I have been fond of reading Hindu mythology since childhood. Infact the first book that I read which was in my 10th grade was Mahabharat by S. Radhakrishnan. Lately I have read many books of the much celebrated writer Devdutt Patnaik. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Patnaik conveys the story, the drama associated with it and the message in a style mastered by himself. The drawings accompanying each chapter are idiosyncratic to his style. But this book “Sita” is distinctly special to me. Not for its storytelling neither for the idiosyncrasy but a reason much more profound. It is the first novel-style book that my mother-in-law has read.
My husband’s family hails from a small village in Bihar. Thus owing to the circumstances and thought-process of many in villages of India, my mother-in-law never got the chance to read and write. She got married at the young age of 20-22 and has since forever dedicated her life to her husband and two sons, the elder of whom is my husband Mukesh. Despite of not being educated she is a wonderful and aware lady. She had always dreamt of her kids going to an English medium school wearing a tie. Her efforts paid well with both of her sons being graduate today and Mukesh infact is currently pursuing his PhD from UTS, Australia.
When I got married and went to Bengal to my in-laws place I soon realised the sacrifices she has made for this family. Me being someone who wants to empower anyone in my capacity, I discussed with her her childhood circumstances and her views on how her life would have been different had she been educated too. She told me how much she wanted to read the Ramayana since forever but could not and has to suffice her inability with listening to sermons on television. After many such evening discussions I one day decided to address the elephant in the room and took the task of teaching her. It started with reading and learning Hindi alphabets. Each evening we would sit and learn Hindi. I would give her work which she used to complete while being awake till 1:30 or 2:00 am in the morning too. Such was her perseverance.
Because my work allowed me to stay there for only the next three weeks, I left Bengal for Delhi, leaving the onus of my mother-in-law’s future of education on her own mighty shoulders. And she perfectly met my expectations by continuing writing and reading the alphabets I taught her. Eventually I started sending her books. Initially I sent her comics of Tenali Rama, Akbar Birbal etc. But soon she identified her favorite genre was and has always been Hindu mythology.
It had been almost an year that I taught her Hindi when she first time in her life read the Hanuman Chalisa. Delighted that she was, she distributed laddoos in the nearby temple that Tuesday. This beautiful lady has not looked back since then. She has read 10 books in these past 3 years, none of which are comics. The latest of them is the powerhouse of words “Sita” by Devdutt Patnaik. This is the most complex and long book that she has read. It won’t be wrong to say that she found it very interesting as well as most difficult of all her reads. She would tell me that in order to understand the words she would have to study late nights or get up early to get her “me-time” for studying.
Having read this beautiful and difficult book, we are confident that she is ready for the next big leap. And hence these days she is learning English, the alphabets of which I have made her learn. But again the onus of her success or failure lies on her own shoulders, shoulders that I can completely rely on too now.
Today looking at her achievement,all that comes to my mind are the lines of Mahadevi Verma “बांध लेंगे क्या तुझे ये मोम के बंधन सजीले, पंथ की बाधा बनेंगे तितलियों के रंगीन पंखे! “
P. S. The list of books she has read so far are:
- Sita by Devdutt Patnaik
- Pashu by Devdutt Patnaik
- Devi Devataon k Rahasya by Devdutt Patnaik
- 41 Anmol Kahaniyaan of Premchand
- Pauradnik Kathaaein
- Sampoorn Ramayan
- Singhasan Battisi
- Tenali Raman tales
- Krishna tales
- Vikram and Betal