My brothers would go to school, I stayed home:
Despite the fun and games during my childhood, when I reflect upon my early days today, I feel we could have done more – especially on the subject of equality.
At the time, women were systematically barred from getting an education – right from the government led institutions to the practices at home. For a young girl like me, even the thought of receiving an education was out of the question.
People would believe that “if one would allow their daughters to get an education, they would elope.” Such was the mindset of the era.
My two brothers, Kedar Lal and Damodar Lal and two uncles, Purna Bahadur and Chandra Bahadur would study in Durbar High School. In the mornings, I used to play with them, but in the afternoon, when they would be in school, I would be alone.
I used to constantly wonder why I wasn’t sent to school like my brothers.
I should be fed with my brothers:
I remember explicitly, my mother waking up early in the morning, and toiling in the kitchen through the morning to feed my brothers and uncles before they were sent to school. Only after my brothers and uncles had been fed and sent to school, my mother would finally find some time for me. She would call me for my meal, and I would sit with the rest of the women of the house to eat my meals.
I did not like this one bit, and one day asked my mother:
“You feed your school going sons first, but me, your daughter who is born of the same womb as them, has to eat later with you? Why is there such unfairness in our treatment? I should be fed with my brothers”.
My grandmother, who was listening to the entire conversation, was stunned.
They say the seeds of defiance are sowed early. Perhaps it was these little things that developed within me the confidence to object to unfair treatment and other forms of social injustices – first within my home, and later, out in the world.
Nevertheless, I also consider this my first victory – because from the next day onward, I sat and ate beside my brothers in the morning.
Mother & Me:
Although I would mostly raise my voice in defiance mostly with my mother, there was little that she could do. She was after all a daughter-in-law herself. My father too, at the time was in Dhanbad, Kolkata pursuing his mechanical course.
My mother, perhaps being a woman herself, would understand my defiance. While outwardly she would discourage my actions, on the inside, she would understand and support me. Hours after reprimanding me, she would come close to me and promise to buy me books and other education materials, to which I would reply:
“No, I don’t want to get the kind of education you got. I want to go to school like my brothers”.
However, truth be told, most of the education I received was from her itself. She brought me a chalk and slate, a few books, and taught me basic math and language. She would also recite to me a few texts that she knew, which I remember till today.