An interview with Yashoda

An interview with Yashoda

An interview with Yashoda
Swaroop ka Tala, Barmer, Rajasthan / Article Dated - April 2003

I am a shepherd girl. Since the time I could walk, I have been shepherding goats. I would be out in the desert all day and return to my village when the sun went down. That was my life.

When I was 10 years old, people from an NGO came and told my parents that they were organising a girl’s education camp, (Balika Shivir) and they wanted me to join it. My parents said, “What’s the use of her going to the camp. Education never got us villagers anywhere, that too a girl. She will stay at home and learn household chores so that when she marries tomorrow it will be useful. And anyway, how can we send a child so far away, all by herself, for a whole year?” But they convinced my parents that there would be about 100 girls coming from different villages and all of them will be safe and well taken care of. Finally my parents agreed that if other families sent their girls, they would too.

From my village, Swaroop ka tala, Mala’s parents also decided to send her. Both of us would sit in the evenings and share dreams of how it would be in an unknown place. Once, she asked, “Would there be sand dunes there?” I didn’t understand her question. How could any place in the world not have sand dunes? I have traveled far with my goats and sat on hills and looked at the desert beyond. For miles and miles, there is only sand.

The day before leaving home, I was very nervous. I had dreamt of going to this unknown place but I couldn’t imagine living without my parents. Everyone in my village was known to me, and I wouldn’t get to be with my goats there. My mother was sad too, as she packed my clothes and wrapped tiffin for me. When they took me away, I cried the whole way. And I kept crying the first few days in the camp. Then I slowly started making friends with the other girls. I reminded Mala, “See, I told you, there are sand dunes everywhere,” and I felt better. And there were hoards of goat, just like at home. We would get to drink their milk every morning. It was fun to do things on your own. There were so many girls. We would all study together, play together, eat together, and sleep together. Sometimes, my parents would send me gifts of clothes and food with anyone who travelled that way. Then I would write letters to them, telling them not to worry, and that I was well. I could write now.

I liked all the subjects. But I liked “Rita” best. Rita was the girl in my English textbook, who did all these interesting things. “Rita goes to school.” “Rita walks to the market.” “Rita studies books.” “Rita takes a bath everyday.” “Rita listens to the radio.” I really liked her. I wanted to be like Rita.

I had studied hard so by the end of the term, when I sat for my exam, I passed Std. V. The teachers were very happy with me. I was happy too but I was also sad because it was time to go back home and I would never again see the new friends that I had made here. The last night in the camp, we hardly slept. While we packed, we kept talking and crying as we would part soon.

When I went back home, my parents were overjoyed to see me, and I met my goats again. Everyone in the village would come and ask me how the camp was, and when I told them how good it was and how much we learnt, they decided to send their daughters too next time.

After sometime, I started thinking how nice it would be to go to school and study some more. I told my parents that I wanted to go to a secondary school. But there was no secondary school in our village. The nearest, a Rajiv Gandhi school, was 5 Km away, in another village. I could walk 5 Km. Even when shepherding, or for fetching water, I walked 3-4 km everyday. I told my parents that but father said, “We can’t let a lone girl walk that far everyday.” Then one evening, as Mala and I were sitting and talking about how much fun we had in the camp, I told her how I wanted to go to the Rajiv Gandhi School, which was 5 Kms away, for studying more. She said, “You know, if you go, I will come too.” We were so excited about it that our parents finally had to give in and let us go.

It’s been two years now, since we have been going to secondary school. We walk 10 km every day to the school and back. I don’t mind. I like studying. I think I will become a teacher when I grow up. Then my name will be Rita. I might even go to the city one day. I read in the books that there are no sand dunes in the city.

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