When I was around sixteen years old, I met Sindhu. She was just seven then, and her mother Renu, who worked as a maid at our house along with a handful of others in the neighborhood, left no stone unturned to ensure that she got a good education. She got her enrolled in a reputed evening school for underprivileged girls, but Sindhu wasn’t interested.
Renu was illiterate, and earned a meagre income that barely managed to fill the stomach of her family and herself. She had great dreams regarding her only child’s future, and educating Sindhu was the first step.
Sindhu, on the other hand, had zero interest in studying or anything even remotely related to it. But that didn’t mean she didn’t like learning.
The first day I saw her, I was charmed by her bright brown eyes, fascinated by her curious nature and innocence. I offered her a chocolate and she took it from my hand hesitantly. Then we talked and I got to know her name, where she lived, how many siblings and cousins she had, what all she played at home with them, what was her favorite meal, and so on. When she left, I could hear her narrating excitedly to her mother everything about which we talked.
The next day when Renu came to work, Sindhu was with her again. That day we made a significant amount of progress as she initially smiled at me, and then allowed me to teach her a song. She had a melodious and mesmerizing voice.
By the end of the week, I’d succeeded in teaching her the English alphabet, the first twenty natural numbers, and quite a few songs. Once she allowed herself to be taught, she was a brilliant student; and I, of course, loved to teach.
Before the month was up, she was doing so well in class at school that her teacher told Renu, “Your daughter is a fast learner. I don’t know how this sudden change came upon her, but she is already at the top of her class, and has learned everything I had to teach this year. Therefore, from the next month, she will study in class two.”
Renu was ecstatic. I was, too—after all, Sindhu had done something that her family had never expected her to do.
Now, twenty years later, people have a hard time believing that this successful, independent woman was once a shy girl who hated studying. Not everyone who knows this famous professor at the University of Cambridge knows the struggles she has faced in her life. Despite being married off at 20 according to the customs of her ancestors, and widowed in just two years, Sindhu never gave up on her love for studying and teaching, going on to earn a scholarship to Britain for her post-graduation and emerging as one of the most influential teachers the world has ever seen. Even though she insists on giving the credit of her phenomenal success to me, my dream of becoming a teacher has been fulfilled through the persistence and perseverance of this spirited woman on her journey of self-exploration.
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