Literacy

When I was a student of class I, our maid servant was Chinu. At that time, I was just learning the techniques of solving simple addition and subtraction. Each day my elder brother taught me spelling, pronunciation and meanings of five English words and awarded me a chocolate if I could memorize them.

Chinu was twelve years old, five years senior to me. She used to perform all the menial work. One evening she came to me when I was reading Bengali and sat beside me on the floor. She stared at me and listened to what I was reading minutely. When I noticed her, she asked me, “Chotto Bhaia, I want to learn reading and writing. I regard you as my master from now.” I was agog receiving that offer that I was going to be a pedagogue at that early age.

On the next day I bought a slate and some pieces of chalk for her from my pocket-money. I began to teach her how to write letters from that evening. After a fortnight she could write all the letters accurately. Then I began to teach her how to spell, and pronounce words. She always practised even while working. My father also inspired me for that altruistic act. After a year she could pronounce and spell most of the words of any literature.

When I was promoted to class II, I got sick. It became an obstacle of our education. But she tried to be proficient at what she had learnt. At that time, I remember, there was a programme of ‘Sakhar Commission’ implemented in ‘Honours course’ to instruct wretched children reading and writing. After a short course, the instructed children used to appear in an examination on behalf of their teachers. One morning some of my elder sister’s chums came to our house. They asked Chinu to help them. Seeing their profligacy, I was shocked and aghast although at that time I could hardly distinguish between right and wrong. But Chinu agreed to their proposal. I thought that she could not escape herself from the thrill of an examination. They tested her and was astonished seeing her calligraphy. They told her to scribble resignedly and conceal her calibre. After a week, she appeared at the examination. They paid her 200 taka. When she returned home, I saw a complacent and celestial look on her face. She thought it was the highest accolade.

By the time was healed, I was a student of class III. My education further began. I instructed her how to construct a sentence. Her acumen stimulated me. I used to spend an hour per day for her. I tried to make her understand the connotations. One day she came to me with a piece of paper in hand. She had written a letter to her mother. I read it and was astonished to see her celerity of cerebration.

My education had come to a cessation. My mother taught her how to recite the holy Quran each morning after saying her prayers. Chinu’s mother visited her off and on. She sometimes talked about Chinu’s connubial affair. When I appeared in the primary scholarship examination, she was married and left our house. Farewell to her.

Illiteracy is a major problem in our country. Government has initiated many projects to educate the children in our country and to make them learned. I hail them all. A bevy of children of our country are engaged as menials in our bourgeois and high class family. If we increase our brevity and become cordial towards them, they can come forward and get impunity of being poor. We can rescue them from a life of drudgery. Some of us sometimes buy a puppy to rear and become canine specialist and buy books like ‘How to keep your dog healthy’ and keep the offal of their diet for their servants. I have no allegation about their repugnant favourite object of pursuit. But I want to say that we all must try to uplift these bereft children. The coda will clarify the readers.

Last month I came to know about the present condition of Chinu. She is a mother of a daughter and a son. Education gave her the light to plan her family according to her income. Her husband Mafiz, a chauffeur, works in the KSA, where he earns a lot. Since she was dexterous from her early life, she not only cares for the children but also had taken sewing as an avocation. They are happy.

Chinu is not an allegorical character, nor is the story an apocryphal tale, only Chinu is an alias here.