Friday, February 12, 2010

An " Educated " Illiterate lady.....

Update(March 6, 2010) This post selected by Blogadda (Blog Partner of Indusladies IWD contest), as Spicy Saturday Pick......

Update(Feb 26): This post is now selected for display as one of the Top ten entries.

(category : Womens' education) Click the graphic on the far left.

(The following is a true story told to me, by the illiterate, smart lady who has been our family's household help for the last 25 years.)

In her words .....

" It's the story of the five of us. And I was the youngest of the children.

My parents, my two brothers and me. Father worked for one of the biggest Engineering Colleges in Mumbai, in the department that did repairs all over campus.

My two older brothers were in the huge school near the Market Gate. I used to feel so proud to see them going off each morning in their blue pants and white shirt. Sometimes I felt like going myself. Aaiyo ! How would I wear those blue frocks ? Exposing the knees and skirts billowing in the breeze ? Aaai would be furious. So I used to avidly pour through my brothers' books, and pretend I was studying them.

One passed 10th grade , the other did not. I was married off to someone recommended by our relatives in the native village.

At first it was exciting; a new life, new energy, new places. I had five children. One after another. Four sons, one daughter.

I heard the stories about the drinking. Every day, at sundown, it was so different from back home. Then the beatings began .

And I heard about the Other woman. And decided I did not want to hear any more.

I sent word to my father and mother . That was the smartest thing I did.

They came. And we left. My father carried my youngest , my daughter, in his arms , and asked me to walk ahead of him. With my mother, head held high.

I was back on campus. My children went to the big school. I helped my mother , who worked as a household help in four houses. She too was getting old. I took over my mothers work.

Like they say about the teachers in the college, when my mother grew old, she "retired".

My sons, studied with the help of the uncles, indulged in by the grandparents, and I decided my daughter too would study, and get all the opportunities I never knew I could have.

This time it was my mother who supported me. My father was getting old. His sons were now working. So while I worked various houses doing housework and cleaning, my mother would wait to make fresh hot chappaties , for her granddaughter, when she came back from school. Looking on proudly as she struggled to do homework, sometimes with the help of her brothers, sometimes despite them.

And then came the day, my father collapsed one day on his way home from visiting a friend. My mother was "super-un-educated", but super smart otherwise. She sat stoically at his bedside, occasionally coming out when his friends from department at college, came to see him, surreptitiously wiping her tears....

He died two days later. My children missed him a lot. He and my mother never went to school. But were more educated that many of the sirs and ladies I worked for.

I am both father and mother to my children. My daughter got married a few years ago. My sons decided to give her a wedding she would never forget.

In some ways, she never forgot her wedding.

Seven months of a different type of hell. Beatings. She did not have a father to call; just an old mother, and brothers.

But she had an education, she could read and write, and do simple sums, and was good at assorted craft work.

And so one evening she ran. No footwear, dressed in the one sari that she had been wearing through the day, and appeared at her mother's doorstep at 10 o'clock one night.

I just opened my heart out to her. So did her brothers. She was not going back. She had an education. She would stand on her own feet, and not be trampled.

My daughter has a daily job at a place where they make ready made clothes. Her grandmother can't see now. But her eyes light up whenever we visit. She is very proud of her granddaughter.

And all this because someone thought education is useful, and helped me send my daughter to school; you know, its not so much about what subjects you study ---its about learning to see a problem, and deciding how to solve it. My daughter went to school, then learned from life itself.

What education gave her was confidence.

Sometimes I really wonder, am I literate, illiterate, educated, or uneducated ? "


I would like to to tag my friends Manju, Padma, and G , and invite them to take part in this Indus Ladies IWD blogfest.


  1. Real inspiring hats off to you lady

  2. I wish everybody was like this family...

    Being literate is not the same as being educated...The story teller and her mother prove the point...

  3. Children aren't robots and shouldn't be treated as easy to medically "fix."

    Work From Home

  4. Wish we had more like them!

    That was so inspiring. It must have taken a lot of courage to let the daughter stay - especially for the previous generation - but the fact that they still did, just shows that illiterate does not necessarily mean uneducated.

