Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Golden Jubilee of an Innovatively Educated Illiterate Lady एका अनपढ़ हुशार बाईची कहाणी....

Intellectual brilliance, excellence in teaching, rigour and innovation in world class research.

When an entity celebrates this after 50 years of its existence, applause rises in a crescendo, the air is rife with congratulations, awards are declared, publicized, and celebrations echo across alumni-space, if the entity happens to be an institution. A familiar picture is that of parents, once students at the same place, exchanging notes about how their own children sailed through the same learning institute ,after them, and now straddle institutes of even higher education, not to mention higher pay, across continents.

Click to a story about someone, who grew up on the periphery of such an institution.

Her father was an employee, who all his life, proudly walked behind the mason, putting together crumbling parts of edifices, as part of his job. His male children attended school. The only female child, was married off in a mofussil area of Maharashtra, and had 4 children, and a very unhappy life, replete with violence . The old man, saw opportunities open up for the offspring of colleagues, thanks to easily available primary and secondary education on campus.

He had one of the most open minds that I know of. Against prevailing norms, with implicit belief in the strength of his daughters mind, he brought her home, with her four children, beseeched no one for help, and gave his daughter the finest gift she would ever know. A strong mind, an implicit belief that honest trying gets you everywhere, and a realization that ALL her children , including her daughter, must go to school, and learn from life s well as books.

They learnt very well from life.

Her daughter, completed her 7th grade, then found it difficult. Did a sewing class, and now freelances, sewing stuff , while doing a daytime factory job.

Her younger son, was of a age where he saw PC's around him, and his innate curiosity, and never-say-die efforts to grab every opportunity that allowed him to fiddle around with keyboards, wiggled his way into a group that did data entry for industries in the area. Intel may never know what it Inside this child's restless brain. Today he works on a PC , doing data entry from home, thanks to falling hardware prices, and a family of 9, that shares the single room tenement with him, and pretends not to hear the clackety clack of the keyboard in the dead of the night , as he plods on, dreams of success coloring his horizon.

Her two older sons, passed their school leaving exams. One of them assists in a Xerox copy centre, the other is a Man Friday/Messenger for a research company based on campus.

The most educated member in the family is the elder daughter-in-law. In a way, she has the most enlightened , and in a way, the most non-formally educated lady for a mother-in-law.

This daughter-in-law, has done her higher secondary schooling. Soon after marriage, she had an opportunity to do a library assistant's course. Her mother-in-law couldn't wait for her to start the course. She asked me about it, deputed an elder from the extended family to accompany the girl for completing formalities, and proudly reported to me a few days ago, about the successful completion of that by her daughter-in-law.

Mind you, life went on , all this while, and two small children were now on the scene.

But no reasonable requests for enhancing learning were denied, and theories of chaps getting a complex because their wife was more educated than them were relegated to where they belonged; in the text books, and to a world where everyone had so much, they paid more attention to heir egos than their vision.

This mason's illiterate, uneducated daughter, who helps me with the housework, recently came telling me about the Maharashtra State Certificate in Information Technology course that her daughter-in-law wanted to do, now that the older child was starting nursery school. I don't know about the young girl, but her mother-in-law was more excited than anyone I have seen whose child got a rank, say, in the JEE.......

"I told her to go by all means..." she told me; " I am at home in the evenings, and I will look after her kids. My other sons too will help and take turns".

They say God helps those who help themselves. Some of these Gods also decided to help me. I came to know of a a Trust that financed such course fees for women in need.

The young girl's application for aid was accepted, and to day she goes 3 evenings a week, with her mother-in-law's active support, to immerse herself in softwares, clicks, and other contraptions, that make magic on a screen , as well, as in her life, looking into the future.

Perhaps, nothing brought this home more than a conversation I had with her mother-in-law, my household help, as we walked together, a couple of days ago, she to her next household job and me, to the post office.

" She is having exams soon. Her roll number indicates that her examination center is a bit far away; but its OK. Her husband will go leave her and my younger son will go escort her back; she is new to that area, you know. "

She paused.

" They have a week off. And my "soonbai****" told me, that they are going to learn something called 'tailey'. Everyone talks about it in her class. Do you know what it is ? Is it difficult ? ..........."

Well, she certainly immortalized the accounting software "Tally", as far as I was concerned.

Here was this formally uneducated, unskilled lady, with a heart greater than any I have seen around me. Won't recognize a thing on the keyboard, or the screen; cannot read or write (except her name); but has been the finest example a child can ever have within a family. And she suspects , that "Tailey" as she calls it is something useful to learn.......

She has a knack for knowing what is good to learn and encourages it. If she doesn't know, she finds out who does. She has given her children a great attitude. Nothing intimidates her. Software, hardware, humanware. She believes there is always a solution . And she believes in keeping her eyes and ears wide open.

Its our turn to standby, mouths wide open, in amazed wonder.

In the golden jubilee celebration year of the institute where I reside on campus, my totally illiterate , but amazingly educated and aware household help, will be 50 this year. She spent her childhood and a large part of her married adulthood and motherhood here, while her father was alive.

What a wonderful example of what an educational environment can do in an ordinary struggling life.

What a great golden jubilee in her life.

( And to hell with all those degrees.........).

***** marathi for daughter-in-law


  1. What an inspiring story! and you recounted it with such lvig and humourous detail. I do so admire your narrative abilities, as much as your insights.

    Curiosity to learn is the kenote of the true student, not the results of exams, is it not?

  2. Your comment about "curiosity" hit the nail on the head. In an environment, where everywhere you turn you encounter the "cream" , nay "shrikhand" , among the students, and no one has eyes or ears for anyone less than 90% in currently hyped exams, I had reason to deal with some "learning failures" close to me. Gave me a new perspective on how learning can be fun, and a huge respect for the efforts of someone like my household help....

    I know you teach. Am all the more grateful for your comments.

  3. Knowledge in "humanware", I love that !

  4. Great story and you have immortalized her now, Ugich! I can see you admire her and I am with you, now! Is the girl you are mentioning here, in the picture? What is she doing now?

    What is her name?

  5. Sandhya Thank you. And the girl in the pic is just a representation, not the actual girl . The girl (daughter-in-law) who did the MS-CIT computer classes (which I helped her with for the fees) now works as an receptionist cum assistant at a Low cost pathological exam/diagnostic tests facility run by the local Jain Temple people; amazingly this has also allowed my help, ie her mother-in-law, get some Xrays and tests done at a subsidized rate .

  6. Its amazing, the way you give insights into everyday life .And life suddenly seems so large and beautiful.

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