“Mamata was about a year old, when she lost her mother. Her father did not care for her after that, withing 6 months he got another wife, and I had to bring her up” says Ghasen Jhodia, Mamata’s grandmother. A tall lean woman, Ghasen’s severe face softens when she speaks about her little orphaned granddaughter. I found out about Agragamee School from Sumani Jhodia, and admitted her there, when she crossed five years of age. It has been really challenging bringing her up. There was very little money, I had to do wage labour work after my husband died. My older son, her father didn’t want to look after her. There were many days, when I could only give her rice and spinach to eat she says. Sometimes, the Sahukar would call me to roast Kandul. He would give me Rs.200 per day with food. That would be for about a month or so. Those days, we would eat well. When my husband was alive, we used to be Masiri in the Sahukar’s fields. He would give us Rs.300 per month, and one meal a day. We managed with that. When he died I left that work. When she joined Agragamee School, I felt relieved. She could get at least one proper meal a day. But more than that, she used to come home singing songs, and show me all the songs and dance she had learnt in school. That used to make me laugh, and I enjoyed those so much!
Indeed, Mamata was a lively little child. She would be the first to finish her work, and then she would run out of class with the excuse of drinking water etc. When her teacher began to teach songs, she would run back in, and join with much enthusiasm, eager for the teacher’s attention. With her progress to higher classes, Mamata has become an allrounder, singing, and dancing beautifully, writing lively stories, reports and essays for her school newsletter, wall magazine, as also the Annual Report, and illustrating them in the most colourful and lively manner. At home too, Mamata helps her grandmother with all the work fetching water, collecting firewood from the jungle, and even joining her grandmother for wage work on holidays.