In a paper written and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry many years ago on Eating Disorders in India, we had argued that the need to do well in education is a stress for young students and their families, and in some vulnerable young girls and boys, it may lead to some psychopathology. The point we wanted to make was that education remains a very important means for upward mobility in Independent India.
For nearly two decades now, I have patronized Harish, a fruitwallah, in Kotla. Kotla is a versatile market for all household necessities in South Delhi known for its wholesale prices. It is not in the league of nearby up-scale markets of South Delhi like South Ex or Defense Colony. Harish has a ramshackle kiosk and specializes in some select fruits and sells full boxes only. I like to go there because he stocks fruits like mango, apple, grapes, oranges etc that I like to buy in bulk for our use and share with friends. When I went to him yesterday, he asked me if I could make a medical certificate for his child. Though I never told him, but he has seen the sticker on my car announcing the place where I work. I thought he must be wanting a med cert for his child studying in school and must have been missing his school on account of truancy. I told him that my certificate would not work in the school, but was curious to know the school where his child was studying. No, not for school, it was the Australian embassy which was demanding such a certificate. I could barely manage to hide my shock – I knew Australian embassy demands med cert only if the applicant is applying for a long term visa, like immigration or for studies. I asked him why he was going to Australia. His son had obtained admission in the Univ for studying Computer course. Harish would be spending Rs 25 lakh on his education.
More shocks were to follow. His son no. 2 is already in Sydney studying for his Masters. He supports himself by doing part time teaching in the Univ itself. His son no. 1 is in Bangaluru and works for an MNC, Accenture. He is coming back to Delhi on transfer with a package of Rs 2.5 lakh a month.
I thought I had enough shocks that early morning for the entire day. But I was extremely happy. Though I managed to conceal my shock, I did not try to conceal my happiness. I expressed my desire to meet his sons. Harish said in a very matter of fact manner, and may be with a sense of pride that all his life when he was working hard, he never allowed his sons to come to the shop or to extend help. Harish’s hard work and sacrifice has worked so well for his children, who did not disappoint him.