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    Posted January 22, 2013 by
    Austin, Texas
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Girls + Education: Your message

    The Flame

    My mother was born in a village in India, in the early 1940s. She was the seventh of ten siblings. Her father was the head of the village. They had a big house, and were well to do, but only in kind, not in cash. Only the eighth sibling was a boy, the rest were girls. None of the girls went to school, only the young boy got a bicycle to ride to the school in the neighboring village.
    My mother spent her childhood helping out her mother, and others in the household. The elder sisters were married off at early ages, and they would come home with their newborns or toddlers for months. My grandmother would be always busy feeding the scores of mouths, three or four times everyday, or taking care of the sick ones in the household. The younger brother and sisters were still too young and needed to be taken care of, and my mother, not even ten years old herself, was there for them.
    Her elder brothers-in-law, who would visit their house from time to time from the city, were her windows to the outside world. When she visited them, they would take her places like the zoo or the museum, to cinemas, or to libraries. Her uncles were educated too, and lived in the city. Somehow she got her hands on some books and would submerge in them whenever she got a break from her household chores. Being closest in age to my only uncle, she would also go through what my uncle was learning in school.
    In due time, my uncle sat for his school-passing exams in his school, and my mother did the same through a private arrangement. Her eldest sister was in a town, and was studying in college towards her English Honors degree. Her husband not only supported her, but also my mother and my uncle, by moving them to their town to live with his family.
    By God's grace, my mother was destined to marry the right person. My father had had his own struggle aspiring for and continuing his higher studies, and he knew full well what it meant having the right ingredients in you and not having the support to inflame it. At the time my father had just completed his Master's degree in Mathematics and was a young professor at the local college. They made a good pair.
    My mother had completed her bachelor's degree while staying with her sister's family, and a year before I was born, she got an offer from a local secondary school to join as a teacher. My brother was born almost seven years later, and in spite of having the teaching job, two children, her old parents to take care of, and a house full of guests most of the time, she chose to pursue a B.Ed degree to enhance her career.
    At her B.Ed practice training exams, she received the highest scores and accolades for being the best teacher, among her classmates. She had a strange passion for teaching, and she found true rewards driving a point across to her students, and lighting up little hearts with knowledge.
    She supervised her own two children fully at home throughout their growing-up years, not only helping with their school work but also exposing them to various facets of art, literature and music.
    At the time there was only one school in her town where the medium of teaching was English. And it had only grades kindergarten to three. When I was in third grade, my mother started looking for options. She believed firmly that her children had to have the best education and be well-conversant in English. Nothing else would ensure a good future for them, and she would accept nothing less. She pestered my father to move to the biggest city nearby where there were lots of good schools.
    And then, the third phase of her life journey began. My parents enrolled me and my brother in good schools in the big city, and they themselves started commuting to their old place of work everyday. That took 90 minutes of train ride each way, on good days. My mother had morning school, so she would get up at at 4 am every morning, catch the earliest train at 5, and be at her school at 6:30. She did that for the rest of her career.
    Fortunately, my mother has reaped the benefits of her outstanding passion for education. She had never digressed or taken the easy route, or lost her focus, through thick and thin, and education never left her side. She retired from her school at the age of sixty, and gets a full pension which allows her a comfortable life.
    All my aunts had very nice, meaningful names. In English, they would be called Evening, Moonlight, Picture, Freedom, Goddess, Rhythm and so on. My mother's name is Dipti, which means Radiance, or Glow. And she had just that in her, and more. I think she always had a fire in her, and at seventy, she still has a flame that is as strong as the sunlight, and as soothing as the moonlight. I take immense pleasure and pride in sharing my mother with hundreds of relatives, friends and her students over the years.
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