A government official's speech on his book launch begins with his recollection of his humble childhood who aspired to be someone big. He narrates a few incidents about his hard work to change the fortunes of his unlettered parents, and then he calls her to the stage- the lady he has dedicated his book to-his school teacher. Her salt pepper hair, through which her small studs peek ,her simple yet elegant cotton salwar-kameez and her smile that reaches her eyes are all memorable.
She never had access to a fancy education and could barely finish her Junior basic teacher's training course before she was married off at 20 without even her formal consent.
Born at the wake of independence in a small hilly village this girl struggled to go to school like her two elder brothers and while they went to the local missionary school and she had to be content with the village government school, 2 kms away.
She started working as a teacher only after her marriage but financial independence did not take away any of the social stigma attached with not having a child soon after marriage.
The child happened 14 years later but throughout she loved her students and her work devotedly, it was her solace, her strength and she was the light of hope for many of her students. She worked as if IT REALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE to the young girls she taught and their families. The kids in school, according to her needed her more, because they came from families with almost no resources and no inclination to send their girls to school.
There were ugly scenes with families and a couple of times with the police as well to prevent child marriages and allow girls to study further if they so willed.
Her husband had a good job for a comfortable life even without her salary but she wanted to work- for herself, and more importantly for her belief that a teacher could ignite minds and souls like no one else ever could.
Now she works with several NGOs. Her age does not prevent her from still giving it her all. Her husband and daughter now understand, love and respect her even more for bringing beauty to her work.
Often we keep looking out for inspiration, from biographies of great people, from a biopic about a legend and in the process fail to look at the stellar lives lived by people closer home. These commoners do not have awards on their mantelpiece or public acclaim but their stories are stories of grit, passion and love for their work. It is difficult to look at your own from a distance and narrate their story objectively, but today I have tried.
I am proud that this amazing lady in this story is my mom. It’s a tough call, a huge dilemma, which is more beautiful, my mom or her work.