My father loved me very much, so much so that he wanted me to be the expert of everything overnight. He taught me everything whatever he thought that I could learn at that age. In those times Master degree was considered very high, especially for girls because even boys did not do Master in those times. So he aspired for us (both sisters) a Master degree. It was his dream. Alas, he could not see his dream come true, as he died when I was still in BA Previous (first year). With this point of view he started my education at home.he was very regular and religious in teaching me.
I still remember those days - it must have been 1947 March-April, as my Mausee was married in January 1948 and by then she had passed her Intermediate, when my younger Mausee (mother's sister) came to Aligarh to appear in her Intermediate exam from Bulandshahar. As in those days, girls did not go out alone, my father used to drop her at the examination center. the examination center was a girls' school. And as I told that he kept me with him all the time, he took me too there. He showed me the school and asked - "Do you want to come here?" I said - "Yes." he said - "Then you have to read a lot. Only those children come here who read properly." Since that school looked attractive to me at that time, I made up my mind that I will read properly and come here to read more. That is how he used to inspire me to study. He used to say, "If you will not be educated, nobody will allow you to sit with him. You will be left alone." For long time I did not understand this statement. I took it physically, I thought, "How can one stop me sitting beside him?" I did not understand its hidden meaning - that who is not educated he is not welcomed among learned people.
Pattee Buddakaa Days
In those days children used Pattee (Takhtee) Buddakaa to learn writing. Pattee used to be wooden plank, of various sizes. Mine was a bigger one, of about 1' by 1 1/2'. Pattee used to be painted black or white and then lines were drawn on it on both the sides - one side horizontically (maybe 5 or 6) to write alphabets and on its other side vertically, divided in 10 columns to write numbers from 1-100. Its ink was Khadiyaa, a kind of white soil like chalk, dissolved in water; and its pen was called Qalam which was made of Reed stick. Its one end was cut finely in a special way to make it to write on Pattee. After writing on one side it was put to dry, then the other side was used to write. And after that side is also dried, it was tested for its neatness, the good form of letters etc. These Pattee were written several times a day, at least 4-5 times.
We had a servant Tikaram who used to help my father in his lock business. He used to do all this work for me. He taught me to write numbers and alphabets. In fact he stayed with us for a long time and served us very well. He was a loving fellow and treated us very well. I still remember him for his gentle behavior towards us.
After a child had perfected his writings on Pattee, he was given the slate stone sheets. These slates also came in various sizes, but they were much smaller than Pattee. Some were framed with wooden frame while some were just raw sheets. Mine was of a good size - 10" by 14" and framed too. Its frame had a small hole in which a piece of old cloth was hung attached.with a string. One could write on slate with Battee - Battee was a small sticks of chalk type material molded in a harder stick. But still it broke easily. Whenever our slate was full of writings, or we had to wipe out something, or we had to correct it, we could just wipe with our fingers, but after a few wipe outs the slate became a bit whitish, then we used the wet cloth to wipe it out.
Mostly these slates were used for Arithmetic problems. On one side we solved the problem and its other side was used to do rough work. But of course, once the problem was wiped out, one could not retrieve it anymore, as one can see it on paper as many times as one wishes.
When the child was skilled in writing both alphabets (short words, or even short sentences) and solving easy Arithmetic problems, he was given paper to write. Paper in the form of exercise books (we used to call it a copy) were used then till the end of the education. One used Qalam and ink to write on paper. Qalam were of several kinds. One Qalam was made of better kind of reed stick than of Pattee Buddakaa one. This Qalam was also cut like Pattee Buddakaa Qalam, but very finely. One can compare this writing with the writings of olden times, as it comes on parchment of Pyramid days. This type of Qalam was used to write Hindi language. Another Qalam was a thin firm stick in which a nib could be fitted to write appropriate language, for example to write Hindi language there used to come a "Hindi Nib" which was finer copy of reed Qalam to write Hindi. In the same Qalam, a "G Nib" could be fitted to write English language. It gave very fine look to one's writing English. There came a third type of Nib which was good for writing other general materials, like accounts etc (I have forgotten its name).
We used only two types of Nib - Hindi Nib and English (G Nib). G-Nib's writing effects were superb and one was taught to write with it in the same way for which it was meant. It involved many things - how to hold it properly, where to stress it to draw a thick .line, where to leave it light to draw light fine line etc etc. First one learnt Capital letters, then small letters, and then came to write words. One had to really hard how to join the letters in a word. So it took really a long time to learn writing properly. In fact it was continuous process, sometimes up to 4th or 5th class. Besides, the writing was considered beautiful if it was in italic. Even a few letters were written differently, in ornamental way, not like today's printed way. In all it was a tedious job to learn a beautiful, clear, and clean writing.
In those children's books were rare, only textbooks were in vogue. Those books were also not very comely and attractive. No pictures, no colors, once in a while a few pictures were found in books. They were so dry, that if one could get any book to read, one considered himself fortunate. I remember once somebody started publishing a small book series titled "Shishu" (means child). They sent some 5-6 booklets (maybe 24-30 pages paperback) every quarter or something. My father subscribed for it and I used to wait for them longingly. They were colored, had some pictures also, large print, interesting short stories, short and sometimes humorous poems plus quiz etc soft material;s for children. It was nice to receive that. Wherever my father could get any book for me, he bought them for me.
There was a small bookseller who sold the books for lower classes, 1-10. My father and I used to go there to buy new books for new class. Then we bought some brown paper (we used to call it Baansee paper or Malat, maybe translated in English as bamboo paper). As soon we reached our house, my father asked me to bring a knife and a scissors and all books were covered with that brown paper. Then they were labelled with a rectangle piece of white paper. Before my mother used to make Lehee to stick those label to the books, but later we started using liquid gum. Lehee was a kind of semi-liquid form of white flower (or sometimes brown flour) cooked in water. Gum came in small pieces, since it was natural, and had to be soaked in water for overnight or so before use. After being soaked overnight it turned into liquid and for both of them, Lehee and gum, we used a small twig to apply them to our labels. They were used to repair our books also whenever they get torn for any reason.
Name, class and subject information were written on that label. It used to be a project and when the project was over it looked beautiful. A special kind of fragrance used to emanate from those books - as it comes from a fresh new newspaper. My father instructed me to keep those books carefully and clean. We promised to do, and did keep them in that condition for a couple of months but then they started becoming dirty and ink-stained by regular and careless use. The same treatment was given to our copies (exercise books) also. By the time the course was over, they were all ton, dirty and to be thrown.
In this way I finished my 7th class books and my father now prepared me to send to school - the same school in which my Mausee went to take her exam of Intermediate. School used to begin from about 7th or 8th July, and he planned to get me admitted in 8th class. I was happy.
Continued From..... Sushma Gupta : In the Beginning There Was a Pooran Mal
Continued On...... Sushma Gupta : School Days