Kaushalya said to me, “do ladkiyan hain toh kya hua?” (So what if I have two girls?)
We sat by a well in the middle of an oasis-field (a khadin) fed by harvested desert rain. As we spoke, Kalpana, her little daughter, pulled water from the well into a child-sized pot and balanced it proudly on her head. She loves bringing water in her own little pot, and insists on accompanying Kaushalya when she is not in school.
Kaushalya’s husband worked in the field some distance away. He had moved the family to Bhuj a few years prior, but Kaushalya had not liked it there. She had talked him into coming back. Water was hard to come by in Bhuj, she said. This rainwater harvesting here assures us year-round water.
The conversation moved to education. Her own 5th grade education was not for lack of will but lack of suvidha (convenience). Middle and high-schools were in a village far away, and her father was reluctant to send her away alone.
Determined to educate her own girls, she found a way around this. Her older daughter lives with a cousin in Jaisalmer (the closest big town with higher education facilities). When little Kalpana outgrows the local school, she will follow suit.
A small voice piped up. “Haan mujhe paDhna hai. Aur main paani bhi leke aaoongi.” (Yes, I want to study. But I will also fetch water.)
I promised to bring them books the next time I visited. Kaushalya smiled:
“Phir betii kii maa bhi paDhegi.” (Then my daughter’s mum will also read.)