“I voluntarily retired 16 years before my tenure. Some of my old students still seek me out. I have tried to inculcate values of hard work, honesty and courage in all my students. Now, I have time to watch cricket matches, discuss politics, read and cook for my grandkids. Cooking which used to be a compulsion in earlier days is now enjoyable.
Adversities didn’t stop me from enjoying my childhood and youth. Innocence was my strength and life was still an unexplored journey. I indulged in a number of pranks right from pinching away sweetmeats from railway vendors, to fooling shopkeepers playfully.
My mother was 22 when she died. I still have memories of my mother’s belongings kept under the neem tree in the courtyard. My father wept as he paced beside her body. I was five and had two younger siblings. Three years later he committed suicide, probably, because of loneliness. He was not even 30.
It wasn’t easy to live with a joint family of businessmen, politicians and seven elder brothers, in the late 40s. I was the playmate of convenience for my brothers and a helping hand for women in the household. Nobody bothered about my education until one fine day I walked into a nearby municipal school and announced, ‘Gurujee, I want to study.’ Everyone in the family stood against my decision, except for my grandmother. She persuaded the family to have me admitted to the school.
A new journey began. I cooked, washed, cleaned and did all sorts of chores. Afterall, I was allowed to study in a household of 15 people where I was everybody’s liability but nobody’s concern. I knew that there was no way out for me except education. I made it a point to always do well in my studies.
On the first day of my 10th board exams, my uncle, who financially supported my education, died in an accident. I do not know how I gave my exams with grief and insecurity playing havoc in my mind. The end of my academic journey stared me in the face.
I had to leave my hometown and live with another uncle who agreed to support my education. Courage and self-belief paved my way. I joined NCC, participated in college activities, threw javelins and shot with rifles. During those days, girls were seldom allowed to participate in sports. But I defied my family.
Eventually, I finished my education, got a job in a reputed school and devoted myself to education. My younger brother and sister moved in with me and I helped them finish their education. I had a family of my own and a life that felt complete with shared joys and sorrows. Life is learning to walk one step at a time.”