Thursday, 30 May 2013


Celebration time. Jyotsna, the girl who lives next door, has passed her Class Ten board exams (CBSE): and with a 92 percentile score. Her report card had no B grades at all, only As, and many of those A grades had double and triple plus signs alongside.

So what's special?
Jyotsna when she was eight. She is the taller one.

What's special is that Jyotsna's father, a jawan in the army, died when she was four. Her mother, who works from morning to night tending cows and collecting fodder, is illiterate. She lives in a two-roomed house with a shifting population of relatives and sometimes there are fourteen people living in those two rooms, sometimes three or four fewer. There's no generator for the hours and hours when there is no power (every day). She has no quiet corner, let alone a room to study in, nor a desk of her own. She goes to Central School, about six kilometres away -- walking, whatever the weather.

None of this is is unusual. What is remarkable is that despite all this she managed to learn to use computers, read and write in English. She read the newspaper every day, taking it from us in the evening because her family can't afford a paper.  I don't know what else she did to carve out the time and space to crack the big exam.

Yet she's no nerd. I've seen her belt out jhatka-matka dances at wedding 'sangeets' and she has an enviable sense of style: a tee from one place, a dupatta from somewhere else, a few snips and tucks on a pair of pants, a toss of her head, and she's off!

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