Khushi’s mother, Breshpati, has learnt to sign her name. Although she does not know a word of English, she attends every school meeting that Khushi’s school arranges. The meetings are in English. She signs her name, enters the hall, sits through the meeting without understanding a single word and signs out when the meeting is over. She goes because she wants the school to know that she is invested in her daughter’s education. Then she asks the parents of Khushi’s classmates what was said in the meeting. Her husband never goes because he cannot sign his name. He is embarrassed.
During my visit to Kolkata, I observed the routine of Breshpati and Khushi. Breshpati gets her daughter up in the morning, makes her breakfast as the little girl wipes sleep from her eyes. Khushi brushes her teeth, dons her clean and ironed school uniform, eats her corn flakes and walks half an hour to school with her mother in the heat of Kolkata. Breshpati then comes home, cooks for other people, cooks for her own family, walks half an hour again to pick up her daughter. Khushi spends the afternoon either drawing, reading or watching cartoon on phone. In the evening, Breshpati walks her again to someone’s house for tuition and practicing spoken English. She cooks for another family while Khushi works with her tutor.
Little 8 year old Khushi navigated online school through her mother’s phone for close to 2 years without any technological help from her parents. My parents, when they were alive, helped. But they have not been around since May of 2021. Today Breshpati sent me Khushi’s report card. She has been promoted to third grade. She got A+ in each subject. She has chosen chess as her elective. Her favorite subject is math. And this is what her teacher wrote in the comment section – she has “been consistent, has exceeded expectation and created a mark for herself. Truly commendable.”
During my visit, Khushi and I had some meaningful conversations. She talked, I listened. I listened to her telling me about how hard her mother works, how intelligent her mother is, how caring her mother is. The child is mindful of how her mother is giving it her all for Khushi’s success. That made me so happy. Breshpati left me a voice message about Khushi’s grades. Her voice was infused with happiness about her daughter’s success, about the validation of her efforts to give her daughter opportunities. I smiled as I thought how proud my ma would be today.