Educated Angootha Chaaps: The reality of educated India.

She comes in, sharp at 9.30. Pale, lanky and shivering from the cold that has begun to build up over the past few days. I immediately chide her, “You’ll never wear a sweater to work, will you?” as I hand her her usual cup of tea.

Kya didi, where am I supposed to keep the sweater when it starts getting warm again? So I don’t wear one.”

“But you’ll catch a cold this way…”

Jaane do, who cares. Achha, do me a favour, na…” and she brings her cell-phone to me. “Tell me what’s written in this text?”

I read her some promotional text from some company. And I remind her for the umpteenth time that she ought to at least learn the alphabet. Her reply is always the same “Jaane do na, who cares?” And she forthwith busies herself with her work around the house.

This is the daily morning conversation I have with my house help. Over her education, or rather, the lack thereof. She is one of two girls in a five sibling household. She belongs to a less-fortunate background and hails from a backward region in India. Resultantly, her parents never stressed that she or her sister ever finish their education. She has studied only till the 7th grade, her sister has studied less than that. And the sum total of their education has now reduced to an ability to scrawl their name on forms and bank cheques, should the need ever arise. But for all purposes, they are, what we call illiterates in India – angootha chaap.

Remember that age old advertisement issued by the Indian Government that used to air on DD  – Poorab se surya uga, where an old man teaches a child from an unfortunate background how to start writing his name? When I was a child I used to wonder would I be able to know it all if I only learn how to write my name? Obviously not, as I later realized. The advertisement was a great initiative by the Rashtriya Saksharta Mission. But unfortunately, education is still underrated in our country.

Learning how to write one’s name is not an education, because one can learn how to write their name purely by memory, without learning the alphabet at all.

In fact, learning the alphabet itself is not an education, because the alphabets are of no use if one does not know how to string them into words and sentences, or read them from a book or a placard. 

Like my Help. She knows the English and Marathi numbers, but doesnot know basic mathematical problems. She knows the Marathi alphabet, but doesnot know how to read or write them. She knows how to write her name, but doesnot know any other word consisting of the same alphabets constituting her name. She doesnot even know how to tell the time! She comes to me for help with everything related to reading or writing. I fill out her bank forms. I inform her of her child’s scheduled parent-teacher meetings. I tell her when she’s supposed to pay for her loans. I have even instructed her on which medication she should take at what time, all because her ‘education’ has come to naught. And the irony is that she has admitted her child in a private school where English is the medium of instruction.

I often ask her, “Just what did you learn till the 7th grade if you don’t even know how to tell the time?” She only shrugs in response.

You may say that it’s her fault entirely for not using her education and I would say you are not wrong. But her circumstances, coupled with the prevalent social outlook on girls her age and of her background does not leave her a choice in the matter. Her parents thought it wiser for her to be married off at the young age of 15 (yes, unfortunately, child marriages still happen in India),  rather than letting her continue her schooling. They thought she would do better being a haus frau and a house help, than being a teacher at a primary school. Because teachers at primary schools have liberated ideas and no one in their society needs a woman with a smart mouth.

She’s not the only one. There are countless others in India like her. There are countless men too, who know nothing beyond writing their names. Her brother is no less. He’s cleared his matriculate but doesnot know how to write a letter in Marathi or Hindi. I wrote his resume for a job application for a clerk’s position, because though he can read somewhat, he can not write at all. Needless to say, he’s still jobless.

Education is still considered a necessary evil in our country not a pure necessity, like clothing and housing. Forget about her class, I still come across women my age and from my background who have only cleared their matriculate and have forgotten much of what they learnt at school because they were expected to be home-bodies. No, this isn’t about how women should be allowed to work; this is about how women should be encouraged to at least get a graduate’s degree, because even if a woman is to be a stay-at-home mom, she ought to  be able to teach her own kids, and not ship them off to tuition classes, which unfortunately, has become the norm these days in India. There is a parallel education system running, no, thriving in our country, all because there are so called educated parents at home who are unable to teach anything to their children. What use is such an education? What use are such advertisements on education when the concept itself is reduced to learning by rote? An education does not end at school or college. It begins from there, and is a life-long affair. But unfortunately, for many of us their educations end when they receive their graduate degrees.

