determined that they should get a good education.
Listening to her, I was reminded of my paternal grandfather. He grew up in a hamlet. After completing his primary education, his father took him out of school for two reasons: he had no money to provide education to his only son; and the high school was in the city far away from the village. After a few years, financial problems forced his father to move the family to the city in order to find work. This was a turning point in my grandfather’s life. At the age of 17, when he was much older than his classmates he joined school again and went on to complete BA Honours in Mathematics and English. This was in 1916. He writes in his memoirs that he would always be grateful to his father for making it possible for him (his son) to continue his education after the family’s move to the city.
My grandfather was a teacher and a very good one. During his time, many students would drop out of school for one reason or another (usually financial problems). He encouraged his students to study well and continue their education. Due to this encouragement most of them went on to acquire good jobs. He also succeeded in providing very good education to his children. That legacy continues in our family to this day. Now my grandson, that is my grandfather’s great-great grandson is going to school.
‘You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.’