I’m back with my second post. The first one was about how I got myself admitted in school!
Primary school turned out to be a blessing. I looked forward to going to school every day. School used to start at 7:30 am. I woke up very early while it was still dark, so I could take a bath outside without anyone watching. We had a little area outside covered with sheets, but it didn’t do a very good job of maintaining privacy for a bath.
We could not afford to take bath with hot water. Electricity or wood both were too expensive for us to buy just to heat bathing water. I had to be very frugal with using water – it was limited and needed a lot of effort to get for every day use. It wasn’t easy to take a bath in winter, the water used to be very very cold so one had to be super quick! I used a small stick from a neem tree to brush my teeth as we didn’t have any toothbrush or toothpaste. Some mornings we could have tea and bread or chapati, on others we couldn’t.
We didn’t have a clock/watch to know the time. I always reached school very early. I would ask people “time” on my walk to school. Primary school wasn’t far for me, though there were other girls who walked close to an hour to get to school.
I loved the morning prayer. First 2 lines were, “Itni shakti hame dena data, mann ka vishwas kamzor ho na, ham chalein nek raste pe hamse, bhool kar bhi koi bhool ho na”. It means “Give us enough strength God, that faith in our heart never weakens, that we always walk on the right path, and we don’t make any mistakes even accidentally”. I loved sitting in class, listening to the teachers.
School had 2 restrooms, one for teachers and one for students. The restroom for students barely ever got cleaned. We girls had to find relatively clean, rather, I should say less dirty places to urinate.
Water came once a day right around school lunch break. I had to run back to home to collect water for the day and come back to school. I used to get back to school a little after lunch break and used to miss a few minutes of class.
Primary school provided a mid-day meal that was distributed a few minutes before school ended. The reason to provide the meal late was to ensure students stayed in school till the end. I used to eagerly wait for the mid-day meal. That was the best meal or the only meal I would get to eat during the day. School was six days a week. I didn’t like Sundays because school was closed on Sundays.
I was doing very well in school, there wasn’t much to compare or compete with either. Students came to school mostly for food, study wasn’t the main reason. But there were a few other girls who were good at studies. I will talk about them in my later posts. Senior girls distributed the meal and if there was extra food left, they would ask questions and whoever answered, would get the extra food. I always got it. I studied very hard. I would go home after school and would start studying. I wanted to study as much as I could before it got dark.
We used to get 2 months of summer break at the beginning of the new school year. We got books before the break would start. I used to finish reading all the text books during the summer break. I would go through the books many times by the time school year ended. There were a few families who lived close to school where the fathers had govt. jobs and sent their kids to private schools (it wasn’t as expensive for them). I used to finish homework of their boys as the boys didn’t enjoy doing it. Those were the books I got to study some English from. The govt. school I went to was Hindi medium.
I was very lucky as the teachers loved me and treated me very well. It didn’t take long before the teachers realized that I loved studying. My primary teacher Mrs Gargee hand-knitted a sweater for me – 3 times during those 5 years of primary school. Mrs Sarla, who was a class teacher of another section, stitched a school uniform for me every year. Our school principal bought shoes for me every year.
Our school principal wanted to adopt me. In the third year of primary school, she called my dad to school and told him that she wanted to adopt me. My father was ready. He wanted me to have a better life. But I didn’t want to leave my dad. He was the person I wanted to study hard for and do something for. So our Principal looked for scholarship tests that gave money if I cleared the tests. The tests were called ‘Medhavi Chatravritti Pariksha’ which means ‘Test for intelligent students. I did well on those tests. The scholarship gave me Rs 350 for each exam. That helped our family a little bit.
When I reached 3rd standard, my brother was old enough to get admission in primary school. I took him and my dad to school for his admission. He went to the same school during the afternoon shift. He didn’t enjoy studying. Every day, after I finished school, I would look around to find him and take him to school and make sure he sits is in his class. Afternoon shift was for boys and all the boys in his class laughed at me everyday when I forcefully dropped my brother to class. I used to go during his lunch break to check if he was still in school. I did that for a few years till he got old enough to fight with me and run away. He dropped out of school at the end of primary school.
There is a lot more from primary school years, but if I try and write everything now, I won’t be able to publish this for a few days.
My twitter handle – @gomtimehta1