Newly Tuladhar

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Published On: January 7, 2018 09:32 AM NPT By: Newly Tuladhar

A girl with her math book

A girl with her math book

She was 17. Her name was Laxmi. She was working as a maid at my neighbor’s house. I first met her when my neighbor had brought her for tuitions as she had failed in her SLC. They wanted me to guide her for her supplement exams. At first, I was reluctant to tutor her as she had studied in village, that also in Nepali medium. I thought I would not be able to teach her like I was taught in Kathmandu. But it was her persistence that forced me to give it a go. 

Teaching math in Nepali was not a joke. I found how ironical it was that being a Nepali; I had a very hard time understanding those mathematical words and sentences. Plus, she did not know basic mathematics. She might’ve been the first person I ever knew who memorized every single line of the solutions. Like literally, she used to mug up the whole subject! She used to do it for her lessons every day. At first, I did not have much expectation out of her. Yet, there was something in her that kept both us moving. She had the zeal to study in order to pass her SLC and study further. She knew there wasn’t much time, however, she used to work so hard and even refused to go home at times. 

While teaching her, I had easily understood the poor quality of education system in rural areas of our country. It’s sad to know there is such a huge difference between education provided in cities and rural areas of our country in general. In addition, education is not given much priority in villages. Laxmi had the passion to study yet she lagged behind because of the lack of quality education along with compulsion of daily household chores.  Finally, the day came when her hard work paid off and she finally passed the exam.

But the story doesn’t end here. After she passed her SLC, she joined +2 in humanities. She again came to me for tuitions for English. Now this time I felt it was a herculean task as I had to start from all the ABCD’s of English. 

This time, not only the subject was different but she herself was completely different. She was wearing bangles, tika, pote, vermillon powder on her forehead. In short, she was already married! I impatiently asked her why she got married in that tender age of 17. She sadly replied her parents pressurized her to the extent that there was no way out. I came to know that girls in her village are pressurized to get married after their SLC. Hearing this, there was anger in my heart thinking how a girl is forced to tie the knot without her consent. It seemed as if after SLC, people are certified to get married. I could not believe that the little girl was a married woman now. Despite this, she was brave enough for her education rights. She had demanded further education to her husband. That is why she came along with her husband just to study.

However, it wasn’t too long when I got another shock. One day while teaching her, she suddenly became sick. I sent her home and she didn’t turn up for a few days. Later, I came to know that she was pregnant due to which she couldn’t attend her college, missed her exams and to sum up all her dreams to study was shattered. She was taken back to her village and she is probably never going to come back.

I wonder how many girls like Laxmi there are who have big dreams but they are smashed by their own families. Girls after passing their SLCs are forced into marriage and restricted to only household chores. The school level education does not guarantee financial independence. Their life decisions are too sooner or later become dependent on others’ decisions. Laxmi had demanded further education but how many women could do that?

I am a girl in my early 20s and I’m just focused on my career and studies in order to be self - dependent. And it is really sad to see those younger girls, probably in their teenage getting married and having babies already. Women are not just machines who only do household chores and produce babies. Why are women not given chances to make their own identities? Why are women not allowed to study, explore their potential and liberty to decide for themselves? Why are marriages and having babies so important? There are many Laxmis who are compelled to leave their pens and hold the broom forever. Why is our society so much partial and dominating?
There was a line in a fairy tale movie, “Have courage, be kind”. Women are obviously kind. Now, it’s high time to be courageous.  Women have to be united and courageous enough to speak up for their rights then only change is possible. 

I recalled that Laxmi aspired to become a teacher and teach students in her village. I haven’t met her since that day. I hope she is fine. She may be occupied with all her household chores, looking after her child at her in-laws. Yet, I hope she hasn’t left her dream, her dream to study and become a teacher one day. Because of her, I could realize the actual condition of Nepalese girls is in rural areas. I’ll never forget her. The girl that came to me with her math book along with her dream. 

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