Fondness grows with time. 11 months in Kotra and my life mostly revolves around my students in the school here. Think of a child who is to get a new game which her mother is embracing. She would run to get it. The excitement would barely diminish even if one of her toe bangs into some furniture on the way. With uiii ayiii maybe, on one leg but there ain’t no stopping. Such, is my calling. Sometimes, to reach the school, I need to walk for a few kilometers before getting any transport. But the urge to spend time with my young bunch keeps my momentum.
The winter break is over and I enter my class with excitement. “Hellloooooooo” and they hoot back in noisy chorus. सब लोग कैसे हैं?
हम तो अससे हैं … हाऊ हैं हाऊ हैं।
Those smiling wide eyes were looking at me with much penchant. Some were laughing with heads down probably wondering about my hair which had been chopped off from shoulder length to half (thinking, next the madam ji is going to go bald). How do I tell those young rowdy champs that you “baalaks” are my priority. At least for now …
अरे दीदी, आज राष्ट्रीय बालिका दिवस है, आपको शुभकामनाएं।
Processing that, I picked up my phone to check the date. It was 24th of January. I immediately switched on my mobile internet (as an aware citizen of this nation and a candidly described Feminist I should have known). Swiping through, I pressed on one article in Hindi and called for a volunteer to read it aloud. I handed over my phone to him. He started, the first two sentences were loud and clear, keeping everyone attentive and then his voice lowered and forehead frowned due to the difficulty in pronouncing the tongue twisting words. Before children lose interest, a responsible facilitator (read I) had to take the charge. So I went on, किस किस को कन्या भ्रूण हत्या के बारे में पता है?
After a longish silence, हाँ हाँ सुना है. वही न जिसमें बच्चे को जन्म से पहले ही मार देते हैं?
I nodded affirmatively. दीदी हमने तो नहीं सुना। क्या होता है ये? (Others). तो कन्या भ्रूण हत्या में … And I continued for couple of minutes telling them about it. पर कोई इतनी छोटी सी जान को क्यों मारेगा? I was savouring as it grew interactive and went on to explain various reasons for this.
क्योंकि कुछ लोग मानते हैं कि लड़कियाँ कमा नहीं सकती, लड़कियां बड़े होकर दूसरे घर चली जाएंगी तो उन्हें पैदा करना पैसे और समय की बरबादी है, लड़की हुई तो दहेज देना पड़ेगा।
दहेज देना पड़ेगा? (confused)
हाँ, लडक़ी के घर वाले लड़कों को देते हैं शादी के समय।
पर हमारे यहाँ तो ऐसा नहीं होता है।
कैसा नहीं होता? मतलब कन्या भ्रूण हत्या नहीं होती?
अरे कन्या भ्रूण हत्या भी नहीं होती और लड़की वाले दहेज भी नहीं देते। हमारे यहाँ तो लड़के वाले दहेज देते हैं। लाड़ी घर लाने के लिए कुछ तो देना पड़ेगा ना! ऐसे कैसे ले आएंगे …
Suddenly a back-bencher jumps off his place. There is always something special about the back benchers. He adjusted his pants and said मैं ये पूछना चाहता हूँ कि अगर ऐसा होता है तो तुम कैसे बच गयी?
No sooner did he say that when laughter sputtered across the room. I was also laughing; the seriousness of the topic had vanished and the air had already lightened up. And, I am reminded of the reason for my excitement to be here. In isolation there are several serious thoughts that rise up in our mind and those of fun are settled un-stirred in some corner. It is the company of my kids that stir these thoughts back into the orbit of my brain.
Isn’t it sometimes better to be young and carefree just like that back bencher? Isn’t it fun to be inquisitive sometimes and not care to be judged?
Ah ! I already feel old … writing about all of this but this feeling dies down when I am with them. As the sun sets in and we walk through the bushy farms, together discussing more absurd things, my momentum and mood is just right to be home and hog.