Will Ketki meet Neha?

This blog has not have many visitors in recent days. The reason could be lack of interesting articles in general; and lack of interesting topics for me to write in particular. So, I logged on my blog and was fumbling for something interesting to write. Good for me that after about an hour of struggle, I found one.

There is this girl whom I talk to. Almost regularly. No!! Its not what you are thinking. We are just good friends,  you know! I asked her today how her weekend was. She said she attended some workshop of an NGO where they taught her about captioning photographs. She is an engineer, by default from a reputed college and lives in one of the India's most bright cities. 

There is one more girl whom I know. Normal education. Not some fancy degree. Society would term her average student even though half of the female in India can't read/write despite given free bicycles. She is chemistry graduate from some unknown university named after another random politician and she lives in dusty town with forgettable name of hot northern India.

Now when I have told you about the two girls. Are you interested in their stories? Through their stories, we will together see the world. I am 22, add two months and I will be 23. Being said that, I can safely say that I have been living in this world for the past 22 years (and add two months to that, 23 years). Please pardon me for the "I can safely say" cliche, a coworker uses it zillions of time in a day and its irritating. I hope he won't ever read this. I am not so popular. Hell, where I was. Yes, so for the past some months I have been out of college and I have been exposed to this world which was unknown to me. Thanks to the shielding effect of books, exams and this rat race which did not give enough time to my mind to observe minutely these particularly interesting social norms such as education system, marriages, relatives talking about each other and the list can go on. You may think of some of your own. 

Now, when I have time. I am here with a story which you may find interesting. Let us name those two girls. It is convenient this way. The first girl, say  Ketki and the second one,  Neha. Go to any class in North Indian school, shout Neha and 10 girls will look at you in response. It is that popular name.  Lets name the dusty sweaty town in North India with forgettable name as Ara. This is the place where Neha lives. The other girl, Ketki, lives in Bangalore. 

Ara, 20th of June, 1996   

"Neha, Neha!!! You are going to school today.", said the proud young mother of Neha.

"School!! Like Nilesh Bhaiya goes? ", replied little Neha.

"Of course! You are going in the same school . Papa will drop you there. Get up! You must be excited about the new school uniform and shoes. Are you not? Get up, little doll", said visibly happy mother. 

The young mother helped her daughter bathe. She fed her a tiny paratha which she had made exclusively for her. She put the colourful book with big mangoes, apples printed, in a steel box that Neha's grandfather bought for her. A Milton water bottle is kept along side the steel box. She glanced at her daughter who was struggling with her school belt.

"All set to go", announced Neha's mother after adjusting Neha's skirt which was little large for her size. Obviously that little large was intended as she would grow up in pace and their parents did not want to buy another so soon.

"Come Neha! Let's go."

Neha's father put her on cycle and he started cycling to school. This school, St. Paul's Public School, is just another school named after some St. Paul whom even school founders did not know about. This was the era of start of "English medium" public schools in Tier III towns. Opportunists wanted to sell the schools as English Medium School by aping name of missionary schools and one of the results of the whole process was St. Paul's Public School (English Medium) founded by Bhagwati Prasad. As you can anticipate, this school was English just by the name and there was absolutely no reality behind "English Medium".  A peon escorted the little Neha to class. The class consisted of an array of second hand nonuniform furniture bought by school's founder from another such English Medium School which was closed due to the lack of students. The roof was missing and a tarpaulin was there to act as roof.

While Neha was at school, her mother and father were constantly looking at the clock. Their home had silence whom they were unused to. They were missing the continuous chatter of Neha. Her doll which they bought in local Disneyland was also lonely. Neha's mother picked her doll up and remembered the time when she was like Neha.

"Like mother, like daughter. I had this habit of talking to doll when I was small and I am not surprised that your daughter does the same thing.", said happy mother to her husband with a smiling face.

