Coming from Newari village in Bundelkhand region of UP, surviving violence in her marriage with two daughters to her responsibility, Prabha now resides with them at her parents’ home. A sharp learner at Janishala, an ex-reporter in a local language newspaper – Khabar Lahariya; she expresses what literacy meant in her life.
I was married at the age of 14 since when life has been a struggle. My husband used to beat me up and I was starved of food because I am dark. The trauma reached a level where I decided to file a case against him which is still running in the court. One day when I went to the court I met Gyasi Didi (a field worker in Sahjani Shiksha Kendra, UP), learnt about Janishala and started thinking about the possibilities of joining it.
My parents supported me to go to Janishala to study and my sister also helped me find enough reasons to join it. There were people in the village though, who commented things like, “What if I forget to make rotis and quantity of salt required in the food, in those 8 months?” I laughed it off and thought I do not like making rotis anyway! Or if I put less salt in the food, it will not be a problem either. Atleast there won’t be a danger of putting too much salt. I want to tell them now that I do not care if I forget to cook but I will not forget what I have learnt in Janishala!
Before Janishala I could barely count 1-100 and recognize alphabets. Now I can read and write, do fast addition and subtraction and I remember the tables till 21. Janishala helped me enhance my literacy skills as well as attain new skills of videography, computer, filling of survey forms, report writing etc.
I am confident to say that I remember whatever I learnt in Janishala because the teachers taught in a manner different from the teachers in my school. Janishala teachers patiently made us understand and learn. The media theme was my favorite as I was able to read the newspaper in the library break. Before that I had only seen it, but never read it. I like reading what’s happening in the country/outside. I like knowing about occurrences and news.
There were times when other learners in Janishala, used to disturb me while I read and I didn’t like that. One day I fought with Lakshmi (a fellow learner) when she grabbed my book while I was reading it. We did not speak for 3 days until she cried. I feel bad when I think about it even now.
I felt so engrossed in learning that I did not even get time to miss my daughters or think about my family. Once, Girija (a classmate) asked me if I miss my daughters and mother. I told her that I didn’t because I knew I will have the rest of my life to look after them. I only wanted to study and not think of anything else, at that time. I told her that even my daughters want to go to school instead of missing and meeting me. (Like mother – like daughter!).
What I learnt in Janishala also helped me change my thinking about my life and my present condition including my dark complexion. During a discussion in one of the sessions (body session) of Janishala, where we were talking about ‘white and black bodies’, I felt free to talk and discuss about my feelings. Now I do not feel bad about being dark anymore.
Presently I earn my living as a daily wage labour and I do not want to go back to my husband. The people of my community, notably men, raised eyebrows on my decisions to leave my kids behind and study in Janishala at this age. I too felt unsure about the same initially. Now that I have attained literacy, I feel no one can stop me. I am going to fill the form for class 8examination. I want to put whatever money I earn into my daughters’ education. I like my life. I sleep with new ideas than the thoughts of my past life and let no negative thoughts rule my mind. Education is a therapy for me which keeps me focused.