I was ten years old, when some people from a nearby government school came and told my parents that they should send me to a one-year education camp.
My parents replied, "What's the use? Education never got us villagers anywhere. What good will it do to a girl? Girls should stay at home and learn household work. That comes in handy when they get married. And anyway, how can we send our child so far away all by herself for a whole year?"
But the people persuaded my parents. They said there would be about a hundred girls coming from different villages and all of them would be safe and taken care of well. My parents had to agree finally. They felt that if other families sent their girls, they would also have to.
My friend, Mala, was going too. We were the only two girls from our village, 'Swaroop ka Talaab'. We would sit in the evenings and wonder how things would be in an unknown place. Once, Mala asked me, "Will there be any sand dunes there?" I didn't understand her question. How could any place in the world not have sand dunes? I have traveled far with my goats, sat on hills and looked at the desert beyond. For miles and miles there is only sand.
The day before leaving home, I was very nervous. I had dreamt of going to this unknown place but I couldn't imagine living without my parents and goats.
They would surely miss me. My mother was sad too. With tears in her eyes, she packed my clothes and wrapped snacks for me.
When they took me away, I sobbed the whole way. I kept crying for the first few days in the camp. Then gradually, I started making friends with the other girls. There were so many girls. We would all study together, play together, eat together and sleep together. Sometimes, my parents would send me clothes and food with anyone who traveled that way. I also sent messages telling them not to worry and that I was well.
I studied hard and I sat for the examination at the end of the term. I passed the fifth standard examination. The teachers were very happy with me. I was happy too because it was time to go back home. But I was also sad as I would never again see the new friends I had made here.
We hardly slept the last night in the camp. While we packed, we kept talking and crying as we would soon part.
When I went back home, I was a different person. My parents were overjoyed to see me and I met my goats again. Everyone in the village came and asked me how the camp was. When I told them how good it was and how much we had learnt, they decided to send their daughters the next time.
One evening, as Mala and I were sitting and talking about how much fun we had in the camp, I told her I wanted to go to school to study more. She said, “If you go, I will come too."
There was good news for us very soon. A new school was coming up in the next village, just a kilometre away. We were so excited about it and pleaded with our parents so much that they finally had to give in and let us go.
We have been going to school for two years now. It's great fun. I love reading books. I want to become a teacher when I grow up. I might even go to a city. There may not be any sand dunes there!
Story of Kanku - Adapted from A Little Story from Rajasthan