English Translation: Srinivas Banda

Telugu original: “Gudem cheppina kathalu-3” by Anuradha Nadella


Around thirty students used to attend the classes during the first few weeks of my voluntary teaching in the hamlet. On one such session, I was trying to explain subtractions and the method of borrowing.

“Ma’am, what is meant by borrowing?” six-year old Vinnie queried.

“Well, when you want to buy a pencil and do not have enough money for that, you might request your neighbour to lend you that much.  That is borrowing. Once you have enough money, you will have to repay your neighbour.” I tried to explain…

“So, when 5 is to be subtracted from 4, you told us to borrow a ‘1’ from the left. How to repay that?” Vinnie sought a clarification!

Before I could respond, “Ma’am…”  someone called.

I saw a group of four girls accompanied by same number of ladies, standing at the entrance of the class room.

“Yes please.”

“Ma’am, could you please teach English to our kids? They are studying in tenth class.”  

I quickly gauged the girls of the group keenly. Their physique looked much younger, leaving me wondering whether they are indeed in the tenth class. Somehow, their faces looked familiar. I might have seen them at the school. They must be in a different class than the one I teach.

“Of course, yes. They can come here every day.” I assured.

They left, after expressing their gratitude. 

Soon, number of students of the tenth class has doubled. Their genuine interest about studies was very satisfying for me. Manjoosha is also a member of this group. This lean, seemingly-malnourished girl is a regular at the class.  Very attentive, she quickly grasps whatever is taught in the class.

The other day, she met me at the school gate, accompanied by another girl. 

“Teacher, this is Vidya, my uncle’s daughter. She wants to study. She studied up to the tenth class but didn’t appear for the exams. Her father took many loans across the city. To make ends meet, he found a job for her in the pickle factory nearby. Her father assured her earlier that she can appear in the exams later. That was more than two years ago, but she is still working at the factory. Her father still says that the loans and interests thereby are mounting.

Once Vidya requested her mother to let her study. Her mother convinced her to continue in the factory for another six months. Then, Vidya’s elder sister delivered a baby. That child birth slid Vidya’s family into more financial difficulties. Mother once again assured that Vidya can continue her studies through Open School, when things get somewhat better.

“Teacher, can you please help Vidya with her studies?”

While her cousin was narrating her case, Vidya was watching me with a lot of positive expectation.

“Why not? Vidya, you can surely come to the classes,” I replied. The glow in her eyes was clearly visible even in the diminishing light of the evening.  

A motor bike rashly stopped near us.

“What now, Vidya? Why are you adamant about studies? Let our finances get better.  Then I will give you off in marriage to your Baava (Son of Father’s Sister). Then you can study whatever you want.”

Vidya was literally shaking like a leaf, being caught by her father amidst our meeting.

“O Madam, since last two years, she has been contributing to our financial health.  Why should she study more? What benefit will we get from her studies? Will she become a Collector and rule?” He threw a question at me and drove away with his hapless daughter, showering us with dust.

The dust cloud lingered for long.

Are the responsibilities of the man of the house limited only to “Borrow” and are the children naturally expected to repay those loans?

Who gave parents such an authority? 

Little Vinnie’s query is still hanging in the cloud! 


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