It has been a world of men for centuries now. With patriarchy often crossing the line to dominance and causing suppression of the dreams of many women, there are some who are turning the tables.
As per the last Census of 2011, the female literacy rate was much lower than the literacy rate of male counterparts. The female literacy rate stood at 65.46% whereas the male literacy rate was 82.14%. What did we do about it? Not much except to campaign and send our women to school. But there is a young girl from India who went a step ahead than most of us to ensure a better literacy rate.
A girl pursuing her master degree in Biology from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Aarti Thakur, showed us that she can definitely become a successful person in life. Why? Because she had a different opinion about life. When the whole world was running behind success, fortune and fame she did something extraordinary. She started a ‘Tabela School’ for the illiterate married women in her village in Uttar Pradesh.
In an interview with Cocktail Zindagi, she talks about what her life is like. Here are the excerpts:
Cocktail Zindagi: You have a different take on life than the others of your age. Does your education play a role in it?
Aarti Thakur: Yes, it does. My branch is biology which means a study of the human body. I learned on this subject how to reduce the pain and suffering of human body. Now, I feel that I must do something to reduce pain and suffering of the human mind as well.
Cocktail Zindagi: Tell us something about your life.
Aarti Thakur: I was born in a typical Hindu family in Jagdishpur, Uttar Pradesh. My father is a defence personnel so, I have travelled a lot and this way I was able to understand the differences amongst the society and the mindsets of people across India.
Cocktail Zindagi: Behind every fortune, there is a struggle. To what extent it falls truly in your case?
Aarti Thakur: It is true. I initially went on for a medical coaching in Allen Career Institute, Kota, Rajasthan. There I studied for two years. Then when the results for the medical entrances came, I failed. This left me and my family shattered as my father had taken loan worth lakhs for my education. I was not in a state to study anything further and went into a deep state of depression. I stayed in my village for the next one year.
Cocktail Zindagi: One year in the village, doing nothing?
Aarti Thakur: Initially, I felt like that but that’s when I saw girls around and the way they’re brought up. Their parents often don’t send them school, not due to financial issues but issues pertaining to their mindset about how women shouldn’t study. The world of females over here are entirely different from the which I have been living till now. They’re deprived of everything that I have.
Cocktail Zindagi: Was this the only reason why you wanted to open a ‘Tabela School’?
No, it’s a part of the picture, but not the entire picture itself. Once, an electrician came asking for the monthly bill from my aunt. The man told a certain amount was showing in his records diary. My aunt quickly took out money from her bedroom and gave it to the electrician. She put a thumb impression instead of a signature in the bill. I was standing nearby I just noticed the amount written was ₹500 but what was paid was ₹1500. I stopped the guy and asked for the money back but he said now not possible already signature is here. I said this cheating, to which he replied: “No, this is the benefit of having illiterate women!”.
Cocktail Zindagi: Did that incident shock you?
Aarti Thakur: Yes, shocked and stunned. That is when I decided to do something for the education of married women.
Cocktail Zindagi: Why only married, why not all?
Aarti Thakur: Because others can still go to school and study but that opportunity has gone from housewives and it will not come back. I want them to get this back to show this male-dominant society, ‘the benefit of having literate women’.
Cocktail Zindagi: Have your parents any idea of your future plans?
Aarti Thakur: Yes, I told them once. They said follow your heart and live your dreams but with it don’t compromise your career. They expect me to get a job first and get settled in life and once I am finished with that then they want me to go for the social reform.
Cocktail Zindagi: How is your college life going?
Aarti Thakur: It is going very well. I enjoy a lot with my friends and goes to trips. Course and curriculum are easy. The campus is huge to accommodate the less strength of girls and boys. The teachers are good and top of all I’m getting to know the true picture of life which hadn’t seen with my parents.
Cocktail Zindagi: Your father is in the Army. So you must have visited various places in India – tell us your favourite one so far.
Aarti Thakur: Yes, I did. Mostly, during the transfer of my father which used to be after every two years. McLeod Ganj, a hill station in Himachal Pradesh is my favourite. It is no less than a paradise.
Cocktail Zindagi: Why do you call your initiative to educate women as ‘Tabela School’? What is your vision?
Aarti Thakur: The name came from the village itself, ‘Tabela’ is the cowshed where most women work and spend half of their day. The vision for the school is that the necessary arrangements including a stand for a board, chalk, duster, books, and copy should be made with the help of NGO’s and government funds. The classes would be during the daytime near the tabela, so their work or the looking after the cows won’t get affected. The time would be adjusted for them in shifts as who can come at afternoon and for whom it is possible in the evening.
Cocktail Zindagi: Frankly, you think anyone will be interested in coming and studying when half of their lives have passed? Is it any good for them?
Aarti Thakur: Yes, I know this is not just a question but the thought of everyone. I will raise awareness amongst women and elaborate on the cases like that of the fraud that the electrician did. Make the women realise that ‘without education, a human is no less than an animal’. As you put it, it is any good to them as it is never too late to start again and there is no age to learn something.
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