A Chatty Charmer And An M.Com Graduate

by | Nov 14, 2021

Nav Jyoti Primary School

A long walk in the scorching sun followed by a warm welcome and two glasses of Chaach (Butter Milk) each, the five of us (my co-fellows and I) set out to explore Jatara*, Rajasthan. As I led my team into the village, I saw a bunch of small boys with backpacks standing to my right, about 50 meters away. I disclaimed – “A school”. The next thing you know, we were standing on a small, bare land border by houses on two sides, entrance wall on one and of course, a humble two floors of school on the fourth side.

Kaun ho aap log” (who are you people?) came a voice from the school. I look up and there she was – Meenakshi Devi* Madam, the school teacher. We barely had an interaction of 10 seconds before she had called us up, offered a seat on the tiny, nostalgia inducing benches and introduced us to her two new recruits (who were waiting for their guardians for pickup).

She quickly inquired about us – where were we from, why we were there, what were we doing. As the small talk proceeded towards it’s last lap, ma’am got up, called out to one of her students for help and the next thing you know, we were being fed Bhujiya and Parel-G. “Poora khatam karna hai” (you need to eat the whole thing), saidMeenakshi ma’am as she spoke about her family of five – husband, wife and three daughters.

While ma’am has been working in this private school for 35 years, her husband is a mathematics and art teacher in the Udaipur district whose artwork of Maharana Pratap hangs proudly on one of the school walls.

After a generous hour and a half of a chat withMeenakshi Ma’am on the top floor’s open classroom we shifted downstairs, for the fan. This school was the only image that matched my imagination (based on stereotypes) of a village and hence, the room was a “typical” small one with number and alphabet charts hanging from the walls, three rows of metal benches that ran across the room and a black board with the date written in white chalk. However, just like our 61 year old ma’am (who we guessed to be around 50), there was a special element to it – A large speaker and mic. “My husband loves radio and he got it installed it for the school” said ma’am.

View from the school’s first floor

As we sat there, on the tiny benches facing ma’am, we learnt a little more about her and this time, it was not about her family members or their health issues but about her. She told us about how she agreed to her Brahmin daughter wanting to marry a Punjabi for the happiness and good of everyone. Ma’am, herself being a graduate in education, shared her views on importance of education and how she has always pushed all her daughters to study and pursue their passion. Lastly, her devotion towards God, as she quotes (translated from Hindi to English) “it’s okay to leave anything but always believe in God and not leave him. He will always be with you”.

One of the walls inside the school

Once we had almost reached the end of our conversation,Meenakshi ma’am while talking to us about the village told us about Shilpa*, a “nayi bahu” (newly-wed bride) who is an excellent artist. A few minutes later she voluntarily took us to Shilpa’s house bordering the school ground. Shilpa was a tall, bright female who I imagine to be in her 30s. She introduced herself to be an M.com graduate home-maker. We entered a house with walls covered in stickers and decorations. Opposite to the entrance was a couch with a showcase full of vases with handmade plastic and paper flowers.

Also read: Meenakshi Devi and Her Never Give Up Attitude by Nivedita, my co-fellow who accompanied me to Jatara

We could hear the chirping of the pet birds from her room, while a Hindi daily soap ran in the background. Our time at Shilpa’s house included conversations on politics – BJP vs Congress and Demonetization, of course sparked by our chatty ma’am, as we enjoyed the second round of snacks this time put out by Shilpa. A few minutes later, we bid adieu to Shilpa and the energeticMeenakshi ma’am ripped off in her two-wheeler after showing us the way to a temple nearby.

Shiv Mandir, Jatara

As we sat in the temple discussing about how fascinatingMeenakshi Devi ma’am has been and how welcoming Shilpa was – I felt excited, excited to explore Jatara, to work with my team, to hopefully accept ma’am’s invitation to visit her house and of course, about my India Fellow journey!

*Names changed to maintain confidentiality

A Day In Konta

A Day In Konta

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  1. Dr Sharada

    Very nicely written as though i was there in that villayin that school.Great job Akshatha💐

  2. Dr Sharada

    Very nicely written as though i was there in that villayin that school.Great job Akshatha💐


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