“Are we really poor like everyone says, Maa?” I would ask my mother as she would carry a heap of home grown vegetables to sell in the market. I would accompany her plainly because I would get to sit with her in the stall and sell vegetables, for me, which was fascinating. I was in GradeII, one of the brightest kids in my class. My mom always thought that I was a lucky kid.
“We are not poor. Poverty is just a state of mind. Education is the most treasured asset in this world and you have to value it. There are people who can’t afford to go to school” she would tell us and it was correct. Compared to what we would see around us (young kids forced to work in extreme condition for daily wages), we were on a much better place. My parents never forced us to work and always encouraged us to go to school and when I think about it now, working, for me, was making sure that I contribute, in small bits, to the family’s effort to sustain.
I come from a small town called Umrangso, in Dima Hasao district of Assam where my father has a huge reputation as the “tall thin milkman” who has strived by the sweat of his brows and the strength of his back to educate his children. Even today, he wakes up at 4 in the morning, attends the cows, collects milk, cycles for around six kms and delivers milk to the people of the town. He is one of the few milkmen who still cycles in his old corroded 32 inch Hero Double Bar Bicycle.
Amidst all this, going to the school primarily with the intent of playing cricket, to leaving for the forest with an axe and saw heavier than our own weight, I and my other siblings grew up. From accompanying my mother in selling vegetables to winning couple of national level debates, I didn’t realize when I completed my Masters from Tezpur Central University. And just when my father thought of retiring from his daily milk delivering routine, in the hope that his son will be earning enough to sustain the family, I decided to take this fellowship up and devote two years of my life with the hope that I will be able to provide my kids what I was deprived of when I was a kid.
(The writer is a Teach For India fellow who joined the organisation after completing his masters at Tezpur University last year)
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