“Beti Padhao” : A general practice in Simla of the Sixties

“Beti Padhao” : A general practice in Simla of the Sixties

Six decades down the lane Simla, as I remember it to be, was a special place for women education and the beauty of it is that we all considered this speciality to be a general everyday affair….nothing to boast of or to be proud of!!!
As I think of the small neighbourhood in Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties and recapture the images of all the big and small girls of my neighborhood, I remembered all of them going to school, colleges, training course…. None, mark my words, no one remained at home deprived of education.
Shaunkia ji, the blacksmith, our nextdoor neighbour, called. Luhaar by whole of the mohalla was one of my favourites. Dark tanned, perhaps because of the heat of the fire that was always burning in his shop, had tenderest of the voice when he talked to me. I would often perp inside his shop which was, invariably, having a wide open space full of iron pieces of various sizes and shapes and was in awe of the strength he had handling a heavy hammer to flatten a red-hot piece of iron. He was like Dara Singh for me. He had a very beautiful daughter, the only child, he had. Fair and beautiful Meena didi was studying in college. A very soft spoken girl, with eyes cast down, and books in hand, would emerge from the shop full of rusted pieces of iron. For us, the kids, she was a combination of beauty, brain and grit…..as all the women of the neighbourhood would gossip during daily witch-hunting sessions on the rooftop…”how beautiful is Lohar’s daughter!” Another one would quip, “and she goes to the college!”
Sudha and Shashi, perhaps, didn’t go to college but we’re so good with electrical work helping their father in the Electricity shop in the Lower Bazaar. Both were the best apprentice any master could be proud of. Though their elder sister went to Bombay to do some training course in crafts and designing.
Shashi di, of the Khanna family, would go for Teacher’s Training course, as would her Buas Lata and Toshi bua.
Neena di would go to another training school for embroidery and stitching classes. Three sisters of Subodh and Probodh went to college. And the Gadhwalia family above them had two daughters Indu and another one enrolled in college as well.
Further down the lane Pammi and Kammo, our age mates, were doing well in studies.

These households with daughters were preparing their daughters for a better life arsenelling them with education. There was no slogan like “Beti bachao and Bet Padhao” but the humble residents of small houses in the narrow gulley of Lower Bazaar Simla of the Sixties harnessed a dream in their hearts…. Nothing could snatch this dream from their eyes not their meagre resorces or the small houses they lived in!!! That generation fulfilled their dream to prepare their daughters for the future and those daughters, grandmothers today, kept the tradition on……of Beti Padhao!!!!!

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