The colorful books of her brother always fascinated little Saraswati. She didn’t understand why her parents disliked her fascination of books. They either scolded her or snatched away the book from her. They always made her brother Sunil to read books even though he disliked reading.
Saraswati waited till her family went to sleep at night. She tiptoed into Sunil’s study room and retrieved one of his books. Under torch light beneath her blanket she flipped the pages of the book slowly with reverence. The pictures of A for Apple B for Ball intrigued her. She noted the curve of B the slant lines of A. She liked the picture of cat. She always loved kittens and played with them. She memorized the letter C of her beloved Cat. After an hour of studying the mysterious letters and fascinating pictures she used to carefully place the book at its rightful place.
The magic hour in the nights didn’t last long. Her mother soon discovered her covert midnight mission. Saraswati didn’t forget the thrashings she received. Her bruises didn’t let her forget that dreadful night for a long time.
One day Sunil saw Saraswati scribbling in the mud with her finger. She had managed to write her beloved C. This triggered a wicked idea in Sunil’s mind which was going to be a blessing for Saraswati. Sunil secretly taught Saraswati how to write with pencil. He made her write his homework. Saraswati was delighted. This continued for years without their parent’s knowledge. Even though Saraswati never stepped into a classroom she had more knowledge than others her age, thanks to her lazy elder brother.
Sunil’s class teacher Miss Sharada, knew that the homework was being written by Saraswati. She could make out from the handwriting difference. While Saraswati wrote in clear legible handwriting, Sunil’s was illegible. She didn’t object to this as she was happy that Saraswati was getting education.
One day while checking Sunil’s homework book, a piece of paper dropped from the book. Sharada picked up the paper. She identified Saraswati’s handwriting. It was written in hurry. The letter said:
“I am being forced to marry. Please help me.”
Saraswati hoped that the teacher would help her. However, as the minutes passed by and the Baraat came nearer, her hopes faded away. She was barely 15 and the groom was a 60 year old drunk. Her parents didn’t seem to care. They just wanted to get rid of me, Saraswati thought glumly. She was always reminded that she was paraya dhan. Tears trickled at first then started flowing in torrents.
It was a strange wedding. The groom’s cousin put forth a condition that they had a tradition of marrying at their ancestral home and bride’s parents were not allowed. The kanyadaan would be done by the priest’s relatives. Saraswati’s parents didn’t object. They gave away Saraswati without a second thought. Saraswati couldn’t see the groom’s face as it was covered in sehra.
Once they reached the ancestral home, the groom removed the sehra. Saraswati was shocked to see the face. She had expected an old wrinkled masculine face. Never did she imagine that she would see her teacher’s face instead. Sharada explained that she convinced the old drunk that his would be bride was a handicap. He felt cheated and went back to his village. Saraswati thanked her teacher.
Sharada took Saraswati to the city and helped her with her studies. Couple of years later, Saraswati completed her graduation and started working as a teacher. After working for 5 years, Saraswati went back to her village with a desire to teach the uneducated girls.
On the way she spotted her parents begging on the streets. She was shocked and appalled when she came to know that her brother had thrown them out of the house. She rented a house and took her parents in. Her parents realized their mistake and asked forgiveness. They helped Saraswati in convincing the villagers to allow their daughters to study.
With her determination and hard work Saraswati helped the girls in her village to get education. Sharada felt proud of her student’s incredible feat. It was the best kind of Guru Dakshina she could ever receive.