If you help yourself, others will help you
The 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 bath outside without anyone watching. We had a little area outside covered with sheets, but it didn’t do a very good job of keeping the privacy for 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 water for bath. I had to be very frugal with using water to take bath, it was limited and needed a lot of effort to get water for every day use. It wasn’t easy to take bath in winter, water used to be very cold so bath had to be quick. I used stick from tree (name of tree is neem) to brush my teeth, we didn’t have tooth brush or tooth paste. Some mornings, we could have tea and bread or chapati, on others we couldn’t. We didn’t have clock/watch to look find time. I always reached school very early. I would ask people “time” on my walk to the school. Primary school wasn’t far for me though there were other girls who walked close hour to get to school.
I loved morning prayer in school. First 2 lines of the prayer 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 the class, listening to the teacher. School had 2 restrooms, one for teachers and one for students. The restroom for students barely ever got cleaned. We girls had to find clean, 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 few minutes of the class.
Primary school provided mid day meal, that was distributed a few minutes before school ends. The reason to provide the meal late was, so students stayed in school till the end. I used to eagerly wait for 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 Sunday 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 for most. But there were 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 will ask questions and who ever answered, will get the extra food. I always got it. I studied very hard. I would go home after school ends and will 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 school year. We got books before the break would start. I used to finish all the text books during the summer break. I had gone through the books many times by the time school year end. There were very few families living close to school where father in the family had govt job and sent their kids to private school (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 any English from. Govt school I went to was Hindi medium.
Teachers loved me and treated me very well. It didn’t take long before teachers realized that I love studying. My primary teacher’s name was “Mrs Gargee”, she knitted sweater for me, hand knitted 3 times during 5 years of primary school. “Mrs Sarla, who was class teacher of another section, she stitched school uniform for me every year. School principal bought shoes for me every year.
School principal wanted to adopt me — In 3rd year of primary school, principal called my dad to school told him that she wanted to adopt me. My father was ready for me to be adopted by her. He wanted me to have better life. I didn’t want to leave my dad. He was the person I wanted to study hard for and do something for. Principal looked into scholarship tests that gave money if I cleared the tests. She applied for me for 2 years in school for those tests. The tests were called “Medhavi Chatravritti Pariksha” which means “Test for intelligent student”. I did well on those tests. The scholarship gave 350 rupees 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 afternoon shift. He didn’t enjoy studying. After I will finish from school, I will look around to find him and take him to school every day, make sure he is in his class. Afternoon shift was for boys. All the boys in his class laughed at me everyday when I forcefully dropped my brother in the class. I used to go during his lunch break to check if he is still in the school. I did that for few years till he got old enough to fight with me and run away. He dropped school at the end of primary school.
There is a lot more from primary school years, but if I wrote everything, I wont be able to publish it for few days.