Ma, English and Education

I came home to a visibly happy Ma, not that she isn’t usually happy but there was something about her today. On enquiring I found her real source of happiness, apparently she called up the principal of the school that I and my sister studied at regarding the admission of another kid whose parents she knew. The principal on learning that she was our mother immediately confirmed the admission of the little kid. Such was the impact!

Though I have nothing to boast about or take credit for, but Ma has. I remember how she would wake us up at 5.30 in the morning every day to revise before we left to school and then sit with us post school to make sure that we studied well.

Amongst me and my sister, my sister was the better student, any given day. She scored the highest marks and cent marks in math, every single time barring a few instances. I wasn’t as good as my sister in academics but made up for it by being good at extra-curricular activities.

Just to give you an idea of our schedule, we would wake up at 5.30am and study till 6.30am, get ready for school and attend school till about 4pm, post which I would attend music classes and sister would learn to play the casio for 2 hours which would be alternated with art and swimming classes throughout the week. Post class we would rest for half an hour then study till 8pm, have dinner by 8.30 pm and were allowed half an hour to watch the television, specifically only the English news post which we were to either finish up school work or read a book and underline all the tough words and look them up from the dictionary.

Sundays, holidays and vacations too would pass this way; we would buy a ton of books and read them. Till date I get 3 newspapers at home, most of the magazines available regarding current affairs and education are subscribed for and we still are mad about books.

Ma is a teacher at school, she doesn’t watch serials, never did, since she thought that she wouldn’t be setting a good example for us. Despite working the entire day at school she still made it a point to wake up earlier than us so that she could wake us up on time and stayed up late to make sure we were prepared for school tests and classes in general.

Maybe every mother goes through this, but if I could be half the person that Ma is, I would consider myself to be an achiever. Ma was born in a very rich zamindar family in a village in West Bengal, my grandparents due to their family problems had to look after the house and the farms and remained uneducated. Additionally since they belonged to the old school of thought, education to women wasn’t considered to be of prime importance since it was always decided that when a girl reaches marriageable age (15-16) she is married off into another similar family.

Ma saw how the lives of the women in the family was, a barrage of servants were appointed and the day would usually remain occupied in visits to the temple or overlooking the work of the servants and talking about jewelry or clothes or the neighborhood gossip. Further my grandfather was an authoritarian, none of the women of the household were allowed to go to the market, vendors would come over to the house selling fish, groceries, clothes, jewelry or cosmetics and that was the only means of shopping.

Ma had never even travelled outside the village, it was when she met an aunt of hers who was a professor in a college at Calcutta that she realized how much she was deprived of. She had the independence of buying whatever she wished for but not the independence of studying or shaping her life the way she wanted it to be. The biggest hit that Ma got was when she couldn’t converse fluently in English, though she studied at a convent school, Bengali was the language of instruction and English merely a second language to clear the English exam.

Ma rebelled at home after meeting her aunt; she decided that she wanted to be a teacher and fought tooth and nail with my grandfather against getting her married off to another zamindar and letting her continue her studies and she did succeed. She completed her B.Ed and was one of the few girls from her village to enter into the gates of a college and finish studying too.

Now that I know Ma well and understand from where she comes, it’s easy for me to grasp as to why she stressed so much on our performance at school or why she made sure that we had to take on learning music and art or why she never taught us Bengali out of the fear that our English speaking accent would be marred like hers.

She struggled her way through life to make sure we got a comfortable one, like every parent out there. Now while I’m writing this blog I can see her practice English worksheets, though she doesn’t need them and can speak pretty well, she never listens to us, it’s just a complex that she has.

I’m so grateful that I have her as my Ma and wouldn’t have it any other way..

Ma, me (in red) and dolly (sister hogging on the cake :P)

Ma, me (in red) and dolly (my sister, hogging on the cake :P) 😀


35 thoughts on “Ma, English and Education

  1. The studying thing and the extra curricular thing…the diktats of almost every Bong Household 😀 Nostalgia hit me. BTW…being a teacher’s daughter comes with so many more responsibility na? 😉

  2. Thankfully my mother was a kannada (language) teacher and hated math herself. But which Indian kid is going to have it that easy? 😛 My dad is very good at it and he constantly used to encourage me to do better! I on the other hand was counting : number of years till I compulsorily have to read math! ( hate it!). I always used to excell in other subjects but math! People would be like “and her mother is a teacher!” .

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