"My income is irregular. I wonder how we are going to arrange her marriage", unfazed by what her wife said, Mr. Sinha replied.

"I appreciate your concerns as father of a daughter. But she went to her first day at school.We will educate her. We don't even know what society will be like 20 years from now on . These kids wont even ask us. You should thank God that they arranged marriage for you. Who knows if ever you would have got chance to worry for your daughter's marriage otherwise.", chuckled Mrs. Roshini Sinha teasing her husband; mother of Neha who was, obviously, in very jovial mood.

Bangalore, 17th of July 1996

"Ketki!!! Are you up yet?", called a concerned mother.

"Oh dear God! No more sleeping, my angel. You know what its today ? My little angel is going to school today.", continued Mrs Kulkarni while pulling the bed sheet under which Ketki was hiding. She then kissed Ketki's forehead and carried her to bath room.

Ketki bathed and her mother dressed her up in skirt which was carefully altered according to Ketki's body.

"I am also coming with you to see off ketki.", announced Mrs. Kulkarnni to her husband as he was repeatedly kicking his sccoter which was refusing to start after 12 hours of cold night. He tilted the scooter on one side and kept it that way for good 2 -3 minutes before a final kick which started the scooter with lots of noise.

There they go. Mrs. Kulkarni was holding Ketki's pink bags with big tweety printed. A bottle of cold water hung around her neck, Ketki was standing at front. This was one amazing aspect of Scooters. They used to carry a family, hum do; hamare do; together. After 15 minutes of ride, they finally reached St. Helena School for Girls. A red brick building  of colonial era in horse shoe shape with a basket ball court in middle, Mrs. Kulkarni was very happy. She wanted her daughter to be successful.

Ara, 20th of October, 2007

"Neha, Come here! Help me in drying these clothes.",  Mrs. Sinha shouted from the Veranda.

"Coming! I have just returned from school. You are always after me. Can't you leave me for some time?" yelled Neha who was visibly unhappy after being interrupted in watching TV.

"You are watching TV. If you were studying, I would have loved to not disturb you. Whole day you watch TV, don't you think you should be helping me here. I have been working right from 6 in the morning.", came a calm reply of Neha's mother.

After a little talk which was the daily itinerary in their life, Neha was helping her mother. She was in class 10th then and shewas told to prepare for engineering. In India, where number of good engineering college is scarce; class 10th is one of the most difficult phase of life. There are engineering entrance coaching cities like Kota, Delhi, Bokaro where hundreds of coaching center claims so many confirmed ranks in JEE that if you add them, that would be greater than the total seats available in JEE. After class 10, serious students from tier III towns go to engineering entrance coaching cities.

Allow me to tell more about St. Paul's Public School. Yes, the same school where Neha studies. Dr. Bhagwati Prasad was riding on his luck. Though many so called English medium school sprout up in the town. St. Paul was considered to be the best. Not to mention, the best tag had drawn hundreds of new admissions every day. Bhagwati Prasad, sorry Dr. Bhagwati Prasad as he loved to be called had a Ph.D in sociology which he discovered after he became one of the known faces of the town. An educationalist with vision of opening an engineering and medical colleges in his town, he claimed to be dedicated for the development of the town. St. Paul's Public School used to organize entrance test for admissions, but in reality Bhagwati Prasad, oops Dr. Bhagwati Prasad never used to hurt anyone's hope by rejecting him. He had that big heart. Unfortunately the classrooms of his school were not as big as his heart to accommodate  everyone. Five to six students used to sit on the desk meant for four students. English teacher taught science and many a times generator facilities  were not available. Teachers were so underpaid that they used to advertise for their private tuition in class rooms. Yes, we are talking about best school of Ara. If that was not enough, Dr. Bhagawati Prasad devised a way in which top 50 students (based on academics) of a class remain in one section defying all the socially acceptable norms that kids learn from each other.