There are free schools with free books and free meals but their’s still no zeal in the lower echelons of our society to study. Why? Because earning the bread takes a precedence over receiving an education. Because these free sops are taken for granted rather than being grateful for. Because our society itself permeates an outlook that its okay to be an ‘educated’ angootha chaap. What India needs is not just education being thrust upon the masses, but education being made a mandatory requirement for every walk of life, even if one wants to be a house-help. What India needs is a change in the outlook of the masses, right down to the grassroots, that being educated means reading, writing and speaking at least one language well enough, apart from being able to do basic mathematical calculations. What India needs is a cultural revolution that an education does not end at marriage or being a mother.

What we need is to tell ourselves that its NOT okay to be ‘educated’ angootha chaaps.

She marvels at my 2 years old’s ability to already recognize the alphabet from a chart I’ve hung at home and count from 1 to 10. I tell her again, like I always do, “Sit with me for at least half an hour each day and learn the alphabet. Slowly, you’ll come to learn how to read and write too. I’ll teach it all to you. I’ll even enroll you in night school, if you want.”

She only shrugs it off and reiterates, “Jaane do na, who cares? At my age what am I going to do with reading or writing?” And she busies herself with the sweeping again.

She only’s 26.



©Pradita Kapahi, 2016.

16 thoughts on “Educated Angootha Chaaps: The reality of educated India.

    • You are right, sir, on one count, that relating to ‘jaane do na’; however, on the other count, I beg to differ. I DID explain what Angootha Chaap means, in the part where I say how illiterates in India are labelled thus. Scroll up and you will see. But thank you for pointing it out to me. Always looking forward to your insightful comments 😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site?
    I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with
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    I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.


  2. This is a great topic for an article. I wonder why more people don’t create posts that deal with issues relating to the general ills of the society? Your work here is great. Despite it being a nonfiction post, you’ve kept your fiction writer sensibilities intact here. And the little rant at about 3/4th of the post is tremendously effective in itself.
    I can see that the focus was on women but as you did mention for a couple of lines, the situation is the same regardless of gender. Too many people don’t think education, real education, matters. And more’s the pity.
    Great post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG! Thank you for your detailed comment on this post. I read somewhere on your blog that you teach, and there couldn’t be anyone better than you to provide an accurate description of just how bad education has gotten in this country. I always keep trying to tell people, regardless of gender that they ought never to let go of what they’ve learnt. Learning is always an asset. But alas, we still live in a very backward society.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A wonderful post about a horrendous situation. Although I have no experience of this in India the situation is exactly paralleled in Nepal from where I will draw comparisons and questions.
    Rich western nations have poured £billions into underdeveloped nations education systems for virtually zero results. They seem to expect that building a school or paying a child a small sum to enrol will somehow equate to quality education. How pathetic, the best thing the western countries could do is to turn off the aid tap because the flow of cash is NOT helping the poor. More than 70 years after Gandhi there is still corruption and abject poverty in India. Why? Is it my fault because I don’t donate enough aid? Is it the fault of the British because of Empire? No, neither, search elsewhere, but remember for a single finger pointing at someone else there are four pointing at YOU.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you. All the aid in the world, not even El Dorado itself, can help education in a nation that does not want to help its self. The problem is not just that the government seems to misutilise the funds, but also that the people fail to ask for education as a matter of right. In India, and I’m sure in Nepal too, the problem is that education has never been looked at as a necessity of life. It’s still perceived as a luxury or a necessary evil at best. The House Help I talked about above is not ashamed of the fact that she is uneducated. She does not mind asking for help in her day to day transactions with text. The day she feels shame for being illiterate is probably when she will take the initiative to study, no matter what age she may be at. Alas, that realisation never comes in our people at all.

      Liked by 2 people

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