Dilawar Singh Being Dilawar/ Tools/

Nichalpur is a small village. It has a primary school. All of the nearby three villages had only one school that time. Just like everyone else in my village, from class 1 to class 5, I did my primary schooling there.


‘When was I born?’, I did not know till I was 21. My mother could tell me that I was born on the day of Holi. The day was Tuesday and it was evening and a ‘puja’ was being performed. Thanks to K_undli Pro,_ I was able to locate my time of birth on the time-line. It was March 25, 1986, Tuesday, Shukla Paksha Purnima i.e. Holi. So I share my birthday with that crazy monkey-god Hanuman.

I was put in the school early for various reasons. First and foremost one that we had a school in village. My mother says that I used to write something in air using my fingers well before I could speak and they took it as a sign of unusual desire to write. Besides, basic schooling is considered must for future-farmers by farmers for one must be able to do basic computations in market. But the true benefit of schooling is on the day of marriage interview when family member of would-be-bride come and ask the baffling question “Sade panch main se pone char ghataiye” (Subtract 3.45 from 5.50). If you can do this, you are married else you have got to own a lot of land. And if somehow you are able to pass High-school then a scooter is guaranteed in dowry, much better that a cycle and radio people used to get in older days. Those days, when someone was able to get these gifts of radio and bicycle in marriage, people from nearby villages would come, see and comment, ‘really big marriage!’  Opportunity cost of not going to school was way too much. Therefore my aunt took me to primary school and a problem cropped up.

The rule book said that below 4 years, no child could join the school. In my case no one knew my real age. With some pity on the part of Masterji, I was made 4 year old that day. June 05, 1985 was put up in documents. I was exactly 4 year and 1 month old when I was enrolled in standard 1.

Almost all the children in my village (all the villages in India?) go through this. There are 13 children in school who are born on July 07 - the day they took admission in a school. Well, it make sense - getting educated is nothing less a rebirth - at least for us. Almost all of us are born in either June or July - during the month of admissions. Few things have changed since then. Many children are fortunate to know their exact date of birth. Last time I helped a lot of them to find it out by asking their mothers some ‘festival’ like dussera, basant panchami, etc and then locating the date using Kundli Pro. Mothers usually remember the day! Fathers are useless in these matters. In fact, this word ‘date of birth’ was not known by many at out time. When the other ‘Dilawar’ of my village was being interviewed for marriage, some one from them asked, “Aapki is Date Of Birth kya hai?” (What is your DOB?). Six feet, he replied. He got married by the way.


Paper was a luxury. In fact, I always craved to see a blank page and also write something on it. It is one of the least useful thing in my village. There was no use of it in my house either. My mother could not write or read. Father, though he held the record of writing high-school exam twice and failing it both the time, he did not write much except for his register which was gifted to him by one of his friends who was in a bank. He only wrote to maintain his accounts. It was a 300 pages register! It has been 19 years and still more than 50% is empty. It contains all the accounts of income of last 19 years. The only source of ‘knowledge’ were pieces of old newspapers in which local shopkeeper wrapped things father bought. Sometimes my mother used to take us to ‘nanihaal’. Mamaji is a graduate. He had his books neatly kept in his home which none of his children read them, nor cared to flip a page or two. Sometime he bought me some notebooks and pencils. I remember I did write something in them. Mother taught me two things well before I went to school. How to write ‘numbers’ upto 10 and how to figure out time in a clock. Thats all she knew.

In class 1 we were not allowed to use ball-pen, ‘dot’ as we called it. Our teacher believed that using ball-pen distorts handwriting. So he only allowed writing on a wooden slate by a wooden pen. Sometimes writing in ink by pen on paper sheet was allowed - at least in exam.  And I must admit, I liked it. We used to buy ink, nib of the pen, and papers from Deepchand shop. I remember that he charged 50p for nib, 10p for a pen ink, Rs. 2 for copy of capital brand (24 pages), and Rs 1 for a ball pen, 25p for refilling it. Using ink pen and paper was a costly affair. My whole education in Primary school for 5 years cost my father Rs 6.75 in fees (15p per month fee) and may be 1-2 hundreds in books and papers.

Takhti  is a wooden slate. It got a handle of its own. You have you blacken it by tawa black. ‘Tawa’ is a cirular iron disk on which we cook ‘roti’. Next ritual was to get a kalam. A Kalam is a wooden pen, made from Saruaa, a kind of Saccharum Spontaneum. Then you need dawat (ink-pot). Well, on takhti, you can not write in ink properly. Besides washing it off was a tricky thing. So you get Pindol (a clay - page 84). You make your ink-pot this way, with no artificial ink. So get you wooden pen, and your clay-made-ink-pot, and your wooden slate blacken by natural black and start writing क ख ग घ . Get a wet cloth and wipe if clean in one stroke. Takhti was the only property we had which could be stolen. Also, they were also used in fights. One hit on the head and there would be blood.

Till class 2, there were 2 books, one for Hindi and moral education and second is for all other stuff. With these four articles, 2 books, takhti and kalam, we learnt to write and read. Speaking in public was not appreciated. Keep quiet! Most of the teacher were ‘mangoos’, ready to bite at any time. Then there was Shiv Prakash Sharma.

He was transferred from some other school, He lives in nearby town Seohara- which has an average literacy rate of 48%, lower than the national of 59.5%. He became the dearest for us. His methods of teaching was incredibly different. I hardly read routine books - left nothing unread in library by the way. When he was introduced by old teachers, I was impressed. Just because he was from a town and not from a village. We always had a fascination for town Seohara. It was every child’s dream to go there and visit the baza r. And if are lucky, you could also see a light bulb shining. And if you are fortunate enough, perhaps you could remain there till dusk and see how electricity shines the darkness.

Seohara wale Guru Ji, Shri Shiv Prakash Sharma
Till Shivparakash Shrma was there it was a Shantiniketan (house of peace). He never dictated from books and encouraged independent thinking. he’d send us to fields to collect leaves and bugs - which we loved most. Sometimes, He would ask us to form a group of two and to discover a  _paryayvachi (_synonym) of some words came to our mind. Sometimes, he’d teach us advanced mathematical problems from grade 6-7. Most of the time, he just talked. I impressed him many times. My biggest achievement was solving t he ‘egg problem’ from std 8 book which he could not solve when his son asked him. He was so dear to me and once or twice, I called him ‘maa’ in class, and class would burst in laughter. Examinations were no pressure but marks were appreciated. But not to the level which could push a student into depression. He never asked what we wanted to become when we’ll grow up. Perhaps the answers were well known. They are going to be farmers after all. Still he taught us, and taught us as well as he could. All of us enjoyed it because we did not know for what ends why we are studying. In my first 10 years of education, it never struck me why I was studying at all. Then I came into contact with town-students. None of my parents wondered if I will be able to become some else, and such views are very hard to realize by oneself. Perhaps, having illiterate parents is a bliss.

He retired in 2006. Now the school has a better infrastructure but useless teacher mostly from the nearby villages. They will come, chew pan, talk about things and go home. In villages, parents do not put pressure on teachers that they should teach. So they can get away with it. Neither teaching is considered as a profession of choice nor many like it (It a looser’s profession, isn’t it?). Though we were not the children of ‘padhe likhe log’, at our time, in per capita basis, our library was used much more that the library of IIT Bombay is being used. He no longer teaches but he is fondly remembered in my village as ‘seohara wale guruji’.

-- Dilawar