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Educating daughters

By Nickunj Malik - Sep 20,2017 - Last updated at Sep 20,2017

The government of India launched an initiative to save and educate the girl child, roughly two years ago. I have been harping on this issue for the last several decades but nobody really listened to me. It was only when decline in the child sex ratio (defined as the number of females per one thousand males, within the age group of 0-6 years) reached alarming proportions, the concerned authorities woke up from their apathy, to spread social awareness on this subject. 

I belong to a family where the women had to fight for their higher education because it was not automatically granted to them. I am talking about my mother’s generation, of course. My grandmothers had to battle to even go to school. As soon as they mastered the alphabet and could do basic counting, their names were withdrawn and they were made to contribute in the housework at home. 

My mum, on the other hand, convinced my maternal granddad to allow her to enrol at the renowned BHU for an undergraduate degree. She had to switch three trains and one streamer at the end of each term, in order to reach Banaras from the interiors of Assam, where her father was posted. But she was resilient and so were many of my aunts and it was only this determination that finally helped in getting them good academic qualifications.

When our daughter was born, we were overjoyed, but while the rest of the family were cooing over her cherubic looks and angelic smile, I was already planning her intellectual future. Soon after her naamkaran (naming ceremony), I started singing the letters of her name out to her in the form of a lullaby. She listened with rapt attention to my every utterance and one day, when I least expected it, she mimicked me perfectly. 

From then onwards we were on a roll and much before her second birthday, she could identify every colour of the rainbow, recognise most of the animals in her picture book and hum all the nursery rhymes and nonsensical ditties that I made up for her. She was especially good at spelling the names of her little friends and if they made any mistake, she corrected them immediately. “No, no no, it is not Simta,” she would lisp. “S-m-i-t-a, S-m-i-t-a”, she would repeat to the confused child.

“That is how you spell your name,” she announced.

Despite moving from one country to another with my husband’s job, for which she was compelled to switch five international schools, she pretty much sailed through them without much difficulty. I would coach her at home and had to teach myself rudimentary Arabic, French and Spanish, which were her additional subjects, before helping her with them. 

When the time for her college applications dawned, we were in East Africa, with the most dubious Internet and postal services on the planet. Following in the footsteps of her matriarchs, our daughter had to struggle too before she got admitted into the higher portals of academia.

All these thoughts were going through my head when I called to wish her happy birthday.

“Mom, can you come for my graduation?” she asked. 

“Again? But I’ve already attended twice,” I replied. 

“This one is my second master’s degree before I start PhD,” she stated. 

“Remember your favourite mantra — save daughters by educating them?” she continued.

“Well, yes,” I answered. 

“I am simply fulfilling your wish,” she laughed.

 

“God bless you,” I said.

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Comments

Beautiful read, as much for the snippets that raising a child, especially a daughter,forming into a collage, in such a short passage, but also for the eminence that you give to the important issue. As they say, you educate a boy you educate just a man, educate a girl and you educate a family. Incuding the better half of the population into the intellectual and economic loop, makes so much sense anyway.

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