  5. Wonderful story and, as usual, wonderfully told!

    I'll see if I can write one...

  6. Life is a school and common sense is learned there. Education comes in all forms, not just the 3 R's.

    Brave women to leave an abusive husband; some are not so courageous. My hat is off to them.

  7. She was educated, but I believe she had an inner indomitable spirit. A fire in the heart that got her out of that situation. And..knowing her family would support her must have been a big help.

    I was in a situation of abuse many years ago, and I did not feel I could go home..that bothered me more than the living situation.

    You are a smart lady with a compassionate heart, I'm so glad to have met you.

  8. I know many girls with a degree who put up with abuse just for fear of "what will people say" and also because there is no support from their own maternal home. It is the spirit of her whole family that is to be applauded. She may be unlettered but she is very wise and that is what is lacking in most educated people.

  9. Done your tag.thanks for tagging me.As for this lady, your servant, she is more educated than many of us who look the other way when someone known to us is abused.

  10. Hello again Suranga, I love how how make me feel that I'm visiting you, it's like I'm sitting in your company listening to your family and friends stories and experiences..

    I remember hearing you tell this previously and the story has lost none of the effect - during the time passed .

    This lady sounds very wise in common sense which is much more precious and useful to own than certificates given out at school showing how much book learning a person can keep in their brains.

    I know of two brothers - when the elder was 5 yrs. (he was causing chaos at school) It was thought that he needed more to interest him . It was suggested that his I.Q. be tested, they found he had an exceptional high I.Q. He was sent to 'Private School'..

    Neither his behaviour nor attitudes improved. He now has 3 children after 2 relationship breakups. He is intelligent comes across as a great character and good fun in company - but has no common sense !!

    The other brother is totally different, he has a good nature, he plodded through school managed to get good exam results, is coping well in his chosen field of work, is happy personally and has a home and family which is strong. He also has common sense in abundance......

    Thanks for posting this again,
    Hugs, Kate x.

  11. This is so inspiring. They r the real literates. Just loved that line .. head held high! This family is a wonderful example to all of us! God bless them!

  12. What an inspiring story! 'its not so much about what subjects you study ---its about learning to see a problem, and deciding how to solve it.' Kudos to that thought!

    Came here from Solilo's blog. Glad to have come by. Will look forward to reading you more often :)

  13. am in tears as i finish reading this..tears of realisation n frustration about lot of things..thanks a lot :)

  14. This post is so awesome S Maushi!! Brought tears to my eyes.

  15. Pesto Sauce Thank you.

    Ramblingsbybones Thank you. I wish so too...

    Nishant I agree

    wordsanddreamzThank you..and the mother is a brave lady..

    Manju Thank you . Waiting for your story/entry....

    Darlene Thank you.

    Lou Yes, she knew her family would stand behind her, like her grandparents stood behind her mother...Thank you.

    Usha Yes, the spirit of that entire family is to be admired...

    HHG Thank you.

    Kate Thank you for the nice comments and story...

    Swaram Thank you. Yes, education and literacy are actually quite different. the required ingredient in both is guts, truth and common sense....

    deeps Thank you and welcome !

    quaintkal Thank you and take care...

    Sonia Thank you, ga!

  16. This is my first visit to your site but it won't be my last! What a wonderful and inspiring story. Your lovely lady has the wisdom of discriminating awareness and that is gold indeed.

  17. Heart touching life story. hats off to the lady's braveness to make right decisions at right times. I wish more people would understand the importance of education and the fact that "its not the subjects that are important. its the exposure, self confidence and basic skills that form the foundation of a better future that really is the result of education".

  18. Beautifully written!!
    Came here via G.

    Its an inspiring story and I hope and pray that more families are accepting of their daughter's decision to leave her husband's house!

  19. Wisdom and self-respect...things that families, and not schools teach. Along with education, they're powerful tools. Thanks for this inspiring story. Congrats for being selected!

