Meera was trying hard to read the admission form in her hand. It was in English. She could hardly read Hindi. She was trying to remember all the alphabets of English that she had seen and she knew, trying to see if she could understand even a single word in the form, but she didn't. She looked around to see if she could ask someone for help, but people did not look helpful. They were busy into their own inquiries, most of them talking to the teachers who were handing out the admission forms, in English. She felt embarrassed to ask for help, because she didn't want to let anyone know that she didn't understand English.
Her Husband, who was a welder and also not much educated, was even more embarrassed and did not even go to the school with her to get the form. After great difficulty she gathered the courage to ask a woman who seemed to be lost in reading the form, for help. She got lucky, the woman turned out to be really helpful. She gave her all the information she wanted. She even got a blank paper and pen from one of the students around and wrote all the important details of admission in Hindi for her, so that she does not forget. Meera conveyed her gratitude to her profusely and took her leave. She had become a little more confident now about her daughter's admission into this school. Her first hurdle was over.
Walking back home she started thinking about her past. She remembered the day she was stopped from going to school. She was 13 years old. It was on the first day of her 6th standard. She was really excited to go to class and get the new books. Also it was the year in which they were going to get introduced to English language as a subject, which she was really excited about. Hers was primarily a Hindi Medium school. When she got ready for the class in the Morning and was about to leave, her Grandfather stopped her. He said she doesn't have to go to school anymore. He tried to put it in a way like he was doing a favor to her. She said that she likes going to school and would like to continue. Her Grandfather got angry and started shouting at her. He had said she will be getting married in a few years, so studies will be of no use. Rather she should learn to do the household work so that her life after marriage would be comfortable. She had started crying and looked at her parents for help. Her parents didn't disagree with her Grandfather but they tried to console her
When she saw that her parents too were of the same opinion, she realized that her studying days were over. She had cried for two days, but nothing changed. And then she had given up. It was quite later that she realized, that apart from her Grandfather's old school thoughts, her father's bad financial condition was also one of the reasons to stop her studies. She had two younger Brothers who were studying in the same school and her father could not afford to pay the fees for all three of them. So obviously it was the Girl who had to be stopped. After all she was going to be married off anyways. These memories made her angry. But she shook them off and made herself happy again by thinking about her recent achievement, the achievement of getting the admission form and all the required information about the admission. It was a big deal for her, to go to an English speaking school and get all the information that she needed, without even knowing a word of English. The only thing that concerned her now was arranging the fees. As it was a renowned school, it was also expensive. The fee was Forty Thousand a year for the first two years and increased after that. Her Husband’s salary was fifteen thousand a month, which wasn't even enough to take care of all their expenses. But she assured herself that something will come through.
Her Husband was sure that she wouldn’t dare to go to the school alone. He thought she would chicken out with the thought of going without him. When she put the form in from of him, he was a little amazed and a little angry, angry because now it would be his turn to chicken out. He had known about his wives plan of putting their daughter in that school since she was conceived. They have had this conversation many times. He always thought that with time, she would understand that the school was way out of their league. That school was known as rich people’s school. Many of the students there came in their parent’s cars. Most of them were rich or at least upper middle class. And he was downright poor. Apart from his wife and daughter, he had an old mother to take care of. His salary wasn’t enough for them. He wasn’t educated enough to get a better paying job. His wife wasn’t educated enough to even get a job. And he was too proud to let her be a house help. So it was all on him and there was nothing more he could do. It was time for the conversation that he has been dreading for a long time. It was time for him to convince his wife that the school wasn’t an option for them.
Meera smiled and asked, “Why do you look so surprised? Did you think I won’t get it? See, I also got all the information filled. We just need to sign it, put her photograph and submit it.
He replied, “Submit it with what, where should I get the money from? You know I can’t arrange that much. That’s almost 3 months of my salary.
“Don’t worry; you don’t have to arrange all of it. Did you think I will put it all on you? I have been saving some money since she was born and I have saved twelve thousand. You just have to arrange the rest of the 28.
“And you think 28 will be enough. Meera these schools have many other things that we will be charged later for, books, uniforms, and other bullshit.”
“No, the lady who helped me with the form told me that the books and uniform is included in the fee.”
“Ok, what about the bus fee? She is not going to walk to the school”
“I will drop her. She won’t have to walk”
“And the tuition fee, what about that? You know she would need tuition, don’t you? You can’t teach her, and if I could a little bit, I won’t have the time. You know that.”
“We will think about that later. Please, please, please don’t stop me from doing this. You know how long I have been waiting for this. You remember that news anchor on that English news channel I showed you? She is from this school. Since I came to know that, I have had only one dream, to make our daughter a news anchor. I just want to see her reading out news and debating with people on TV, in English. This school is what she needs for a better future”
“Oh come on, you can’t be that naive. You are thinking too far away. You think putting her into this school is all it will take for her to be that successful? No. It would need passion, dedication, talent and a lot many things. And if she has all of that she won’t need this school. She could be in a government school and will be as successful.”
“She needs this school, to develop those things. She is not going to develop it on her own. She will need the guidance and direction that only a school like this can provide. Many students of this school have been really successful. The news anchor is just one of them. Of course this school has got to do something with their success. And you know how good our Government schools are? You are a product of it.”
This made him angry. There was brief pause. All this while, his mother was silently listening to the conversation in the next room.
He spoke again, “What if I am not able to arrange the remaining amount?”
She said “I knew you would say this. Let’s sell my jewelry that would at least give us 20 thousand. And the rest I would borrow from my Parents.”
This made him even angrier. He said “What about next year, what would you sell for the next year’s fee? Well, you will have nothing left to sell. So, will it be just one year of that school for our daughter?
She could not reply to this. She started crying. Looking at that, her husband tried to console her. He said, “Please understand Meera. We are poor people. And poor people should not have rich dreams.” Saying this he hugged her to make her stop crying, which she did in some time.
Her husband had put his foot down and did not arrange the money. He also forbade her from doing that. It wasn’t her husband’s warning that had stopped her; it was the thought that they won’t be able to arrange the money every year, which stopped her. She realized that it would be a burden that they won’t be able to sustain.
The admission date came by. As she sat on the floor, looking out the door with sad eyes, her mother in law sat next to her. Putting her hand on Meera’s shoulder she said, “I understand how you feel. But even if we could get her into that school, how would it help us? At the end she would get married and leave.” She was disgusted with her, but without saying anything she went to the kitchen and started doing the dishes.
The night came, with the end of her hope. That night like many of the nights of her life, she cried herself to sleep.