Saturday, July 19, 2008

THE A-B-C WE TAKE FOR GRANTED

The other day I went to the bank where our salaries are deposited. It's a goverment-owned bank, unlike my usual preferred private/multi-national banks, with their swank counters and posh staff and people-like-us customers.
This bank was dilapidated (but bravely polished and computerised), and so were its customers. In the half-hour I spent there to collect my cheque-book, I helped two women who had come to the bank to withdraw money but who could not read or write. And this in Mumbai - perhaps the largest city in India!
The front-office staff shooed away an elderly lady who was puzzling over the entries in her pass-book. I helped her to make sense of the debits and credits and reassured her that she had a credit balance of Rs 25,000. Her repeated seeking of reassurance (Aap saahi bol rahe ho na? - Are you sure you're right?) was so pathetic and revealing of her insecurity in an alien world.
The other lady came to me, with a baby tucked in one arm, requesting me to fill up a withdrawal form for Rs 2,200 (she wanted to keep Rs 300 for emergencies). Unthinkingly, I asked her to sign after I'd filled up the form. Embarrassed, she said she was angutha chhaap (illiterate who would have to put her thumb impression instead of her signature).
Yeah, India is Shining all right! Shining with the unshed tears of mortification these women face everytime they step into a place which exposes their illiteracy. But who or what to blame? Their gender? Their poverty? Their religion? Do you have any answers?

9 comments:

HOBO said...

Illiteracy is never exposed.
What exposed is educated men with uneducated mind who shooed away elder lady.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi Hobo,

U r right about that!

HOBO said...

:)
Thankyou !

sukku said...

I think illiteracy is quite rampant and I remember I had my driver, when I am inform him to find a place by identifying the sign board, he would never be able too and I thought he was lazy or stupid, I fired once and he told me that he can't read or write, it's a scary feeling to have a driver driving you around who can't read signages, but after I came to know about that, I retained him as I know he had memorised the pictures(as the words look like pictures to him)and I felt sorry for him. He worked for me for 3 years.

sukku said...

typo error...

When I inform him....

I fired him once...

Jaquanda Rae said...

Such. I missed your words. But yes, illiteracy is a helluva thing. I'm overseas and I met up with my Uncle's ex. Her new man is apparently illiterate because while he and I were on the way to her, he had to pick up two children he'd never picked up before. He kept asking me to tell him what the signs were saying...

Sayani said...

I wish desperately "are our burecrats listening?"

i wish every literate person followed "each one teach one"
we wuold have been a real "shining" country

a powerful delivery....gr8

Mystic Margarita said...

And such is life. Sayani's idea is brilliant - the only thing is that everyone is so preoccupied with themselves, I doubt they would have any time to spare.

In my old school, the nuns used to hold proper 4-5 hour classes for underpriviledged and street children - all for free. If all schools and teachers would do that, it might be a good start towards eradicating illiteracy once and for all. Great post!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi Sukku, JR, Sayani and MM,

Illiteracy is scary, alright, but what scares me more is the fact that these women had access to education but were prevented by social/religious factors from getting that benefit. And also there is the fact that many such women do go to school for a few years, then they drop out of school to get married. And when life requires that they use that education, they have forgotten everything. This relapse-illiteracy is a women-specific problem, because they get married at the cost of getting educated, feeling perhaps that marriage will shelter them forever from the realities of the world, which, otherwise, education would equip them to face.