I was born into an illiterate family. Nobody would have singled me out as someone likely to succeed academically. My father, Shree Waljibhai, reached standard 5 in the village school, but Kanuma, my mother, had never been to school and could not read or write. She used thumb-print where and as required. Education in those days, and especially in my community, was rare. Hardly any community member finished standard seven.
Someone knowing how to read and write a letter or read a religious book was considered to be an educated person. He or she was highly respected even by the elders. Even my elder sister, Amarbai, used her thumb print to sign a document. She never went to school and was married to a boy from the nearby village who never had a school education either. Both uneducated. They were at all events under the obligations of a literate person.
Had it not been for my parents, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have. My elder brother was lucky enough to reach standard 8. Perhaps he was the first boy from the village who went to the top of the village school and did standard 8 in the town. I was luckier as my parents helped me to reach metric standard and I was among the first ten boys from the community to reach metric standard. Metric, in those days, was a high standard of education for our community. The village teachers did one year of Sanat after standard 7 and they were qualified to teach up to standard 5 in the village school.
My father took a keen interest in my studies and asked me constantly about my homework. My mother allowed me freedom and peace to study, not allowing anyone to disturb me during my home work. My parents encouraged and nurtured me and made me feel as if I could achieve anything I wanted.
When I felt like giving up on my ‘A’ levels, they were full of encouragement, assuring me that the hard work would be worth it.
Although they could not afford to pay for me to go to college, they took out a loan for my studies. I was very grateful for my parents’ struggle to get me to ‘A’ level, which was more than enough to secure me a good job with a fat salary. I studied at evening classes while I was earning. I also gave some private tuition to the adult women who longed to learn to the standard of reading and writing letters and who could read the religious scriptures.
I firmly believe that my parents were even more delighted than I was. They wanted me to become something; to be a guideline for the new generation in our community. Education was of the utmost importance and they hoped I could encourage school-leavers to study further, and help those who couldn’t because of their financial situations.
And when, after three years, I passed my Diploma in Civil Engineering, my parents were the happiest and proudest parents to see their son be the first of the sort in the whole community. Later on, also with the blessing of my dedicated parents, I was able to do an Ayurvedic Degree Course AVV and they were then proud to be the parents of the first Ayurved doctor in the community.
One does not have to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth to attain a high level of education. It is about one’s determination. Success comes from real confidence and support of the type my parents gave me. I was lucky enough to have parents who gave both.
Additionally, I constantly had the blessings of my parents. Not everyone has that, of course, so I am proud to declare that I have such lovely, un-educated, but highly encouraging parents.