  20. This is indeed a wonderful post. Its more on being aware of situations and thinking with a clear head and taking decisions. And, of course, education gives that confidence.

    And Congratulations on being in the Top 10 !!!!

  21. Its a lovely inspirational story. I think the last line summed it best: "My daughter went to school, then learned from life itself."

    The power of education runs deep down! I admire the parents, who kept their head up high in those times and it was courageous of her to call them as well

  22. ANd oh yes... congrats on being Top 10. big achievement!

  23. Women as you have rightly presented, are true "heros"!! Education is empowering her, so she derives the strength to cope with what life demands at times. Rest, is mostly upto the Woman herself - Hats off to the Hero of your story! And Congrats on being on the Best 10 list!!

  24. She was so right. And congratulations :)
    A really well written post :)

  25. first time here and already a fan :)
    brilliant narration, valuable story :)

  26. Suranga, Was just told about your post getting selected in the top 10 of Indus ladies contest.

    Totally deserving!

    Such stories are always an inspiration.

  27. sneha Thank you.

    Jan Morrison Thank you.

    Saneh Thank You.

    Shail Thank you.

    Sujatha Thank you, and yes she is a very gutsy and sensible lady

    Momofrs Thank you and welcome.

    Starry eyed Thank you, and yes, one must learn from life itself....

    Swaram Thank You.

    Nu thank you

    Umsreflections Thank you

    GNSD Thank you.

    VS Thank you.

    Meira Thank you.

    Celestial rays Thank you and welcome...

    Solilo Thank you...

  28. That's a very touching story of some things do not change, while some things do change with education. Drunken men beating up wives is not new but women getting out to lead their own lives instead of getting beaten and even killed by their lousy husbands and in-laws is a welcome change. Congrats!

    Sudha Narasimhachar

  29. Hey...loved your story...was wondering if I cud speak to u for a story I am doing, on women contact me on Thanks

  30. More than the formal education, what matters are the compassion, care and ability to distinguish right from wrong. This lady's family seems to have all of it. Kudos to them. And congratulations Suranga on the top 10 pick. I am so glad I came by.

  31. More than the formal education, what matters are the compassion, care and ability to distinguish right from wrong. This lady's family seems to have all of it. Kudos to them. And congratulations Suranga on the top 10 pick. I am so glad I came by.

  32. There are many educated woman who are in the same situation...and yet ecide to hang on. It maybe because of a sense of security or familiarity or just coz they have no guts.
    I wish such people would have a little confidence in themselves and not base their identity on that that of sumone else..that will give them the strength to decide what is right for them; never mind if society disapproves...
    Education isn't worth it unless it is made use of...

  33. WOW ... a story that speaks of positivity ....

    A very similar story was told at

    Goes to show, we have many strong women around .....

  34. I saw this inspiring post in top ten in Indusladies contest :) Congratulations and best wishes.
    I am sure if an illiterate mother could take a stand - her beautifully told story can inspire educated mothers to stand by their daughters.

  35. i wish more of us, can see the wisdom and the courage in this story....lovely post and very inspiring

  36. Came here from IHM's blog.

    The day education makes a difference is only if we plan to put it to any use!

  37. had goosebumps reading your post.. hats offdear!!

  38. this is a common story told in the simplest but most effective manner. strength is support and support is strength. well-said.

  39. Very touching... I wish every family having a daughter (and not educating them) realizes this... I wrote something on similar lines... hope you will like it....

  40. Beautiful post. Beautifully written. Only today was I talking to a woman who is in a semi-abusive marriage. And she is a Masters in English. And NOT financially independent. She is totally illiterate I presume.
    I love your style. I am a first timer but would come back for more.

  41. I am glad your daughter escaped. Your story is heartfelt and tells of a world far different to mine.
    You're a brave lady and you are fiar sighted in seeing education as a means of being able to stand on one's own feet.
    Good luck ahead for you and yours.
    Melbourne Daily Photo