I hope after all this you are not hoping for a play ground. There was none. Oh yes! though you would have guessed, still I would love to tell you that there was no music teacher or anything other than academics. No drama! No Dance.

Among all this, Neha was an average student. She loved to dance but never got enough support or direction. Though she had known some after watching television. She was studying but not so serious enough.

Bangalore, 17th of September 2007

"Ketki, You up yet?", said Mrs. Kulkarni.

"Mumma! I was up till late night. Let me sleep for some more time.", Ketki replied in sleepy voice.

"Girl! You have school at 9. Wake up!"

Ketki woke up and glanced at her books nearby. She was studying history last night. She did not like it much. She loved English but parents were insisting her to study engineering.

Last year more than 70 percent of the children got more than 80 percent in class X board. Teachers were teaching at fast pace. They wanted to have some mock exams before boards. Ketki loved crime novels and was a big fan of Agatha Christie. She loved literature.

There was a big felicitation for the students who won a famous quiz contest some days back. She was too bad at general knowledge.

Sitting in hall where the program to felicitate was about to begin; Ketki commented to her friend, Trishala,"Why would someone know so much general knowledge? How is it gonna help me if I know who was the seventh prime minister of India?"

"I wonder the same.", Trishala replied and the two girls giggled.

Ketki was one of the best student of class in academics and Trishala was her best friend. Trishala was the best singer of the school. She had training in carnatic music.

Ara, 13th of May, 2014

Neha woke up with a little murmuring which was annoying her for the past 15 minutes. After she adjusted to morning light, the murmuring was really annoying for her. Her parents were discussing about marriage proposal for her. It appeared that boy's father saw her in someone's marriage few days back. She thought of her life. She had graduated last year in chemistry. She teaches kids of neighborhood for pocket money. Its right time for marriage. Why is she finding it annoying!

She laid back on the bed and watched the rotating fan.

" I have to marry someday...may be this year or the next. If this is inevitable, why not this guy. Her mother was saying that this guy earns good money. Even a mutual relative of us vouched for his character. Everything is perfect. I should probably get going. Maa will be needing my help in kitchen.", thoughts echoed in Neha's mind.

Hyderabad, 13th of May, 2014

"Oh my God!! I am so dying at today's meeting. I did not complete my assignment. Today, I was supposed to submit.", wondered Ketki.

Ketki worked for a MNC which deals in processors which were used in mobile computing devices. She woke up early though she returned late from office today. Hurriedly she called her mother.

"Hey Mumma! Sorry, I did not call you yesterday. I am so busy these days. This is end period of project and everybody is working hard." before Mrs. Kulkarni could speak, Ketki had flurry of justifications.

"You should take care of your health. You work too much. They give you too much work. Don't they?", Mrs. Kulkarni was worried.

"Oh! Mumma! Don't worry. Listen, I have to catch a cab now. I will call you later.", regardless of worries of her mother, Ketki was all set to finish the conversation.

"Take care, Ketki!", Mrs. Kulkarni said and  the call dropped.

"God! I should better take work little lightly now. I don't have time to even talk with Mumma. I should rush now.", Ketki looked at the watch and overcoming the resistance of her mind, she left the bed.

Ketki is in the office cab. It takes her about 45 minutes to reach her office in morning rush. Her phone rang.

"Hey! This is Shekhar from Earth Peace. Is this Ketki? I assume you have volunteered for Earth Peace fund raising activity.", echoed a husky voice.

"Hi Shekhar. This is Ketki. Yes, I was expecting your call. Tell me when do the training begins.", Ketki replied.

" We are organizing training session this weekend. I hope you can make it.", Shekhar replied.

"I am absolutely free." Ketki said.

"Very well, you will get details regarding venue and timing through e-mail. Have a great day, Ketki.", Shekhar said and abruptly disconnected the phone.

"These environmental activist are this weird. Always in hurry.", Ketki thought with a smile on her face.

She again got back to the novel she was reading before the call.


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